Senior Mackenzie Fields emerged from minimal pole vault experience in high school to the UC school record holder during a spectacular career.
By Katie Mann/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI - When Mackenzie Fields attended Mariemont High School, a pole-vault pit didn't exist. Occasionally, at a practice held at Turpin High, Fields would give the skill a shot.
It took Fields a couple years to gain a knack. Her freshman year she started jumping with her highest jump around eight feet. By her senior year she reached 11 feet, 9 inches.
Four years later, finishing up a UC senior year including two Big East Athlete of the Week awards and adding a second Big East title this past weekend, she can only laugh at those early days.
"The other day, I was looking back at some newspaper clippings that I sent to colleges trying to get recruited," she said. "These were from my junior and senior year, and I was going over the bar backwards. What was I thinking sending that horrible form to college coaches?"
Fortunately for the Bearcats, coaches ignored the form.
After sending out recruitment forms to several different colleges, Fields chose to join the UC track team because of all the great people she met on her recruit visit.
"I had been to other schools and none of them felt as welcoming, fun and friendly, and supportive as UC," she said.
Through her progression with the Bearcats, Fields experienced pitfalls such as hurting her hamstring in her second year and undergoing foot surgery in her fourth. Due to the injuries, Fields began to lose confidence in her abilities, because of this she endured frequent rehab and conditioning. But by receiving extra workouts and constant support by coach Kris Mack, Fields began to realize that she could do it.
"I have tried to teach her what it means to be a consistent vaulter and how mental strength is what determines the outcome of the bigger meets," said Mack, "I try to expose her to many different situations and scenarios in practice so that she always look back and say, 'Oh yeah, I worked through this before and know how to overcome it."
On March 30, Fields broke the school record of 14'1.25" at the Nikiloff Invitational. Fields was also named Big East Women's Field Athlete of the Week for her first place finish at the Jesse Owens Track Classic three weeks later.
Currently, Fields is planning to train for the 2016 Olympic trials and Olympics in Rio. Fields will need to vault over 15 feet in order to go to the trials and a bit more to make the Olympic team.
"She is one of the strongest girls I have ever worked with and I have enjoyed that process of teaching her to use that strength and power to vault," adds Mack.
Happy Tuesday, everyone. I'm starting to feel more and more like an old guy these days. Waking up to random pain after not doing a thing the night before. Then it goes away and you feel pain in another part of your body the next day. I think the someone has a pain remote and is laughing hysterically at my plight.
I digress, but if you see me hobbling around campus, feel free offer any ideas or some Aleve.
Let's eat ...
--- The football open house is tonight. A cool concept for fans to get an insider look at those connected with the program. Of course, Tommy Tuberville will be in the house along with AD Whit Babcock, players and Voice of the Bearcats/Bengals Dan Hoard.
As lucky media types, we get access to these guys all the time so we maybe take it for granted, but they're all great personalities to have fronting the program -- along with so many others in the administrative/coaching offices.
"I don't think they'll ever go to eight teams. I was in I-AA playoffs at Arkansas State and that's a survival contest. You got to remember, we only played through two playoff games one year we were beat up. It's not just the game. You've got to practice to get ready for the game and you've got to practice through finals. It was hard.
"If you went to eight or 16 teams you'd be jumping into that part. I've never been for paying players, but if they go to eight or 16 I'd be for paying players. Then you're going to look at buying insurance for guys. I don't want to play that game."
--- Can't contend Tuberville is thinking inside the box with regards to personnel. UC added a professional Australian rugby player to the roster and plan on trying him out at linebacker. This from Tom Groeschen.
--- UC Big East champ David Tepe found out his national tournament draw yesterday and it was good news. He had his hopes set on landing at the Ohio State regional and did just that. The other options took him all over the country, but this way there will be a much more familiar feel at the Scarlet Course.
We may even see a return of the strong four fraternity brothers that made the trek to Orlando. If you haven't read that cool story, you can follow the link here.
--- Remember if you have any UC comments, questions or just want to recap the stories Tommy T told you, shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
--- Meanwhile, here's the lineup forthe Austin City Limits music festival. It is predictably ridiculous. I'm a Kings of Leon fan myself, among many of the others there, so I'll leave you with them. Have a great day everyone.
David Tepe's journey to UC's first Big East golf title was spectacular as much for what occurred outside the ropes as what occurred inside them.
Walking toward the Reunion Resort clubhouse in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday for the first round of the Big East championship golf tournament, UC senior David Tepe turned the corner near the putting green.
Suddenly, he spotted a sprawling group of familiar faces. His mother and father were there, as he expected them to be. As was his grandmother and grandfather, who snowbird in Florida this time of year. As much as their presence brought out open arms, further inspection provided a dropped jaw as well.
Along with them were four brothers from his Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. They secretly hopped in the car and drove 898 miles to surprise him for what could be Tepe's final golf tournament as a Cincinnati Bearcat. Little could any of them have known then their presence provided a major reason it wouldn't be the end.
The crew of eight would be with Tepe every shot of the incredible three-day, 54-hole ride to his crowning career achievement capturing UC's first-ever Big East title in golf and spot in the NCAA Regionals.
"I just couldn't believe they'd made the drive down," Tepe said of David Clark, Jonas Butler, Pat Dryer and Brian Kapcar. "That was something special."
From that moment forward, this tournament felt different than any other Tepe experienced with UC. Remarkably, it concluded with his first major tournament victory since his junior days at Lakota East High School. He'd taken part in dozens of tournaments during his four-year career at UC and even come close to winning, but never held on. Then, here, on his final shot, he couldn't miss.
And with every drive splitting the fairway, every pinpoint approach to the green and every long putt the reaction didn't sound like the standard soft claps and chirping birds associated with college golf tournaments.
"They brought a lot of energy to the golf course, I would say," Tepe said with a laugh suggesting understatement. "A lot more than I would be used to."
He supplied more reasons for excitement then he'd be used to as well. In ripping off three consecutive rounds under par for the first time in his career (69-69-70) he went wire-to-wire to stave off closest competitor Chase Koepka (USF) by one stroke.
The critical moment came on his second-to-last hole of the tournament, when he stood over a 25-foot birdie putt. He'd decided to stay free of tracking the leaderboard all day, but finally broke down before this putt asking his coach Doug Martin if a birdie would help.
Boy, would it.
We'll get back to that in a moment. Next comes the other interesting beyond-the-glory aspect of this story. Tepe found that in recent tournaments where he couldn't quite push over the hump into the top five or even victorious positions the problems fell far more on the mental side than physical.
To counter that he picked up two books the week before the Big East tournament, Putting Out Of Your Mind by renowned putting guru Bob Rotella, as well as Fearless Golf: Conquering the Mental Game by Dr. Gio Valiante.
Fearless Golf preached the importance of patience in attacking the golf course. He gives that patience direct credit for the difference between his past showing and this incredible run.
"That really helped the third day," Tepe said. "Started on 10 and 11 and 14 are birdie holes. I didn't birdie those. But then I birdied 15 and 16. I put myself in similar situations last summer where I tasted the success, but didn't quite finish it off. I think that all comes down to just being patient on the course."
And it eventually came down to his putt on hole 53. As he looked over his putt, Rotella's putting book flashed into his head.
"I read it; I liked the way it looked," Tepe said. "One of the things (the book) talks about is picking a line and sticking with it, don't second guess. Don't try to reread the putt. Just read it once, pick a line and stay committed to it. I picked a line and when I went to address the putt just said, 'All right, head down and get it to the hole.'"
Bottom of the cup.
He felt at that moment the putt might have won the tournament. He was right.
Though, there was no Adam Scott at The Masters moment with primal screams and dog-pile of family and fraternity brothers on the final green.
A first pump followed both his birdie and final putt for par, then he patiently waited 15 minutes in the clubhouse for Koepka to finish. When the win became official a calm celebration with the gathering proceeded. It didn't need to be wild to be meaningful.
"I just kind of gave it a little fist pump and looked at the guys and my family that came down and thanked them all for being there," he said.
I want to hear from you! Share your comments, questions or thoughts about anything UC or Tepe's incredible Big East championship run by emailing me at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Ian Happ's season at the plate would be considered rare for any player, the fact he's become the force at the No. 3 spot in the Bearcats order as a freshman leaves him in elite company.
[UC vs. Seton Hall at Marge Schott Stadium: Friday 6:30 p.m., Saturday 4 p.m., Sunday noon ]
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- Only 44 games into his collegiate career and freshman infielder Ian Happ already owns several plays worthy of highlight reels, including one where he caught a foul ball falling backward into the seats at Great American Ball Park.
But that spectacular catch is not the favorite moment of his young career. That moment comes at the plate, in a game against Toledo on April 3, in which he hit a walk-off home run.
"I'd never hit a walk-off home run before," he said. "And that was pretty sweet."
Not only did that home run provide him with a special moment he'll always remember, it was also the point he began an offensive surge. Since the Toledo game, his batting average has fluctuated between .304 and .325 and now settled at a team-leading .317, with five home runs and 30 RBI.
Happ's great offensive month has helped produce an impressive season for any player and rare numbers for a freshman.
He leads the team in seven of 11 offensive categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, doubles, home runs, total bases and walks. He also leads the team in stolen bases and stolen base attempts with 17 out of 21.
He is tied with junior outfielder Justin Glass in runs scored and RBI, and is second only to Glass in hits. He and Glass are the only players to start all 44 games.
A dominant April culminated in a return to his hometown when the Bearcats played a three-game series at Pittsburgh last weekend. Twenty members of his family and friends gathered to watch him play, and he gave them a show, hitting .462, with two home runs, four RBI and two steals, despite the team being swept.
But Happ downplayed the idea he played well because he performed in front of his family and friends.
"It was good to be home, for sure," he said. "But, it was just seeing good pitches and making good swings; you know, just another series."
This attitude contributed to Happ's special freshman season, not just one series in his hometown.
Head coach Brian Cleary sees a centered, smart player who understands how to make adjustments at the plate.
"I think he's got good ability to focus," Cleary said. "He pays attention to his game. He can figure some stuff out on his own. He's got baseball ability, but he's also got some baseball skills up top."
Much of his success can be attributed to his versatility, especially at the plate. Happ bats as a switch hitter, he's been doing it since he was a kid.
"I was about eight years old when I started working on it," he said. "My first year in high school was the first year that I hit full time switch-hitting in games."
Most switch-hitters still prefer one side of the plate to another. So which side does Happ prefer?
"It depends on the day really," Happ said. "Sometimes I feel more comfortable left-handed, sometimes more right-handed."
His versatility not only helps him at the plate, but in the field too. He plays multiple infield positions and moves around the infield from game to game, playing mostly first, second and shortstop.
Cleary thinks Happ has yet to find his best position, however.
"I think he's really capable at a number of different places and he's got pretty good baseball savvy, so he kind of knows his way around the field," Cleary said.
Finding the best position for him will come with defensive improvement, it's the one area he's still showing residue adjusting as freshman. This season, he's committed 22 errors and while he does get more chances than any of his other teammates, it still averages out to one error every second game. And he knows, it.
Cleary knows it too. But he remains confident Happ will get better defensively with time. He explained that the ball plays faster off the bat in college than it does in high school and the angles infielders take are much different. Even the way a player moves his feet can be different.
"Playing in the infield for a first-year guy is a major change because of the speed of the game," Cleary said. "It takes some getting used to. He'll get better at that the more he does it."
It's not just Cleary who sees Happ developing into a great player. Glass, one of the resident veterans on the team, knows he has only just begun to tap into his potential. Glass says he can see the adjustments Happ has made from fall to the beginning of the season and he's catching on and learning faster every day as the season has progressed.
"The sky's the limit," Glass said. "As long as he keeps working hard and focusing in, he'll do fine."
A return to the New Media Suite with Tom Gelehrter, the Bearcats director of new media and broadcasting for our first offseason podcast of the year.
We discuss Andy Reid's Bearcats farm system, Travis Kelce, Jermaine Lawrence, Gunner Kiel, Bennie Coney, Mitch Pattishall and leave plenty of time to go tangential talking about Kansas City stories, Tommy G dissing my cornhole tournament plus the potential Skippycast.
Not often we lead off with golf around these parts, but not often we see a tournament put together like the one senior David Tepe put together in Orlando the last two days. He enters today's final round of the Big East championship with a two-stroke lead riding back to back 69s.
The crazy aspect of Tepe's run is how far out of nowhere this came from. His best career finish was a second place as a junior, but now he could go home with his first win on the biggest stage in the conference.
Of course, keep it locked to GoBearcats.com for updates on how Tepe fairs in his final round attempting to bring home the Big East title.
As always, if you have any comments, questions or suggesstions, shoot them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Let's eat ...
--- While we are making the rounds, have to recognize the lacrosse team for their first ever Big East victory, 9-8, against Rutgers. Pretty cool the victory came on Senior Day with senior Katie Kiriazoglou netting the game-winner with 15 seconds left. Crazy how those Senior Day games always seem to play out that way.
The lacrosse program finished the season 7-9, 1-7 and the seven wins are tied for the most in program history. Have to believe this will help first-year coach Gina Oliver move the team in the right direction.
--- Wanted to dip into the email questions today, after receiving this one from Al S.,
"I was hoping you could get the scoop on the Offensive Line for this coming season. There has not been much written about them recently. Perhaps it's because the entire starting line was returning from last year or that we have a new offensive line coach. Anyway, I was wondering who the anticipated starters are for the coming season and who on the second unit might be pushing for playing time? Also, I understood Coach TT to say that they needed to get bigger. How is that going? One more question. Doesn't our new O line coach have some experience running from the Pistol formation? Can we expect to see some of the Pistol incorporated into our offense this year?"
--- Let's open with the starters. Yes, all five starting offensive linemen will be back this year with LT Eric Lefeld, LG Austen Bujnoch, C Dan Sprague, RG Sam Longo and RT Parker Ehinger.
If this group wasn't getting enough ink now, don't worry, that will change in the fall because they will be the backbone of this team. I'd argue they are the strongest individual position group, immediately followed by the linebackers.
As for the second unit pushing for playing time, it will be a battle, but it will probably take an injury to unseat any of the starters considering how well they played last year plowing the way for George Winn and keeping Munchie Legaux/Brendon Kay clean.
The offensive linemen are in a strength and conditioning program just like the rest of the team, and I can assure these guys aren't missing any workouts. With Bujnoch as one of the core team leaders heading that room, everyone has bought into what he's selling.
Texas Tech ran some pistol under Tuberville and there were some glimpses of it at spring practice. I'm sure you will see some version of it next year. How much or how little is unknown at this time.
--- The pundits are eating up Louisville for next football season. ESPN has them as the No. 4 team in the country right now. All about Teddy Bridgewater there, who had some experts talking about a top 5 pick next season. Remember, Matt Barkley and Geno Smith were locks for the top 5 this time last year as well.
And what we're learning is that Andy Reid loves the University of Cincinnati. He drafted Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Jason Kelce, also picking up Mardy Gilyard while with the Eagles. Now with KC, he brought Gilyard with him and drafted Kelce in the third round.
Then there was this quote from Reid Friday:
"Seems like every kid we take out of Cincinnati is tougher than shoe leather."
How does Kelce fit in Kansas City? The starter is third-year tight end Tony Moeaki. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after last season, though Reid says he will be ready for training camp. They signed veteran Anthony Fasano this past year.
I've been in the camp that a season under an experience veteran would be ideal for Kelce (or any draft pick really), but this seems to provide that. Moeaki likely isn't going anywhere, though, his took a dip from a productive rookie year (47 receptions, 556 yards) then missing all of the 2011 season due to injury. He caught 33 passes for 453 yards this past season.
Fasano likely will serve as a one or two year safety net in case Kelce doesn't emerge for the Chiefs. But the stage would appear to be set for next year to be the year Kelce could break out as Moeaki's complement. Yet, in the NFL, you really never know.
Elsewhere, no other Bearcats were drafted this weekend, but a number did sign as undrafted free agents. Here's the list:
RB George Winn: Houston
DE Dan Giordano: Arizona
WR Kenbrell Thompkins: New England
LB Maalik Bomar: Jacksonville
--- Have to love the Texans landing spot for Winn. They know a thing or two about the success of undrafted free agents. Arian Foster went undrafted four years ago out of Tennessee but now has reeled off three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons and scored 50 TDs in the process.
Foster is backed up by Ben Tate, but beyond that is wide open. They didn't draft a running back and currently only have those two on their roster.
--- Thompkins fits snugly with The Hoodie in New England. Bill Belichick has never been one to draft wide receivers high and likes to pluck Tom Brady's targets from the odds and ends of the draft and free agency.
Tight ends (Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski), running backs (Danny Woodhead) and converted DBs (Julian Edelman) all helped lead the offense last year. Anywhere where Brady is chucking it, any player can breakout. He'll be joining a cast of Who-Are-They players in NE.
Here's the current list of wideouts: Kamar Aiken, Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Ebert, Julian Edelman, Andre Holmes, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, Matthew Slater.
Somebody's got to catch the ball, right?
--- Bomar joins the recent list of UC products to end up in Jacksonville. His old partner in crime JK Schaffer landed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent last year and nearly made the team in preseason before ending up on the Bengals practice squad. The year before Armon Binns caught a TD in the preseason, but was cut before landing on the Bengals practice squad. So, we should plan to see Maalik at PBS around October, I guess?
--- You don't think undrafted free agents play a major role in the NFL these days? Here's the number of UDFAs on Super Bowl teams the last three years:
2012 Baltimore: 18
2012 San Fran: 12
2011 NY Giants: 12
2011 New England: 23
2010 Green Bay: 17
2010 Pittsburgh: 12
Heck, the Patriots 2011 team was nearly half undrafted players. Once you arrive in camp you are a rookie in a helmet all the same no matter if first-round pick or UDFA. And plenty survive, as seen by the above stat.
The first round of the NFL draft went into the books Thursday night without much intrigue, as expected for the Bearcats contingent. Travis Kelce should be coming off the board Friday night, though.
Any chance of him staying in Cincinnati was erased when the Bengals saw top TE Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) slide to them at No. 21. There aren't too many bad fits for a player like Kelce, if you were weighing the best spots for him to land. If you were looking for the ideal scenario, my top five best fits would look like this:
1. Atlanta: Great team, playbook centered around TE, learn for a year under Tony Gonzalez before he retires.
2. Philadelphia: Isn't this where all Bearcats go? Most importantly, would join his brother with Eagles and play with Brent Celek.
3. Pittsburgh: Quality QB used to utilizing tight end, set to take over for Heath Miller on the back end of his career.
4. Washington: Up-and-coming team using run-pass option at QB suits Kelce, Fred Davis only legit starter.
5. Cleveland: Return to hometown and ability to play immediately. QB an issue, but Kelce would be counted on from Day 1.
I'd also toss San Diego into the mix of great landing spots and I'm sure that city would work just fine for Kelce. Regardless, anybody that drafts Kelce will have plans for him to become a major part of their system. Should be a great day for the Kelce family. And if he ends up slipping into the fourth round on Saturday, that will be a great day, too, for a family unconcerned by what round they're selected.
Remember to shoot me an email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr if you have any questions, comments or ideas for funneling every Bearcats player to the Eagles.
Let's eat ...
--- Elsewhere this weekend, look for George Winn to be the next Bearcats player to hear his name, probably in the sixth round or so. Whoever takes Winn will be gaining a steal, even though with running backs it's hard to know. Still, to gain that type of production, durability and a special teams dynamo that late in the draft brings significant value.
Kenbrell Thompkins and Dan Giordano will be holding on for the later round selections also. Yet, I'm of the opinion if it's the seventh round, while being drafted would be nice, becoming an undfrafted free agent might end up being the better deal at the end of the day. The signing bonus isn't what you would receive as a pick, but the ability to handpick the best fit for you instead of being shipped into a situation seems worth it.
Look no further than Armon Binns and JK Schaffer, although both picked Jacksonville and didn't make it, they'd shown enough to end up on the Bengals practice squad and set themselves up nicely for playing time. Binns will be in the mix for Miami and Schaffer has a good chance to latch on the back of the roster for Cincinnati this year.
Plus, in this day where such a large number of Pro Bowlers aren't selected, there's no shame in the undrafted tag.
--- In NBA draft decision news, this is a few days late, but Russ Smith will be returning to Louisville. He'll be the preseason player of the year in the conference and maybe the country. The Cardinals are still losing a lot (Siva, Dieng, etc.) but will be the team to beat.
--- If you haven't been out to the Sheakley Athletics Center for an event, this weekend will be a prime opportunity. The lacrosse team closes out its season and will be holding a BBQ Bash. Games are tonight at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
--- Is there anything better forNFL Network's Draft ratings than Chris Berman? To be honest, though, the attempts to make the draft this made for TV event have made it a made for Twitter event. Was more enjoyable following it on Twitter with the sound down on the TV last night than in any year in recent memory.
Obviously, all the talk around the Bearcats right now surrounds the Grant of Rights approved by the ACC which appears to shut down anymore conference realignment circus. At least for now. That's by basic logic. Of course, logic hasn't always prevailed in the game of realignment. Money, however, is undefeated. And all the major players seem to be thrilled with their financial plates and now moving to cover it with both arms.
So, where does this leave the program?
Doc wrote about the latest blow and discussed it with Whit Babcock. You can read that here. The column reads as a bit of an obit on UC, one which has been written before in other forms and circumstances. In the case of locking into the college football lottery the big conferences cashed in, the road to that path certainly grew longer. But the path to relevancy, winning and a national profile hasn't gone anywhere.
Basketball is a no-brainer, this effects the conference schedule and little else. As long as the overall schedule is in the top 40 or so each year there will be opportunity to build an NCAA tournament resume and win there. Continue winning there and players like Jermaine Lawrence and the rest of this year's class will continue to commit to UC.
Think being in a top conference is necessary to be a factor in college hoops? See Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga, Temple, Memphis, Wichita State, Creighton, VCU, St. Louis, New Mexico, San Diego State. This list could go on and on. Many of these aren't just relevant, rather perennial powers across college hoops.
Basketball has been and will continue to be fine.
Much thanks to a lengthy email I received from loyal reader, Twitterer Doug, for sparking this conversation. In it, he talks about how all the goals for making a national splash and playing a similar role in the big picture are still available.
These were his thoughts on football:
"Assuming the AAC will be included in the "Group of 5" arrangement, taking the Big Easts spot, this is a great opportunity for UC. Competing for the top BCS ranking with the Sun Belt, MAC, Mountain West and C-USA seems like a very favorable position for the Cats. Once Louisville leaves for the AAC, UC is by far the class of the AAC.
So you're left with this competition (traditionally) for the top BCS ranking:
Boise State (MW)
Whichever team comes out of the MAC
Likely one of the Florida schools from the C-USA
Honestly, probably no real competition from the Sun Belt
I like those odds. It isn't at all ideal, but it certainly does not signal the end to UC's success in football. When you consider UC has probably the 3rd biggest coaching name in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, I think Tommy T makes up a bit for the lack-luster conference. If the renovations to Nippert are ushered along, the Cats keep winning and fan support remains, UC can dominate the AAC and find themselves with a good BCS ranking every year. Will they make a BCS Bowl every year? Probably not. But what team, besides Alabama, does?"
Tip of the cap, Doug. Quality analysis.
The bottom line is every year, you could argue UC will be more likely to end up in a BCS bowl than 75 percent of the programs the newly-aligned power conferences. When you consider the competition nationally, if they were to put together a team capable of running the table and beating a few B1G teams in the non-conference, they'd be looking at a major bowl along with serious consideration for the four-team playoff.
The trade off clearly becomes a conference home schedule with less traditionally attractive opponents. Yet, let's not pretend like the Big East was rolling Alabama and Texas into Nippert every year.
Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville are all nice programs, but as far as on the field success in the last five years how much better have they been then say a Houston, SMU or UCF? They've been better, but the difference is more marginal than most would prefer to admit. Go ahead and take a look:
UCF: 10+ wins two of last three years, including bowl wins over Georgia ('10) and Ball State ('12)
SMU: Four straight years in bowl games, including 28-6 drubbing of Pitt at 2011 Independence Bowl
Houston: Ranked in Top 10 in 2011, going 13-1, beating Penn State in bowl game
Louisville: Enjoyed emergence last season, previously only one shared BE title coming off Kragthorpe disaster
Pitt: Losing record and bowl losses each of last two years, one shared BE title in last five years.
Syracuse: Two winning seasons in five years. One shared title last year.
The perception will be the obstacle for UC, but dominating The American would help squash that nationally while also making for a number of enjoyable, winning fall Saturdays for the Clifton faithful.
Playing in the ACC (or name other major conference here) would be an ideal scenario, but any idea that success and national relevance are out the window in the current format would be misunderstanding the future system.
Send any questions, comments or other thoughts regarding this whole crazy situation to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Let's eat ...
--- Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated came around last week and put together this fantastic piece on Tommy Tuberville and UC. Nuggets like TT heading down to the circus at US Bank by himself are scribe gold.
--- Awards being handed out around UC:
Babcock was named the College Swimming Coaches Association of American Benjamin Franklin Award recipient. It goes to the person whose efforts most promote the student-athlete ideal. Kudos to Whit.
Former UC runner Kathy Klump was named the Cincinnati/NKY Sports Association College Sportswoman of the Year. Congrats to Kathy who closed out her career as a three-time All-American and four-time BE champion in track.
--- Usually the joke sign in front of the bar will read "Free Beer Tomorrow," but UC baseball is erasing the proverbial signs out front to read "Free Baseball Today." A game against Thomas More originally scheduled for Thursday will be played Wednesday at MSS and admission will be free.
--- For those hoping this epic 10-game Reds homestand ends quickly, this song doesn't apply. But it's as catchy and fun of a country tune as you'll find. And I'm the last guy typically pushing country. Have a great day, everyone.
Well, Bearcats, interesting day yesterday. For outsiders, the ACC passing a Grant of Rights deal through 2027 came as a surprise. A common thought existed that it was only a matter of time until the B1G went plucking for more and the ACC was ripe. Well, no longer. With the TV rights now connected to the league, no teams will be going anywhere.
Likely true. The ACC still remains a possibility as they deal with an odd conference number of 15, the chance exists to add one or two more schools to set a more workable number. Mandel pointed out how much of a scheduling and imbalance headache 14 was last year for the SEC. A few seasons dealing with those nightmares could open the door of additions.
"Today's news from the ACC could certainly halt or slow down realignment, at least at the BCS level," he said in a text message. "Time will tell. We will keep doing the same thing we have been. Working hard to move UC forward every day and position ourselves as best we can on a national level."
If you have any comments, questions or concerns about any topic surrounding UC athletics shoot me an email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.
Now then, let's eat ...
--- I wrote about Isaiah Pead yesterday.Hope you will read the story here. Always a great interview, Pead delivered again when I spoke to him. He's open, thoughtful, honest and always able to share a laugh.
You can place me down among those shocked he didn't enjoy success his rookie year. After watching his career here, he seemed destined to breakout in a league where so many teams seek explosive home-run hitters who can do everything out of the backfield. It doesn't always work out that way. Running back certainly is a prickly position to predict, the hardest in my opinion.
He was clearly frustrated -- with maybe that word not being strong enough -- with what evolved during his rookie season. The door appears to be open for him to still make an impact this year with Steven Jackson gone and the job back up for grabs. Though, I'd expect the Rams to draft a RB at some point to jump into the competition with Pead and Daryl Richardson.
There was much left on the editing room floor from my conversation with Pead, here's a few:
On if he'll be paying attention to the draft this weekend:
"Not really. Just because knowing what I know now from being on that side a year ago and being around that now, that day is definitely important and special for them guys and the organization. But that next day is back to reality and starting back from ground zero and you got to make a name. It's still on you. It's not a given."
On how being relegated down the depth chart affected him:
"That's one thing, it shut me up. I just watched everything from Jack to Sam (Bradford) to Cortland Finnegan. Just watching people."
On lessons learned from veteran RB Steven Jackson:
"He would talk to me and let me know that it's a game within a game and everything is evaluated, on the field, off the field, pulling up to a red light. You are always watched, you are always evaluated. You can't ever let them see you sweat."
--- Solid weekend for the Bearcats baseball team which won three in a row before falling in the series finale against Villanova on Sunday.
Ashley Davis documented the offensive rise of these two freshman catchers from her game observations. Here's her note:
Woody Wallace, the everyday catcher, found his swing again Sunday, going 4 for 4 from the plate.
Russell Clark, hitting in the DH spot Sunday, went 3 for 5 with one run scored. Clark has been hitting well lately. He hit his first career home run against Ohio State on Wednesday and Saturday had a hit to drive in two runs. His batting average now sits at an even .300 in 40 at-bats. Cleary has taken notice of his recent success.
"[He] just really started off slow and I think it took a little while to get comfortable in the batter's box," Brian Cleary said. "But he's done a good job with it and certainly we're going to need to take advantage of that bat."
--- Also, freshman Mitch Pattishall continues to drop the hammer. Since scribes are so often wrong, excuse me if I point out a stroy I wrote that's turned out to be right. It seems Pattishall really turned the corner in his development after the game at GABP. He's been phenomenal since that day. He pitched a complete-game shutout on Saturday in the win against Nova.