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jimmy nipp.jpg

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      As you will hear ad infinitum (fancy Latin word for endlessly) this week, UC and Miami (OH) are meeting for the 115th time. They started playing in 1888, Miami's won 59, UC 48 and seven times it's ended in a despicable tie.

      In terms of area college football, it's the closest thing you'll find to basketball's "Crosstown Shootout" with Xavier. Most of the kids have played against each other somewhere along the line and once they're on the field, it's the Hatfields and McCoys (though neither team has a player with that surname).

      Bottom line, in terms of football, there's no getting along here.

      Legend has it that UC "borrowed" the clanging device that's come to be known as the Victory Bell. Folks in Oxford want it back and have had it returned several times only to lose it again.

      For UC, they've won the last four and have grown quite partial to the Victory Bell's presence in the Lindner Center trophy case next to the Keg of Nails (Louisville) and the River City Rivalry (Pitt) trophy.

      Then there's the more personal side of things that senior RB John Goebel wants to spread the word about. To him, beating Miami in "The Nipp" is of utmost importance.

      "Our stadium's named after Jimmy Nippert, who in the game against Miami of Ohio got cleated and a month later died," recalled Goebel, the noted historian. "If they don't know it, I'm going to tell everybody. I'm a Sigma Sigma and he's a Sigma Sigma too. It's very serious within that community and within the student population."

      For the specific details of UC's stadium name, we go to the "Nippert Stadium" section of that confirms Goebel's knowledge:

      In 1916, construction began on a permanent brick-and-concrete stadium structure, which was completed, section-by-section, as funds were raised.

     During the season-ending clash with rival Miami (Ohio) in 1923, Jimmy Nippert sustained a spike wound injury and died a month later from blood poisoning. His grandfather, James N. Gamble of Procter and Gamble, provided the funds needed to complete the horseshoe-shaped structure, and the James Gamble Nippert Memorial Stadium was dedicated on Nov. 8, 1924.

      In football, whatever motivates a squad is good and apparently Goebel and the Bearcats have plenty of ammunition on the Redhawks that should help them lock into their "game faces" come Saturday night.

      "I've got a lot of friends that go to Miami of Ohio and I know how a lot of the students feel about it ," said Goebel of the heated rivalry. "I know how the players feel about it. I know guys who have played there. We know about the traditions in their locker room that have to do with the C-Paw and stuff. They kind of disrespect it a little bit. It's personal for us."

      A presence such as Goebel's could be important in a game like this as younger players might not have the appreciation of the rivalry. Nationally, the rivalries with Louisville, West Virginia and Pitt are bigger. Locally, this is the game that you can "ride" your neighbors or co-workers on all year (depending on the outcome and their allegiances).

      Honestly, this has the makings of a "trap game" as UC cannot afford to overlook a much-improved Redhawks team. Miami's been down and a win over a UC team that's been getting all the press in recent years would do a lot for their program and their egos.

      On the other hand, the Bearcats at 1-3 are in no position to overlook anyone and need to keep the hunger they had when they regained the Victory Bell in 2006 in Mark Dantonio's final year as coach.

      John Goebel was around then and the Bell's been in Bearcat possession ever since.

"I don't think it's me, but it means a lot to us," said Goebel. "It is great to have the Bell. I remember my freshman year when we actually won it back from them. I remember the feeling of sprinting down over there and grabbing it from them. It's a terrible feeling--I remember the looks on their faces, the looks on the senior's faces. It was terrible. I don't want that happening to me."

      Sure, it's kind of a young adult version of "Capture the Flag", but each fall it's fun to get the blood boiling between these two schools separated by a couple counties, Route 27 (Colerain), a large trash mountain and a handful of cornfields.

      "I don't want to see anyone come onto my field and cross onto my sideline to steal the Victory Bell," said Goebel. "It's been in the locker room. Each week that we play them we put it down in the locker room, down on the practice field and ring it as much as we want."

      By around 11 p.m. Saturday night, we shall see (as always) for whom the bell tolls.

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