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I TAKE MY HAT OFF TO HIM

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    Back in my radio days of covering Bearcat football, I had to interview Rick Minter.  During the week, before the game, at halftime and after the game.   I've probably interviewed Rick Minter more than most.
    Minter had a lot of sayings he'd refer too (as most coaches do).  Whether or not he borrowed these from Lou Holtz, I don't know. 
    One of them was, "Some days you drink the wine, some days you stomps the grapes."  So naturally, the column I wrote in the old Bearcat Sports Digest as "Parting Scott" when Minter was fired was, "It Was A Grape Stompin' Day".
    Another Minterism was, "I take my hat off to him....".   Often, when the Bearcats would fall short, Rick would start talking about the other coach or players by saying, "I take my hat off to him....".    We once tried to tally in a game how many "hats" Rick would take off during his comments.  I believe the record was eight.
     Now, I'd like to borrow from one old coach as I write about another old coach.  And, I'd like to take "my hat off" briefly.
     You see, I have "two hats". 
     There is the Scott with the media background who tries to objectively cover all sides and angles and be fair (often, it ain't easy).  Then there is the Scott that grew up a UC fan, that graduated from UC in 1983, whose wife graduated two years later and whose son graduates this spring.  My family has had season tickets in football and basketball since 1993, we've been to conference tournaments, NCAA tournaments and EVERY bowl game since the Bearcats made their return back to the post-season in 1997.  My kids have gone to football camps, basketball camps, and baseball camps at UC.  My oldest was fortunate enough to be on the football support staff twice and has been blessed with two bowl rings .
     That doesn't make me special, but it does give you an idea of my background.  Suffice it to say, you get plenty of good information from talented media folks here and from a number of places.  However, based on my history, I don't think everyone can meet my passion on the topic of UC athletics.
      In the media world, some will look down on you if you confess to being a fan.  It's the "no cheering in the pressbox" mentality.  I get it, I abide by it when I have to, heck--I even read the disclaimer when I act as the internal PA guy in the Nippert pressbox.  But, I am human.  I have emotions, I have passions, I have strengths and weaknesses.
     Make no mistake about it, I am happy over every UC win and extremely disappointed in every Bearcat loss.
      So, I ask that you "cut me some slack" here as I throw some things out as an alum and a fan aboutt Brian Kelly.
      I was excited about his hire and clearly Mike Thomas hit the bullseye by bringing him here.   I've always said that in Cincinnati, you couldn't play Big 10, "run and grind it out" football games that finished 7-3 or 10-3.  You needed "butts in the seats".  You had to have flair.  Scoring brings flair (and winning adds to that).
     Combine BK's offense with his Barnum & Bailey salesmanship and political savvy and he was able to charm us all into a frenzy of unprecedented support.  Brian was able to speak to everyone as if he cared.
     Personally, when his initial press conference came around, I was having ongoing struggles with my voice and had temporarily lost it after a botox treatment misfired on me.  While I was on temporarily leave from work, I went to the press conference and scribbled him a note of welcome, pointing out that I couldn't speak.
     I waited around 30 minutes after the press conference to do so.  To his credit, I think Brian remembered that and when I was finally able to speak again, he was always very gracious.
     While I know BK could blow a gasket and was a taskmaster on the football field, he was never ever unkind to me and was always pleasant and courteous.  He actually agreed to meet with me after I lost my radio job and allowed me to use him as a reference.
     This is what I struggle with today.
     Brian's as smooth as they come in dealing with people at all levels and his political background rises to the top in every group situation.   Politics get ugly though and the football banquet Thursday was as awkward as they come.
     I've been to many football banquets and usually it was a guest and not media.  I have relationships with many long-time supporters and I've gotten to know many coaches, families and players.  The banquets are supposed to be for the players and families.
     I'm not sure this one was.
     And, I don't hold anyone at fault but Brian Kelly on this one.
     While he was able to brush aside the media and work the crowd and podium as if nothing was going on, nearly EVERYONE knew something was going on.  For a guy that has been so savvy in his public dealings, this just came out wrong.
     Again (remember my media hat is off)  players that worked their tails off for a 12-0 season were finding out from out-of-town texts that their coach was leaving.  They weren't told officially until after the program in a side room.
     It kind of resembled having a prom date who immediately afterward broke up with you.
     Then, a guy that was normally bubbly , approachable and effervescent in front of microphone, turned evasive.   He walked past many that he had openly engaged as if he'd never seen us before.
     It almost felt like I was in a movie, as I kind of wandered about with my mouth open.   Players were upset, staff members were put in awkward positions and a lot of people were left in limbo.
     I know I can't help it, I know I can't change the rules of football coaching searches and I know money talks.   That doesn't mean I have to like it.
     When you preach integrity and loyalty , you should live by it.  I'm not privy to all of the past few weeks' happenings, but somewhere along the line, some trust was violated.
     I think Notre Dame made the right hire.  Brian Kelly has all the skills to succeed in college football as we know now.   I'm just not sure all of those skills are good at the moment.
     I wish him well.  I don't wish ill will on anyone chasing their dream.   I just wish people wouldn't get stepped on during the pursuit.
     I take my hat off to him.  Good luck.
    By the way, "hats off" to the guy that gets this job next.  Thanks to BK, it's a much better job than it was in '06.
     Mike Thomas awaits with your C-Paw hat for your press conference and the keys to this "scoring machine" that keeps replacing parts and moving toward the ultimate goal.



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