A definitive ranking of the best Bearcats of the modern era
A brief history of Cincinnati basketball and the building that built the madness
A quick history of the football series between the Bearcats and Thundering Herd
I spent a long time rooting around for Bearcats stuff in the Getty Images archives. Here are my findings.
I love Bearcats history and old UC photographs. There aren’t many available online, so sometimes it feels like I’ve seen everything. However, the Getty Images archive is a treasure trove of UC history. I spent some time looking through their oldest offerings and grabbed some samples of cool and historically significant Bearcats shots.
Left: Cincinnati professor Dr. Albert Sabin is famous for having creating the oral polio vaccine. Here he is sitting at his desk in his laboratory at UC.
Right: I believe this is from a series of photos taken of Oscar Robertson before his first varsity season in 1957. This is notable because he’s wearing #23, not the #12 he became famous for in Clifton that hangs on the wall of The Shoe today.
Left: UC archery club member Alice Kern poses against a target.
Right: A long time ago, UC students used to do something called Flag Rush. Think of it as giant game of caputure the flag that pitted the freshman against the sophomores. It started in the 1870s before ending around WW1. The game would sometimes last for days. Here, in 1908, is Flag Rush. This picture is taken on Carson Field (where Nippert now sits) and you can see the original McMicken Hall looming behind the fence in the background. For its age, the quality is phenomeal.
Left: 1916 photo of a student in the Pi Kappa Alpha house at UC.
Right: 1921 photo of girls in Greek costumes competing in the “Grecian Games” to benefit the UC athletic fund.
Left: President Roosevelt speaking in the rain at Nippert Stadium, October 1936.
Right: 18-year-old UC pitcher Sandy Koufax signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers just before Christmas 1954.
Left: Oscar Robertson after a workout at UC, 1958.
Right: Oscar Robertson vs Iowa at Madison Square Garden for LIFE Magazine. He scored 50 points.
Left: Oscar Robertson bent over in pain after getting poked in the eye in a game against Iowa.
Right: Oscar Robertson reads a newspaper while in NYC for a holiday tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Left: Oscar Robertson shakes hands with George Smith as his jersey is retired.
Right: UC’s Paul Hogue faces off against Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas as the Bearcats win the 1961 NCAA Championship.
Left: Bearcats vs North Texas, November 1968. This was the last season UC’s wore blank helmets for each game. (They also wore blank red helmets in 1967, but without the white stripe.)
Right: UC professor Neil Armstrong steps out of his office for his first day as professor, 1971.
Bearcat quarterback legend Greg Cook faces the Ohio Bobcats at Nippert Stadium, November 1968.
Left: Bearcat basketball legend Pat Cummings takes one to the hoop against Eastern Kentucky at Riverfront Coliseum, circa 1978.
Right: Nick Van Exel drives to the basket against Michigan State in the second round of the 1992 NCAA Tournament in Dayton.
Nick Van Exel vs Michigan, 1992 Final Four.
Left: Penn State’s Richie Anderson flies into the endzone in a 1992 game at Nippert Stadium.
Right: President Bill Clinton reacts to a call during UC’s win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, December 1995.
Nick Van Exel runs the point, hoists a shot at Fifth Third Arena.
Left: Melvin Levett, February 1996.
Right: Danny Fortson, February 1996.
Left: Melvin Levett rises for a huge block, February 1996.
Right: Current UConn coach Kevin Ollie runs the court in a game against the Bearcats, March 1995.
Kenyon Martin reaches for a rebound and the Bearcats hoist a trophy for knocking off #1 Duke in the 1998 Great Alaska Shootout.
Left: Kenyon Martin sits injured on the bench during the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
Right: Kenyon Martin NBA Draft photo.
Left: Tony Bobbitt soars for a dunk against Oregon, December 2002.
Right: Bob Huggins argues with an official during what would be his final game with the Bearcats, March 2005.
Basketball illustration from the 1907 edition of The Cincinnatian. (UC Libraries)
This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly chipping away at it. This is a really time consuming project that I would have preferred to complete all at once. However, you’ll noticed I stopped at 1971. The ’70s and ’80s are a weird dead space for UC history because it’s the period after early history (which is cataloged online) and it’s before recent history (which is cataloged online). I can find every uniform starting in the ’90s pretty easily, but that dead zone will be hard to fill. If you have any photos from the ’70s and ’80s, or ideas on where to get them, feel free to let me know. I’d love to finish Part 2 of this.
If you have a question, or if you see something I’ve messed up, let me know. I’m not perfect, this was a cumbersome project, and history can get murky. I’d rather just get everything correct.
A huge thanks to the online archives of the UC Libraries. I believe every image is from them. They’re the best.
Tip: Use CTRL+F (or command+F on Mac) to quickly jump to a specific year.
[NOTE: This wasn’t even a varsity team. (The first varsity team on record isn’t until 1901–02.) It’s not listed in the basketball media guide, but the 1897–98 edition of The Cincinnatian has a photo and team roster of what appears to be the first UC basketball team. They played one game that season, and it looks like it was an scrimmage against another UC club team. The game ended in a 2–2 tie.]
They didn’t have uniforms. What you’re seeing are the football uniforms.
Solid black with a Block “C”. The turtlenecks are what was worn by the football during that time period, so it looks like they just copied those.
Solid black with subtle striping. It’s hard to say for sure what the colors were, but UC hadn’t adopted red and black as official colors yet. They really could be anything.
1904, 1905, 1906
Solid black with “UC” inside a circle. I think it’s interesting how the wide shoulders resemble the more modern cut jerseys worn in the Adidas era. I also find it interesting that the team returned to pants after wearing shorts for three seasons. I can’t imagine anyone playing basketball in shorts and deciding heavy football pants were better.
1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911
Very similar to the 1904 uniforms, but now with just a “C” inside a circle. Again with heavy football pants. These even look like they have pads in them.
1912, 1913, 1914, 1915
Solid black with script “Cin’ti.” I don’t know the etymology of that, but it’s an abbreviation for Cincinnati that you see fairly often on older postcards and things of that nature. It’s the equivalent of a “Cincy” jersey nowadays.
Black and white stripes.
1918, 1919, 1920, 1921
Completely blank. Solid black and solid white. I’d like to see a team brave enough to try turning these into throwbacks. Imagine blank uniforms on ESPN.
Solid black with an elongated Block “C”. Since one player is wearing the same jersey in white, I’d assume they had home and away uniforms with the same design.
1926, 1927, 1928
1926 was the first time “Cincinnati” appeared on the front of Bearcats basketball jerseys. It was black font on a black uniform.
1929, 1930, 1931
1929 added black (or maybe even red) piping on white uniforms around the shoulders and at the bottom of the shorts. Piping around the shorts is still common to this day, and we first saw the trend on UC uniforms in 1929.
[Note: I couldn’t track down good enough photos of the 1930 team, so I can’t say for certain that they worse these uniforms. Based on the fact that they wore them in ’29 and ’31, I feel comfortable assuming.]
1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936
In 1932, uniforms featured a prominent belt buckle as well as something resembling modern sneakers. Those are the only two differences separating these from the 1926 uniform, as far as I can tell.
Similar to the 1929 uniforms but without piping around the shoulders, the addition of black belts, and black-striped socks.
Same as 1937, but minus the socks.
1939, 1941, 1942, 1943
Very similar to the 1932 uniforms, but it looks like shiny (silk?) shorts were standard starting in 1939.
In 1940, at least one uniform featured mismatched jersey and shorts. I’m not sure if the black road uniforms had white shorts.
1944, 1945, 1946, 1947
Similar to the 1938 uniforms, but these don’t have black piping around the shorts. “Cincinnati” is also changed, and this new version reminds me a lot of old Reds uniforms, for whatever reason. A much more subtle arc to the word itself.
The road uniforms were black on black, and thus nearly impossible to see in photos. Additionally, you can tell in the photo below that some jerseys had a number on the front but no “Cincinnati.” This happened on and off from 1944–47.
1948 is when the uniforms started to resemble what we picture when thinking of Bearcats throwbacks. The shorts featured piping with a triple stripe (white, black, white). The warmups were really spiffy, and are adorned by my favorite version of the bearcat.
1950, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
These were a common version of the ’50s and ’60s era uniforms. The triple stripe piping on the shorts appears to be black-red-black. “Cincinnati” appears to be red outlined in black.
Below is a game against Cedarville in 1950 when at least one player wore mismatched jersey and shorts. I couldn’t find evidence of this being a trend, so I can’t say with confidence if this was something that happened for one game, one season, multiple season, or was nothing more than a wardrobe issue by a forgetful equipment manager.
These appear to be the same as the 1950 uniforms, but with solid black piping instead of the triple black-red-black. After a couple seasons, they abandoned that until 1966.
1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
These are the classics, in my opinion. Simple and perfect.
The shoulder piping was nothing more than a heavy black stripe. The piping along the shorts appears to be a triple stripe of black-red-black. “Cincinnati” is now a solid, flawless black.
They wore these for five consecutive Final Four appearances and back-to-back National Championship victories. The Bearcats revived these (or something based off of these) in 2010–11 and 2011–12.
1966, 1967, 1968, 1969
Starting in 1966, the uniforms were essentially a combination of the 1960 uniforms (same jersey, it would appear) and the 1950 uniforms (similar single black stripe piping on the shorts).
These seem like a half-step away from the ’50s and ’60s standards, and the next edition in 1970 completes the full step.
Another small set of tweaks to the 1966 uniforms results in a completely different set of duds than the ones worn from 1948–1965. These uniforms are fine, although nothing special. They’re essentially a standard ’70s version of what was worn in the previous 20+ years.
Bearcats basketball is so close I can taste it. This is wonderful news, but it’s also excruciating. We’re heading into the longest week of the year as we prepare to tip off against Brown on Friday, November 11.
If you want to kill time and stuff yourself with YouTube videos, I have you covered. These should hold off the cravings for another seven days until we reach paradise. If you have something you feel should be added, let me know. I’d be happy to stuff this page with as much goodness as possible.
I’ve got some highlights and documentaries as well as some full games. Remember, everything in moderation. Now go crazy:
Bearcats TV 2015–16 Season Highlights
Remember where we left off with this spiffy recap of last season.
This gets me so hyped.
Suit Up Cincinnati
Answer everything we’ve heard without ever speaking a word.
Fifth Third Arena Renovation Fly Through
Get a feel for what the new home of Bearcats basketball will look like for the 2018–19 season.
The Bearcats Basketball History Video
The original Bearcats history video is the best. If you only have 90 seconds to get yourself hyped, this will do the trick every time. There’s a new version now that incorporates more modern elements like Yancy Gates, Cashmere Wright’s buzzer beater, and Sean Kilpatrick’s 2000th point. However, I always preferred the first version with the Nelly song. It’s the best. There’s also a slightly different version of this one.
1991–92 Season Highlight Video
This is now the most ’90s thing on this website. Re-live the Bearcats’ magical 1992 Final Four season with this recap video, complete with some NBA Jam-type music that gives way to “When You Wish Upon A Star” by Billy Joel. Try not to cry.
Cincinnati Upsets #2 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden
Watch the closing seconds of Mick Cronin’s biggest win at Cincinnati.
ESPN SportsCentury — Oscar Robertson (2003)
Fox Sports Beyond The Glory — Nick Van Exel (2002)
Nick Colosimo Highlights
Nick’s got videos for everybody. Troy Caupain’s junior year is above, but the rest can be found on his YouTube channel.
[If you go digging, there are more available online, and they’re constantly being added and removed. If you see one you really love, you might want to, um, “save it for yourself” using an online tool…]
Cincinnati Beats Memphis, K-Mart Notches Triple-Double
Kenyon Martin powers the #1 Bearcats past Memphis with a 28 point, 13 rebound, 10 block triple-double in January 2000. Thanks to Bearcats TV, you can watch the entire performance — called by Dan Hoard — in pretty impressive quality. If you’d prefer the condensed K-Mart highlights, those are on YouTube as well.
The Bearcats Beat FSU, Punch Their 2012 Sweet 16 Ticket
In one of the more exciting Bearcats games I can remember, the Bearcats overwhelmed 3-seed Florida State to clinch a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in the Cronin era. Thanks to Thane Stephen, the full game is available. Or you can just skip to the good part. The first-round game against Texas is also online.
Cincinnati vs Michigan — 1992 Final Four
The NCAA’s own YouTube channel is full of goodies for diehard college basketball fans. Check out the full 1992 Final Four game against Michigan and the Fab Five. It was a tough loss for the Bearcats, but it was the best tournament run for the program in 30 years.
Cincinnati Upsets #1 Duke In Alaska
Don’t let the title of this video fool you; this game took place in 1998. In the Great Alaska Shootout, the #14 Bearcats sprung the upset on #1 Duke in one of the most exciting games in school history. In the final seconds, Kenyon Martin grabbed a full-court pass and quickly dumped it off to Melvin Levett, who hammered it home for the winning basket. Expect to see highlights of this one if the Bearcats can knock off Rhode Island this month to set up a rematch with the Blue Devils.
Melvin Levett Destroys Eastern Kentucky
Another Bearcats TV classic. In 1997, the EKU Colonels made the trek to The Shoe and never stood a chance. The Bearcats steamrolled to a 106–54 victory, and Levett scored 42 points on a school-record 10 three-pointers on just 14 attempts.
Kenyon Martin’s First Collegiate Start
Kenyon Martin gets his first start at UC, and 25 points from Melvin Levett help the Bearcats lay the hammer on Damon Jones and the hapless Houston Cougars.
More full games:
- Van Exel, 2-seed Bearcats beat 6-seed Virginia — 1993 Sweet 16
- Late Maxiell Free Throw Beats ECU — February 2003
- Ruben Patterson Plays Through Heartbreak of Mother’s Death, Drops 32 to Beat UAB — February 1998
- Yancy Gates, 6-seed Bearcats beat 11-seed Mizzou — 2011 Tournament
- Impressive Scoring Performances Lead UC Past Providence — February 2011
- Kilpatrick Scores 32 points On 16–16 At The Line, Beats Iowa State — November 2012
- Yancy Gates and #25 Bearcats Smother Xavier — January 2011
- Kilpatrick and Dixon Knock Off #11 Georgetown On The Road — January 2012
- Kilpatrick, Jackson, Rubles Dazzle On Senior Day, Hammer #20 Memphis — March 2014
- Forston, #8 Bearcats Beat Washington In Seattle — February 1997
- Junior Kenyon Martin Breaks UC Career Block Record vs DePaul — January 1999
- Maxiell, #16 Bearcats Beat Clemson — December 2003
- #1 Cincinnati beats #7 UNC — December 1999
1893 Bearcats football team (UC Libraries)
Bearcats football took the field for the first time on October 23, 1885 in a game against Mt. Auburn. 1885 is a long time ago, and UC football is older than every FBS team but nine. As an ardent lover of old things and Bearcat one-upmanship, I had to seize the opportunity.
The ‘Cats have a bye week and UC football’s birthday is just around the corner, so I figured I’d make a short list of things that came right after Cincinnati football did:
- Footballs in Cincinnati. This is one of my favorites. The 1927 issue of The Cincinnatian lays out the early days of Bearcats football, and credits Dr. Arch Carson for founding the team. Among other contributions, after all, “it was he who sent away to a big commercial house in the east for the first football, because there were none in the city of Cincinnati at that time.” That’s right. In 1885, footballs themselves weren’t even a thing in Cincy, but UC football was. (Also our colors were Blue and Brown at the time.)
- 12 states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii all came after UC played its first football game.
- Coca-Cola. John Pemberton began serving it at his drugstore in Columbus, Georgia in May 1886.
- The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in October 1886, just over a year after UC football’s first game.
- Ballpoint pens. The ballpoint pen was invented by John Loud in October 1888.
- Kodak cameras. The first Kodak box camera was invented in 1888, bringing simple and inexpensive photography to the world.
- Inflatable tires. John Boyd Dunlop of Scotland invented the inflatable tire in 1888.
- Dishwashers. The first dishwasher was invented by Josephine Garis in 1889.
- The Eiffel Tower was opened in Paris in March 1889.
- The zipper was invented by Whitcomb Judson in 1891.
- The radio. The invention of radio is a disputed thing, but the internet credits a variety of people for creating radio some time between 1893 and 1900.
- Airplanes. The Wright Brothers’ infamous flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was in 1903.
So now if you were a real loser you could say something like, “Hey, do you know why UC’s first football uniforms didn’t have zippers? Because they weren’t invented yet.”
You’d probably come off really smug but it’s worth a shot anyway.
The Bearcats celebrate with the travelling fan contingent following their 2007 win in Tampa. (AP/Mike Carlson)
The South Florida Bulls turned the corner in 2015, winning eight games and returning to national relevance for the first time in five years. The Bearcats, meanwhile, squandered away multiple games before getting blasted by the surging Bulls in Tampa. USF has never beaten Cincinnati in back-t0-back seasons, and the Bearcats will take the field Saturday with the goal of making sure that remains the case. Here’s the Cincinnati-South Florida breakdown and a look at some notable games:
All-time series record: Cincinnati leads, 8–5
First meeting: 2003
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: South Florida won last year
Record in Cincinnati: Cincinnati leads, 5–1
Streak in Cincinnati: Cincinnati has won the last two
Mike Daniels scores a first quarter touchdown. (AP photo)
October 31, 2003 — South Florida 24, Cincinnati 17
The Bulls joined Conference USA for the 2003 season, which set up their first matchup with the Bearcats. UC packed up and flew to Tampa for a Halloween game in front of what looked to be a very sparse crowd.
Mistakes were a theme, and the Bearcats seemingly did all they could do lose the game. After a defensive stand that forced USF to tie the game rather than take the lead, the red and black worked themselves into field goal position to take a shot at a 41-yard game-winner with four seconds left. The attempt was blocked, and the teams went to overtime tied at 10.
The Bearcat defense, having played tough all night, quickly came unravelled and allowed touchdowns on USF’s first two possessions. Following a UC first down in 2OT, Gino Guidugli’s pass bounced off of the shoulder pad of Richard Hall and into a defender’s hands to end the game. The whole mess is on YouTube, if you’d like to watch.
The win pushed the Bulls to 5–3 on their way to a 7–4 finish. The double overtime victory over the Bearcats was USF’s second of three double overtime victories on the year. The loss dropped the Bearcats to 4–4 on the year, and they’d go on to lose three of their remaining four, signaling the end of the Rick Minter era and making way for Mark Dantonio in 2004.
To be fair, I’m not sure anyone cared about this excruciating loss, because:
Butler Benton runs for a 48-yard touchdown in the second quarter. (Enquirer/Meggan Booker)
November 20, 2004 — Cincinnati 45, South Florida 23
The Bulls made the trip to Nippert for the first time and took their first shot at Bearcat head coach Mark Dantonio. UC swung hard and didn’t miss, storming to a 45–23 victory at home.
After a critical turnover near the end of the first half, USF knotted the score at 17. However, the Bearcats drove 80 yards down the field on the ensuing drive to take a 7-point lead into the break. After halftime, the offense and defense turned things up to pull away for the win behind stellar performances from Guidugli and the entire running back corps.
The win made the Bearcats bowl eligible and helped toward a 7–5 finish. USF limped to their first losing season, a place they wouldn’t return to until 2011.
WR Marcus Barnett slings a 76-yard pass to Mardy Gilyard in the second quarter. (AP/Mike Carlson)
November 3, 2007 — Cincinnati 38, #20 South Florida 33
2007 in Tampa was like 2009 in Clifton. Building on years of success, the Bulls finally were getting things to fall into place. They opened the season 6–0 with wins at #17 Auburn and at home over #5 West Virginia. The Bulls had arrived, and they were ranked #2 in the country by mid-October. Then things started to fall apart. First it was a 3-point loss in New Jersey to Rutgers, then a 7-point loss in Hartford to UConn. The Bulls limped home in November to face Brian Kelly’s Bearcats, hoping to get back on track.
On the first drive of the game, USF picked off a Ben Mauk pass and took it 73 yards for a touchdown and a 7-point lead. UC was able to equalize with a 63-yard Mauk touchdown pass, but USF returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, giving them a 14–7 lead.
The Bearcats responded well, answering with a field goal, a blocked punt returned for a score, a 79-yard interception return, and a 16-yard touchdown catch by Dominick Goodman. This was all before the end of the first quarter. UC was suddenly leading 31–14.
The Bulls made it interesting late, but their comeback bid fell short, and their plummet from #2 continued following a third consecutive loss. They never really recovered that season, finishing 9–4 following a loss in the Sun Bowl. The Bearcats couldn’t quite get past #5 West Virginia two weeks later, and settled for a victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl, capping a 10–3 season.
October 15, 2009 — #8 Cincinnati 34, #21 South Florida 17
The Bearcats returned to Tampa in 2009 as a Top 10 team. The Bulls were a respectable #21, but had won five straight games against ranked teams, two of which were Top 10. The Bearcats were good, but the Bulls liked their chances, especially at home in front of a packed crowd of nearly 64,000 at Raymond James Stadium.
USF scored first, taking a 7–0 lead on a BJ Daniels touchdown pass, but the Bearcats held a 17–10 halftime advantage after two first half connections between Tony Pike and Armon Binns. Early in the third quarter, Pike re-aggravated a 2008 injury and was replaced by sophomore QB Zach Collaros, who promptly split the Bulls defense for a 75-yard touchdown that effectively put the game away.
Collaros scored on another touchdown run for good measure, and the Bearcats got the win in Tampa, pushing them to 6–0 at the midpoint of what would be a perfect 2009 regular season. It was the fourth consecutive win for UC in the series, the longest by either team.
Zach Collaros scores on a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Fred Bellet)
October 22, 2011 — Cincinnati 37, South Florida 33
By 2011, Collaros was a senior, and ready to bookend his Bearcats legacy with another Big East Championship. After a blowout Week 2 loss in Knoxville, the Bearcats headed to Tampa with a 5–1 record to face a team that beat the Bearcats in 2010 and opened 2011 with a win over #16 Notre Dame in South Bend.
The Bearcats started slow, playing to a 10–10 halftime tie. UC let the third quarter get away from them, and the Bulls opened up a 10-point lead to start the fourth. A Collaros touchdown run made it a 3-point game before a touchdown pass to Alex Chisum gave UC its first lead of the half.
The Bearcats had their work cut out for them after a BJ Daniels touchdown pass with 1:27 remaining, but the always-poised Collaros crafted a 7-play, 70-yard touchdown drive that ended with the game winning score with 12 seconds remaining.
Two weeks later, Collaros fell to injury, causing the Bearcats to lose two consecutive games on their way to a 10–3 finish. The Bulls, who had entered conference play 4–0 and ranked #14, finished the Big East slate at just 1–6, capping a disastrous second season for Skip Holtz.
(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
November 20, 2015 — South Florida 65, Bearcats 27
The Bearcats’ disappointing 2015 season went from bad to worse in Tampa, as a crowd of fewer than 27,000 had plenty to cheer about in USF’s beatdown of UC. A 44-yard Andrew Gantz field goal saved UC from being shut out in the first half, but the red and black saw only red with the scoreboard reading 51–3 at the break.
Things got a bit better in the second half (which isn’t saying much) as Chris Moore reeled in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Moore to clinch the Bearcats career receiving touchdowns record.
For the Bearcats, the loss was a preview of what to expect in the Hawaii Bowl. For the Bulls, the win was another stepping stone in the return to relevance. USF won eight games and made a bowl appearance, both of which hadn’t been done in Tampa since 2010.
So far, the Bearcats seem to be much-improved defensively in 2016. The game is in Cincinnati, where USF has just one win in six tries. The Bulls have never beaten the Bearcats in back-to-back seasons. If history and statistics are any indication, I like the Bearcats’ chances this weekend. A win here would likely be the biggest conference win for Tommy Tuberville since the Bearcats fended off Houston at the end of the 2014 season to win the AAC title. UC played strong for three quarters against a Top 10 team two weeks ago. Saturday they’ll have a chance to prove that wasn’t a fluke, and move one step closer to facing Houston again in December.
Chuck Machock (front row, second from right) on the 1955–56 freshman basketball team. (UC Libraries)
The 2016 James P. Kelly UC Athletics Hall of Fame Class was just announced by the university. As a UC history buff, this is always one of my favorite announcements each year, because some lesser-known figures in Bearcats history get honored. Athletes give a lot to the university, and it’s fun when the university pauses to recognize those contributions. The Kenyon Martin induction was phenomenal. If you’d like to read UC’s official release, that’s right here. Here’s your 2016 class:
Jack Laub (UC Libraries)
The Bearcats have pioneered a lot of things in the college athletics world, and they’ve set a few all-time records. (UC played the longest game in NCAA history!) Few people know that the Bearcats are home to the only NCAA athlete to play six varsity years.
Jack Laub was a basketball player at City College of New York before serving in the Merchant Marine from 1944–46. After he left the military, he received a scholarship to UC to play basketball. At the time, Bearcats hoops was bouncing back from WWII, they had just joined the MAC, and they were on an upswing. Laub was part of a class that won four consecutive MAC titles and built momentum that carried into the era where UC landed Oscar Robertson and later won back-t0-back national titles.
Perhaps his longest-lasting contribution is the recruitment of Jack Twyman. After being hired as UC basketball’s first assistant coach, Laub essentially told head coach John Wiethe, “Hey, we’ve got a scholarship left and this kid Twyman is going to Duquesne. We can’t let that happen. Get him in red and black.” Wiethe listened and the rest is history. Twyman went on to become one of the best players in Bearcats history and a Basketball Hall of Famer.
Machock getting ejected from a 2003 NCAA Tournament game. (via Heard It On Hoard)
Machock played at UC for two seasons before serving as a Bearcats student assistant for another two. During his coaching career, he was an assistant at Akron, Ball State, West Virginia, Ohio State, and Cincinnati (under Bob Huggins). He was also the head coach at Central Florida in 1984 & 1985.
However, he now leaves his mark on UC from behind the mic, broadcasting UC basketball games on WLW with Dan Hoard. In his most famous broadcasting moment, he was ejected from the Bearcats’ 2003 NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga, an achievement that was lampooned on Letterman. Last season he celebrated his 400th game without an ejection. Congrats on the streak and the Hall of Fame nod, Chuck.
Slaise in a 1999 overtime victory over Xavier. (Craig Ruttle)
Slaise left Clifton as the Bearcats 3rd all-time leading scorer (behind Cheryl Cook and Valerie King) before being drafted in the 2000 WNBA draft and later playing overseas. Following 9/11, Slaise joined the Army and served as a trauma medic for three years. In 2010, she earned her second bachelor’s degree, this time in nursing science at Winston Salem State (graduating Summa Cum Laude). She also started competing in fitness competitions. In 2016, she earned a master’s degree as a nurse educator from Liberty University (graduating Magna Cum Laude). She’s now an active duty Captain in the Air Force. She’s basically a super hero, carrying on the legacy of Bearcats toughness and discipline, even off the court.
(via Sporting News)
Schneider is the most underrated athlete in Bearcats history. He’s UC’s most recent national champion, having won the 50-meter freestyle in 2010. Along with that, he was a five-time All-American, a seven-time Big East champion, and a two-time Big East Swimmer of the Year. He’s been a member of the US National Team since his graduation from UC in 2010, although he just announced his retirement from international swimming after narrowly missing an appearance at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (He also swam in the Olympic Trials in 2008 and 2012.) He has five school records. He’s a freak.
Schneider is currently an assistant coach at UC, where he pours into the next generation of legendary Bearcat swimmers like Jackie Keire.
Ray Jackson lunges for a touchdown against Houston in a game on 10/7/2000. (AP photo)
We have ourselves a showdown. The #6 Houston Cougars are coming to Nippert Stadium on Thursday night. The Bearcats have a history of springing the upset, but let’s take a look at the history between Cincinnati and Houston.
All-time series record: Houston leads, 14–10
First meeting: 1957–58 season
Last meeting: 2015–16 season
Current streak: Houston won last meeting
Record in Cincinnati: Bearcats lead, 6–4
Streak in Cincinnati: Bearcats won last six meetings
Here is a look at some of the important games in the series history:
October 5, 1957 — Houston 7, Bearcats 0
The first meeting between the two teams took place at Nippert Stadium, and the heavily-favored Cougars edged past the Bearcats thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown. “It was by far the greatest effort a Cincinnati team has shown in three years of Coach George Blackburn’s regime,” wrote the Enquirer’s Dick Forbes. The teams finished the season with matching 5–4–1 records.
October 3, 1959 — Houston 13, Cincinnati 12
In the first game of the series to take place in Houston, the injury-riddled Bearcats beat themselves with stupid mistakes. After a first quarter touchdown by Steve Rasso––who would later coach at St. Xavier High School and mentor a young defensive backs coach named Urban Meyer––the Bearcats missed the extra point. They tacked on another six in the second quarter on a touchdown grab by RB Ed Kovac, but the two point conversion failed. Houston slammed the door on the Bearcats offense in the second half and scraped out a win.
November 28, 1964 — Bearcats 20, Houston 6
Cincinnati RB Errol Prisby dives for yardage in the first quarter, 11/28/1964. (AP photo)
The Bearcats got their first win in the series on the final day of the 1964 season in Houston. The win capped off an 8–2 campaign and a MVC Championship, the best year for the red and black in a decade.
Legendary Bearcats QB Brig Owens led the effort, and UC scored on its first possession and never looked back. The only Cougar score came on a desperation heave as time expired. RB Al Nelson––who would go on to a successful eight years with the Philadelphia Eagles––used the game to cap off his historic season. His 973 rushing yards were good for #1 in Cincinnati history and #4 in the country in 1964. His 13 rushing touchdowns were good for #2 in the NCAA (behind Brian Piccolo).
September 25, 1971 — Houston 12, Cincinnati 3
Bearcat defenders close in on Houston QB Gary Mullins, 9/25/1971. (Dick Swaim/Enquirer)
This was the first meeting since the 1968 season, where the #12 Cougars decimated the Bearcats in Houston, 71–33. This time the game was in Cincinnati, and the Bearcats were determined to put up a fight. UC kept the Houston offense at bay for three quarters, leading 3–0 heading to the fourth. On the first play of the final frame, UH scored a touchdown which they matched on their next possession. Cincinnati’s upset bid in Clifton fell short, but the Cougars haven’t won there since.
November 13, 1993 — Bearcats 41, Houston 17
Bearcat RB David Small fumbles on the goal line, but UC would recover, 11/13/1993. (Tim Johnson/AP)
Between 1975 and 1993, the series took a long hiatus before Conference USA would bring the two together in 1996. A crowd of fewer than 11,000 people gathered at the Astrodome to see Houston get railroaded by the visiting Bearcats.
RB David Small was the game’s MVP, amassing an impressive 31 carries for 201 yards to go with four touchdowns, pushing him to first on the UC career rushing touchdown list (a spot he later surrendered to DeMarco McCleskey). UC buried the Cougars from the start, as Small tacked on his third rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to push the lead to 24–0.
Houston only managed a single win in 1993. It was a renaissance year for the Bearcats, who finished the season at 8–3, narrowly missing a bowl game but amassing their best record since 1976 and first winning season since 1982.
November 14, 1998 — Bearcats 44, Houston 43
WR Cornelius Bonner celebrates with QB Chad Plummer after a first quarter 2-point conversion, 11/14/1998.
The Bearcats were riding high following a decisive win over Utah State in the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl. The wheels fell off the following year, as the Bearcats lost their first nine games to open the 1998 season, in which they would finish with the nation’s worst defense. It was a nightmare for a program that seemed to be finally coming into its own. One Saturday afternoon in November, things turned around.
The Bearcats and Cougars started fast and played to a 14–14 tie after the first quarter, but Houston pulled away before halftime thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard touchdown pass. UC tacked on a field goal on the half’s final play, but faced a 27–17 deficit at the break.
The Bearcats added a touchdown in the third quarter, but two impressive scores from the Cougars made it a 41–24 game heading into the final frame. UC was facing an 0–10 start to the season.
Then came the comeback.
McCleskey opened the fourth quarter with a touchdown run, bringing the game to 41–31. The defenses battled it out for nearly 10 minutes of game clock before Nathan Wize reached the end zone for another touchdown, bringing the score to 41–37. Looking for an extra point to make it a one-possession game, disaster struck as the Cougars blocked the kick and returned it 95 yards for two. Instead of needing a field goal, now the Bearcats needed a touchdown, down 43–37 with 4:19 left.
The Bearcats got the ball back and sophomore QB Deontey Kenner engineered the game-winning drive, completing all three of his passes to push the Bearcats 68 yards down the field where McCleskey punched it in to tie with a minute remaining. This time, the extra point wasn’t blocked and UC held on to win. Several hundred of an estimated 2,000 fans remaining at Nippert stormed the field.
“We had guys laughing, guys crying,” said Bearcat DT Kevin Ward. “Some guys were so confused, they didn’t know what to do.” Head coach Rick Minter called it one of the best games in Nippert Stadium history.
December 6, 2014 — Bearcats 38, Houston 31
QB Munchie Legaux celebrates the conference title, 12/6/2014. (Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports)
The two programs parted ways following the 2004 season, with Cincinnati moving to the Big East and Houston remaining in Conference USA. The Bearcats and Cougars met in Houston in 2013, their first meeting in 11 seasons. It was the 2014 game that was important. The Bearcats had beaten the Cougars four straight times and eight out of the previous ten. None of that mattered if they couldn’t pull out a win in chilly Paul Brown Stadium with an AAC Championship on the line.
The red and black opened the scoring as freshman RB Mike Boone found pay-dirt early in the game before Houston tied it later in the quarter on a run of their own. Two Gunner Kiel touchdown passes in the second quarter offset at Cougar field goal, and UC took a 21–10 lead to halftime.
After the first play of the second half, Kiel left the game with leg cramps and headed to the locker room for an IV. He wouldn’t return, so the game was on the shoulders of Munchie Legaux, the senior who was coming off a devastating knee injury in 2013. Boone and Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. traded rushing touchdowns in the third before Boone’s third TD of the game gave UC a 35–17 lead heading into the regular season’s final quarter.
The Cougars battled to make it a one possession game with a shot to tie, and drove all the way to the UC 11-yard line. The Cincinnati defense held, as Ward missed the end zone three straight times. The Bearcats were conference champs.
The win helped UC finish the 2014 regular season 7–0 to win its sixth conference championship in eight years.
Bearcats students and fans swarm the field following a 30–11 upset win over #7 Rutgers, 11/18/2008. (Mark Lyons/Getty)
As you may have heard by now, the Bearcats have a date with #6 Houston this Thursday night. There’s nothing quite like the opportunity to face a highly-touted team, because the potential for something magical to happen is endless. The Bearcats have nothing to lose. If they can’t find a way to derail the Cougar locomotive, nobody is going to hold it against them. Houston, on the other hand, has everything to lose. If this season goes just right, they’re looking at a potential College Football Playoff appearance. An early slip-up in Historic Nippert Stadium would almost certain put a hole in that balloon.
By all reasonable expectations, the Bearcats should not win this game. Top 10 teams should never lose to unranked teams. That said, the Bearcats have some recent history in springing the upset. Here’s a look at all the times Top 10 teams have come to Clifton.
Pre-BCS Bearcats football is usually something to shield your eyes from. The Bearcats are unique in that they’ve earned a reputation as a consistently successful team over the past decade despite the fact that the first 120 or so years of Bearcats football was a veritable wasteland of success. The ‘Cats stack up well with some of the best teams in the country since 2006, but it’s brutal looking back earlier than that.
October 24, 1942 — #2 Georgia 35, Bearcats 13
Scenes at Nippert Stadium in 1942, dates unknown. (UC Libraries)
While the globe was wrapped up in World War II, the 1942 Georgia Bulldogs were the first AP-ranked team the Bearcats faced in program history. Georgia would go on to finish the season 11–1 with a Rose Bowl win, and were recognized by several publications as National Champions. (9–1 Ohio State was given the crown by the AP.) The Bulldogs raced out to a 21–0 lead in the first quarter, which essentially killed any hopes of an upset. The Bearcats were able to fight for the next 45 minutes and the score over the next three quarters was a very respectable 14–13. The Bearcats went on to finish 8–2 that year, becoming the best UC squad since the red and black went 9–1–1 in 1897. Because of the ongoing World War, there would be no Bearcats football in 1943 and 1944.
November 3, 1979 — #6 Florida State 26, Bearcats 21
Cincinnati vs Florida State official game program
In November 1979, the Seminoles of Florida State ran out onto the Nippert Stadium AstroTurf as the first Top 10 team to visit Nippert Stadium in more than 37 years. The ‘Noles were led by Bobby Bowden in his fourth of 34 years as head coach in Tallahassee. A crowd of 14,539 gathered in Clifton and had no idea what they were in for. “Cincinnati just scares the daylights out of me,” said Bowden. His fear was justified. An early Bearcats turnover and a long touchdown drive put Florida State up 7–0 after the first quarter, but the tides quickly turned.
The Bearcats, having not registered a first down in the opening quarter, came to life. Tony Kapetanis was a scrambling QB, and would finish his career with 19 rushing touchdowns to just 10 through the air. He found freshman WR Ralph Williams for a touchdown, one of three TD passes on the season for Kapetanis. Following a quick fumble by Florida State, Kapetanis put another TD on the board for the Bearcats, this time on a nine-yard scramble. Late in the first half, a 39-yard run by RB Ellis Johnson helped to power a long touchdown drive that ended when Kapetanis plowed his way into the end zone again on a one-yard run. The Bearcats found themselves entering halftime with a 21–7 lead over the nation’s #6 team.
After a scoreless third quarter, Florida State woke up. Following a pair of fourth-down conversions, the Seminoles found the end zone. For some bizarre reason, they elected to attempt a two-point conversion and failed. The score was 21–13 in favor of UC with 11 minutes remaining. The ‘Noles engineered another long drive on their next possession, finding the end zone via the air again. They attempted another two-point conversion––this time to tie the game––and failed again. Clinging desperately to a 21–19 lead, the Bearcats mustered a first down on their next drive before being forced to punt.
In the pivotal play of the game, Seminoles punt returner Gary Henry returned the ball 38 yards and into Bearcat territory. Three plays later, Florida State was in the end zone for the game-winning score.
If this defeat weren’t crushing enough, the Bearcats lost in a nearly identical fashion the year before in Tallahassee. In that game, the Seminoles also enjoyed a 26–21 victory in which they also came from behind to escape the Bearcats. In 1978, the winning score came on a 4th-and-29 play with 1:29 remaining. (Thank God I wasn’t alive for that.) In 1979, the winning score came with 1:38 remaining. If it’s any solace, the Houdini maneuver didn’t impress voters, and FSU slipped to #7 in the following week’s poll. Florida State was happy. In the week following the game, they offered Bowden a $125,000 contract, which he signed.
The Bearcats finished just 2–9 in 1979, and the FSU loss was the first of a 12-game losing streak that stretched into the 1980 season. The Seminoles finished the regular season undefeated before losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
October 18, 1986 — #1 Miami (FL) 45, Bearcats 13
The #1 Miami Hurricanes, powered by eventual Heisman Winner Vinny Testaverde, made a stop at Nippert Stadium on their march to the 1986 National Championship Game. A sellout crowd of nearly 30,000 (the best in stadium history at the tiem) came out to see the nation’s top team, who was in the midst of a season where they steamrolled everyone they played.
The prior week, the Bearcats nearly sprung the upset on #5 Penn State in Happy Valley, losing 23–17. UC didn’t have enough ammo for the high-powered Hurricanes, who threw up 14 points in the game’s first two minutes. In all honesty, it could’ve been worse. The ‘Canes dropped 61 points on Texas Tech earlier that season, and 58 points on West Virginia the week before. Considering the ‘Cats were in the middle of their fourth of ten-straight losing seasons, they did well to keep this one respectable.
Miami eventually lost in the National Championship to the same Penn State team the Bearcats nearly knocked off.
September 5, 1992 — #8 Penn State 24, Bearcats 20
How amazing is this picture? Richie Anderson dives over the line, 9/5/1992. (The Sporting News)
The first thing to know about this game is how bad the previous meeting in Happy Valley was. In 1991, the Bearcats lost at #5 Penn State 81–0. Seriously. Here’s proof. “It was a helpless feeling,” said head coach Tim Murphy about that game. “We were coming off seasons in which we went 1–9–1 and 1–10. And then that. We were groping for straws trying to keep the players together because we had nothing tangible to go on.”
“After that game,” said UC linebacker Nate Dingle, “I felt less than human.”
The Bearcats were outscored by opponents 132–16 in the first two games of the 1991 season, but Murphy was able to rally the troops to close the season 4–3, creating some momentum into the 1992 campaign in which the Bearcats opened the season at a newly-renovated Nippert Stadium in front of the Penn State team that humiliated them the year before. They wanted revenge.
The Nittany Lions strolled into a rainy Nippert Stadium ranked #8 on opening night, and a crowd of better than 29,000 came out to show support for the red and black. The Bearcats returned the game’s opening kickoff 69 yards, setting up a quick score. After getting shut-out in the previous meeting, the Bearcats led 7–0 against the 8th-ranked Nittany Lions.
PSU entered the game shorthanded, as starting QB Kerry Collins (yes, that Kerry Collins) broke his finger in August playing volleyball. The team’s backup QB, John Sacca, injured his throwing shoulder on a scramble in the second quarter. Turning to freshman QB Wally Richardson, the Nittany Lions were forced to scrap most down-field passing plays. Knowing Penn State would be leaning on their running game, the Bearcats stacked the box with as many as eight defenders, committing themselves to holding the hobbled PSU offense at bay. It worked, and the halftime score was 7–7.
In perhaps the turning point of the game, the Bearcats lined up for a 37-yard field goal with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter, aiming to take a 10–7 lead. Nittany Lion nose tackle Vin Stewart blocked the attempt, and the Lions drove 66 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive, putting PSU ahead 14–7. These kinds of swings in momentum are nearly impossible to recover from in upset bids.
In the fourth quarter, Bearcat RB David Small grabbed an 8-yard touchdown pass to bring UC to within three, 17–14. After Penn State jumped ahead 24–14, the Bearcats brought it back to a one-possession game on a 2-yard rush by QB Paul Anderson with 1:08 left. They couldn’t muster any late-game heroics, and again UC was on the short end of the stick in a shot at a monumental upset.
Like the Florida State game 13 years prior, the Bearcats near-upset knocked the opposition down the rankings, as Penn State fell from #8 to #10 in the following week’s polls. PSU fell apart in October that year, losing five of their final seven games en route to a 7–5 finish. The Bearcats closed 1992 at 3–8.
In 1994, Rick Minter took the reigns of Bearcats football. After a lousy 2-win effort in his first season, Minter managed winning records in 1995, ’96, and ’97. Things seemed to be on the up-and-up in Clifton, until a disastrous 1998 campaign that saw the Bearcats lose nine consecutive games to open the slate. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, the Bearcats lost at Nippert to FCS Troy State on September 11, 1999. Looming large the following week were the mighty Badgers…
September 18, 1999 — Bearcats 17, #9 Wisconsin 12
QB Deontey Kenner (7) celebrates the upset, 9/18/1999. (Ernest Coleman)
The Wisconsin Badgers came to Nippert Stadium in 1999 surrounded by a ton of hype. RB Ron Dayne, en route to a Heisman Award and an NCAA career rushing record, was poised to steamroll a hapless UC team coming off a loss to FCS Troy State. Nearly 28,000 Bearcats faithful filed into Nippert Stadium expecting to see a bloodbath. Instead, they got their money’s worth.
Early in the second quarter, the Bearcats took a 7–3 lead on a 51-yard dash by senior RB Robert Cooper. Somehow, they never looked back.
Late in the fourth quarter, reality nearly came calling. Leading 14–12, UC defensive back Tinker Keck nearly intercepted a Wisconsin pass, but forced the Badgers into a fourth down. On the ensuing punt, Keck tried to field the ball inside his own 10-yard line and muffed it. Wisconsin recovered the ball, giving them incredible field position, trailing by just two points. On the second play of the drive, the Bearcats were able to jar the football out of the giant mitts of Dayne on the 2-yard line, getting themselves out of extreme danger. UC failed to score on the following drive, and were forced to punt. This time it was the Wisconsin returner who muffed it, and the Bearcats fell on the ball, eventually leading to a 41-yard field goal by freshman kicker Jonathan Ruffin that gave UC a 17–12 lead that would hold up.
Joy in Clifton.
Fans storm the field after the Bearcats knocked off #9 Wisconsin at Nippert Stadium on 9/18/1999. (Ernest Coleman)
Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan wrote the following day:
Paul Klaczak had tried to plan for it. During an athletic department meeting last week, UC’s associate athletics director/operations had said if the students decided to storm the goalposts, he wanted campus security to get out of their way. The campus police laughed at his presumption, convinced the Bearcats were 26-point underdogs for a reason.
This was the same UC team, after all, that had lost the preceding Saturday to Troy State, a Division I-AA team presumably playing above its station. If the Bearcats couldn’t beat a podunk school like that, what business did they have on the same field with a Big Ten power such as the Badgers?
Of all the improbable wins in Bearcats football history, this has to be the most unlikely. The ‘Cats pulled this one out of thin air. In the Enquirer, Mike DeCourcy laid it out:
Although the Badgers held the ball for 15 more minutes, gained 164 more yards, produced nine more first downs and drew 231 rushing yards from All-America tailback Ron Dayne, who played part-time because of an ankle injury, they left town with a defeat they could not have conceived.
UC students storm the field and bring down the goalposts, 9/18/1999. (Ernest Coleman)
Of all the bad luck UC has experienced over the years, this one seems awfully lucky. They escaped every bad break unscathed and relied on a few incredibly unlikely mistakes by the Badgers.
Wisconsin lost to #4 Michigan the following week, and then ran relatively seamlessly through a tough Big Ten schedule, finishing 10–2, winning the conference, earning a victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and finishing the season as the AP’s fourth-ranked team. The Bearcats, after knocking off a championship contender, finished the season just 3–8.
“Is this an upset? Well, we’re not upset,” said Minter. “You’d have to ask someone else if it’s an upset.”
The Bearcats travelled to Madison the following season for a rematch with the #4 Badgers, but needed Nippert’s magic. They lost 28–25 in overtime.
November 18, 2006 — Bearcats 30, #7 Rutgers 11
Students and fans storm the field following the upset over Rutgers, 11/18/2006. (Brett Hansbauer)
Nine days before playing in Cincinnati, Rutgers knocked off #3 Louisville in New Jersey, launching themselves to #7 in the polls, right in the thick of the National Title conversation. On November 18, their hopes came crashing down in Clifton, inside a packed Nippert Stadium.
Senior QB Nick Davila, starting his first career game, piloted the Bearcats to an upset of college football’s newest Cinderella, the 9–0 Scarlet Knights.
Leading 3–0 late in the first quarter, a 38-yard pass from Davila to Derrick Stewart helped set up a 1-yard QB sneak for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The Bearcats were up 10–0 with some momentum.
Rutgers began to move the ball on the following drive, nearly working their way into the red zone. Facing a 3rd-and-2, Rutgers QB Mike Teel’s pass was picked off by DeAngelo Smith, who sprinted 84 yards for a touchdown, putting the Bearcats up 17–0. The Knights were in shock, and the halftime score was 17–3.
Late in the third quarter, the Bearcats received a punt at their own 17-yard line. One the first play from scrimmage, Davila flicked a pass to TE Brent Celek, who scampered 83 yards for a touchdown, pushing the lead to 27–3.
Rutgers finally found the end zone and grabbed a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, but the game was well out of reach. Bearcats students hopped the brick wall and prepared to storm the field after the final whistle:
November 17, 2007 — #5 West Virginia 28, #21 Bearcats 23
Ben Mauk uncorks a pass, 11/17/2007. (GoBearcats.com)
That’s right, the Bearcats once faced two Top 7 teams at Nippert Stadium in less than a calendar year. My, how times have changed.
The 2007 NCAA football season was wild. You may remember 2007 as the year #1 Ohio State lost their second-to-last game, at home, against unranked Illinois, and still worked their way back to #1 to appear in the National Championship. In September of that year, the West Virginia Mountaineers were ranked 5th and coughed one up to #18 South Florida in Tampa. Because of the massacre happening to Top 10 teams that season, all it took was a month for WVU to work their way back to #5 in time for a Big East showdown in front of a sold-out Nippert. The Bearcats were ranked that season for the first time since 1954, and the fans were hungry for a repeat of 2006’s upset win.
The high-powered WVU offense, led by QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton, stormed down the field to take a 7–0 lead on their first possession. At the end of the opening quarter, the ‘Cats responded when QB Ben Mauk found WR Marcus Barnett for a 70-yard strike to even the score. The Mountaineers found the end zone twice more and entered the half with a 21–10 lead over UC.
The third quarter was scoreless, and West Virgnia scored again early in the fourth quarter to take a 28–10 lead with less than 11 minutes remaining in the game. The ‘Cats needed points, and they needed them in a hurry. Following the West Virginia touchdown, Mauk engineered a 71-yard drive of his own, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass, again to Barnett. Two crucial fumbles by White allowed the Bearcats to hang around, and RB Bradley Glatthaar punched it in with two minutes remaining, bringing the score to 28–23. An onside kick attempt failed, and the Mountaineers survived Clifton.
The Bearcats got their schadenfreude two weeks later, as WVU choked against arch-rival Pittsburgh on the doorstep of a National Championship. The Bearcats won their final game in Syracuse, ensuring a bowl appearance, where they beat #23 Southern Miss.
By The Numbers:
- Since 1986, the highest-ranked opponent to play at Nippert Stadium is a tie between the #5 West Virginia Mountaineers (in 2007) and the Bearcats themselves, who were also #5 (in 2009).
- The Bearcats were 2–1 at Nippert against Top 10 teams in the BCS era, after going 0–4 before that.
- The Bearcats, when unranked, have won the last two games at Nippert vs Top 10 teams. They’re unranked for this week’s matchup.
LaDaris Vann outruns Purdue’s Ralph Turner for a 20-yard TD in the first quarter of a game on 9/2/01
This Saturday, the Cincinnati Bearcats pack their bags and head up to Purdue for the first time in their 131-year history. The 1–0 Boilermakers await, as the Bearcats look to calm the nerves of fans after a less-than-convincing 28–7 Week 1 victory over the UT-Martin Skyhawks. On their end, the Boilermakers cruised to a 45–24 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels and hope to keep momentum moving in the non-conference before a crushing Big Ten schedule greets them in October.
All-time series record: Tied, 1–1
First meeting: 2001–02 season
Last meeting: 2013–14 season
Current streak: UC won last meeting
Record in West Lafayette: N/A
Streak in West Lafayette: N/A
These two teams met for the first time in 2001, despite co-existing as programs since 1887. Considering just 181 miles separate Nippert and Ross-Ade, you’d think the two teams would’ve found time to play in those first 114 years.
To set the scene in 2001, the Bearcats were coming off a 7–5 campaign in 2000 that ended with a crippling loss to Marshall in the Motor City Bowl. They opened the 2001 season on September 2nd against Purdue. (The next week’s game was against––of all teams––Army, in New York just three days before 9/11.) Fans packed Nippert hoping to see a win against a Big Ten team. A sellout crowd of 35,097 was the largest in stadium history.
The fans got a treat. The teams traded long touchdown drives on their first possessions to knot the score at 7–7 after the first quarter. In the second quarter, the UC defense bent but didn’t break, allowing field goals of 25 and 39 yards to enter the half trailing 13–7.
Purdue increased its lead with a 16-yard touchdown run by Joey Harris in the third quarter, but a failed two-point conversion left the score 19–7. The Bearcats answered back with a 17-yard touchdown pass to LaDaris Vann, his second of the game, to bring the score within five headed to the fourth.
On the last play of the game, a pass intended for Tye Keith is intercepted in the end zone, sealing the Purdue victory on 9/2/01. (AP photo)
Late in the fourth quarter, looking to take the lead and spring the upset, the Bearcats beat themselves. “In the most crucial play of perhaps the biggest football game in the school’s history,” wrote Bill Koch in the Enquirer, “The Bearcats grappled with the most basic element of the game — placing the proper number of players on the field.” Following a timeout, the Bearcats sent 10 men onto the field. The 11th, running back Ray Jackson, wasn’t able to scamper onto the field and get set in time, spurring an illegal shift penalty that negated a long fourth down conversion that would’ve put the Bearcats on the Purdue six yard line.
“It was a blunder,” head coach Rick Minter said after the game. “It really was.” Uhhh, yeah.
The Bearcats would get another shot at the upset on the game’s final play, but an Adam Hoover pass was picked off in the end zone and Purdue escaped with a 19–14 victory.
The teams would meet again in 2013. Again it was a season opener in Cincinnati, and again it was a sellout crowd. 36,007 fans––a new stadium record––packed Nippert Stadium on August 31st to see the first game of the Tommy Tuberville era.
They were not disappointed this time.
Freshman Tion Green finds the end zone in the fourth quarter of a game on 8/31/13. (Lisa Ventre/UC)
After a scoreless first quarter, QB Munchie Legaux found the end zone on a 10-yard scamper to give the Bearcats the lead. Purdue would equalize with 3:26 remaining in the half, but the Bearcats slammed on the gas, finishing the game on a 35–0 run for a 42–7 victory over the Boilermakers.
Scoring touchdowns were TE Blake Annen, RB Ralph David Abernathy IV, DB Adrian Witty, RB Hosey Williams, and RB Tion Green. Green notched his second career TD in that game, and faces Purdue on Saturday as a senior looking for number 18.
Saturday’s contest determines who takes the lead in this brief three-game series. Maybe Tuberville and crew can recapture 2013’s magic and lay a beating on the Boilermakers. I think the team, and the fan base, needs it. In 2001, the Bearcats followed a disappointing bowl game with a heartbreaking loss to Purdue. Last season’s Hawaii Bowl was a disaster. I’m not sure any of us can handle a tragedy in West Lafayette.
Any good sports fan will tell you that records are made to be broken. Almost every year, a Bearcat raises the bar with a record-breaking performance. However, some records are so untouchable that it stands to reason they’ll never be broken. I combed through the UC history books and picked out the ones that made me gasp.
Unbreakable Bearcats records:
The non-Oscar records that figure to stand for eternity.
Single-game Minutes Played: 73 by Bobby Austin vs Bradley (12/21/81)*
This is also an NCAA record. Three players who played in the 1981 Cincinnati vs. Bradley 7OT game sit behind Austin. The closest player from a different game is David Kennedy, who played 60 minutes in a game against Memphis in January 1981.
Single-game Rebounds: 33 by Connie Dierking vs Loyola (LA) (2/16/57)
Dierking also lays claim to second place, with 31 rebounds, and shares the third place record with Jack Twyman.
Single-season 3pt FG Made: 127 by LaZelle Durden (1994–95)
It’ll take a serious sharpshooter to beat this one. Second place also belongs to Durden, who made 102 the previous year. He’s the only player to crack 100. Deonta Vaughn nailed 97 shots in 2007–08.
Single-season RPG: 18.8 by Connie Dierking (1956–57)
Probably the only laughably absurd record that doesn’t belong to Oscar. Second place belongs to Jack Twyman, who twice averaged 16.5 rebounds, while third place is The Big O.
Career Blocked Shots: 292 by Kenyon Martin (1996–00)
Maybe this could be beaten by a four-year defensive machine, but it would be tough. The next closest Bearcat is Eric Hicks with 256. Third is Jason Maxiell (252). Justin Jackson, who seemed to be a block factory, is in fourth with 219.
Consecutive Games Played: 140 by Sean Kilpatrick (2010–14)
An iron horse. The fact he was able to do this while playing in the physical and extremely competitive Old Big East is unfathomable. That league would beat guys to shreds, but SK was bulletproof.
Career Victories: 111 by Steve Logan (1998–02)
This is a record I hope to see fall. Kilpatrick sits behind Logan with 101 victories, which may be more impressive considering the compeition he faced in the Old Big East. Let’s put together some postseasons runs and give Gary Clark or Jacob Evans a run at this.
Career Personal Fouls: 391 by Dwight Jones (1979–83)
I don’t have much of a baseline for how many fouls is too many, but this sounds like too many. It’s been standing since the ’80s, and not even Justin Jackson could come within 20 fouls.
Unbreakable Oscar Robertson Records:
The man deserves his own category. There are actually so many records that I kinda skipped the less exciting and semi-repetitive ones.
Single-game Points: 62 vs North Texas State (2/8/60)
Self-explanatory. The UC Media Guide lists the top six single-game scoring performances, and they’re all Oscar and all 50 points or more. I’d be mind-blown to see a Bearcat hit 40, much less 62.
Single-game NCAA Tourney Points: 56 vs Arkansas (3/15/58)
Aside from his career points record, this may be the most untouchable. College basketball would crack in half if somebody scored 56 points in a tournament game today. It’ll never happen.
Single-season Points: 1,011 (1959–60)
All three of Oscar’s seasons take the top slots. The next closest player is Steve Logan, who scored 770 points in 2001–02. For a more modern frame of reference, SK’s senior season, in which he was the sole driver of the offense, clocked in at 701 points.
Single-season PPG: 35.1 (1957–58)
Twyman once had 24.6. The Logan season I mentioned above was 22.0, which is pretty impressive for the modern era.
Single-season FT Made/Attempted: 316/398 (1958–59)
Danny Fortson has the modern record for his 1995–96 season, and still trails in both makes and attempts by roughly 100.
Career Triple Doubles: 10
Every Bearcat since has combined for five total.
Career FT Made/Attempted: 869/1,114
That attempt figure is insane, and clocks in at #5 in NCAA history. The next closest Bearcat is Danny Fortson with 769. Not even kinda close. Also, Oscar has made the fourth most free throws in NCAA history, trailing Tyler Hansbrough, Dickie Hemric, and Pete Maravich.
Career Rebounds: 1,338
Twyman’s original record was impressive at 1,242. The most recent player to come within shouting distance was Dwight Jones, who had just 983.
Career Field Goals Made: 1,052
The craziest thing about this one is that it’s “only” 14th in NCAA history. The last player to pass Oscar was Doug McDermott, who hit 1,141. That’s a Space Jam number.
Career PPG: 33.8
My favorite part about this record is who owns second place. That would be Lloyd Batts, who had a killer afro and played for the Bearcats from 1971–74. His career average with 20.1 points per game. The closest modern challenger was Danny Fortson with an 18.8 career average.
Career Points: 2,973
The legendary one. Ninth in NCAA history. No Bearcat will touch it. Kilpatrick was a pure scorer who hit Clifton at the perfect time, allowing him the chance to start contributing heavily early in his career. He played four years and he was able to reach 2,145. Oscar almost hit 3,000 points in just three varsity seasons.
While we’re at it, I should mention that there’s a current Bearcat on pace to set a record that may be pretty tough to top. Gary Clark is on pace to start 136 games, assuming he continues at 34 games per season. The current record is 123, held by Deonta Vaughn.