Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bearcats: ACC or bust?

In the tumultuous landscape that is conference realignment, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats are now in the hunt for a new home.

UC, in an effort to beat fellow Big East members Louisville and UConn, lobbied yesterday for a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The ACC, however, announced that Louisville will replace Maryland in 2014, not Cincinnati.

According to, UC athletic director Whit Babcock tried to sell the Bearcats' appeal to the ACC over the Cardinals, pitching the larger television market and the nearly $400 million in research the university attracts every year. Louisville won out, however, with newer facilities like Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for football, the KFC Yum Center for basketball, and the national stage set by Rick Patino and the Cardinals' basketball team.

In the immediate future, the Bearcats are the losers and the Cards then winners. Joining the ACC would  more than triple UC's television revenue in the Big East of about $6.7 million per year, according to

The Cardinals fit the traditional ACC mold--good at basketball, bad at football--but members of their new conference are already finding new homes, such as Maryland. Some critics believe Louisville is leaving a dead conference for a dying one, with the future uncertain for many schools.

The ACC will add a total of four schools in 2013, including Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Notre Dame in all sports except football, fencing, and ice hockey.

For UC, the need to get out of the Big East is obvious. The announcement that Tulane will become a Big East member in 2014 seemed to spell the funeral for the conference's relevancy, along with newly admitted Houston, SMU, Memphis, UCF, and Temple. The Big East also adds the football teams of Boise State, San Diego State, East Carolina, and Navy. Teams that have already begun the exodus from the Big East include Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse to the ACC, and Rutgers to the Big Ten. UConn, too, is trying to escape the sinking ship of a progressively mid-major conference.

For the UC football team to remain successful, the basketball team to remain relevant, and the university's athletic infrastructure to remain afloat, a move must be made and made quickly before more spots are filled, with the Cardinals' win a prime example. Where UC athletics will find its next home, however, remains a mystery. The ACC would seem the best fit for the school, but an invitation may not come soon or easily. The Big Ten would be a stretch, as Cincinnati does not necessarily fit the mold of many Big Ten powerhouses, such as Indiana, Michigan, or Ohio State--but, then again, neither does Maryland or Rutgers. Wherever the Bearcats move, it is in the best interest of the school not to settle for a mid-major conference like the Atlantic 10, as the revenue levels there are not sufficient enough to allow such a large school to remain competitive nationally.

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