Norm represented

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Before there was "Represent the C", "Catapult", "Cattitude", "The Team Behind The Teams", "U Gotta C It", "Football You Feel", "Next Man In" or any of the umpteen catch-phrases used to promote and attract attention at UC, there was Norm Oxley.

I really don't know Norm's origins with the program, other than his daughter, Cynthia, was once Director of Marketing for Bearcat athletics and was a cheerleader when I was in school.

I met Norm during my tenure covering UC football on radio and through numerous trips to conference tournaments in the Great Midwest and Conference USA basketball days (when conference tournaments were affordable).

Initially, he was just an older guy that seemed to be on all the football trips and all the sidelines helping the equipment and training guys.  It was later that I picked up on Norm being a loyal contributor to Bearcat athletics.  In 1997, he won the inaugural Strubbe Distinguished Service Award among UCATS, the Bearcat booster organization.

Just goes to show you, never assume a guy handing out towels or Gatorades is nobody.

Norm Oxley was definitely somebody. Sadly, after an illness he passed away Jan. 12.

To those that think the Lindner Center has always existed, that Varsity Village has been in place for years, that Marge Schott Stadium has always been spectacular, the Sheakley Athletic Center (Bubble) blows up on its own and that Oscar Robertson had a statue built shortly after graduating, you probably haven't a clue who Norm Oxley is.

That's your loss.

There's an old country song by Barbara Mandrell called, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool". Not that Norm or I were great old school country fans, but that pretty much sums up Mr. Oxley.

He supported Bearcat athletics when Nippert Stadium had Astro Turf as hard as concrete and was temporarily condemned.  When there was no on-campus arena and students had to be bussed to Riverfront Coliseum to watch mediocre basketball, Norm was supporting his cheerleading daughter.

When football games were held at Riverfront Stadium out of necessity, when no league would have UC football and when the Bearcats finally made a bowl game after years of obscurity, Norm was there.

At football games, he would invite me into the locker room at halftime to get warm if we were playing a cold weather game (sideline reporters battle the elements--ask Tommy).  He'd offer an extra sandwich or can of pop after the game also (the players are seemingly fed continuously on road trips).

I doubt you'll find a harsh word about Norm Oxley from any football player in recent memory.

He basically was good to everyone he came in contact with.  My oldest is now getting a master's in athletic training and worked the Bearcat sidelines for a few seasons.  Knowing that most of those kids work harder than anyone can imagine, Norm was always looking out for them in a "grandfatherly" role.

On basketball road trips, Norm was always there with his three daughters and their families and seemed to know where one could gamble no matter the locale.  Often times, work would pull me away from fun, so Norm occasionally adopted my wife as his fourth daughter and watched after her as he would is own.

I recall one year, we even shared a ride to Pittsburgh with the Oxleys and Norm made a four-hour ride seem like 15 minutes.  Whatever steel or industrial town we passed, Norm had been there.  Odds are, he probably was as giving and caring there as he was everywhere else.

He was proud of his family and a proud Bearcat.  When I last saw him this fall, he wasn't at his usual place on the sideline.  He was hovered in the shade near UC's Nippert locker room. He still had his rings on with pride and was still decked out in red and black, but I could tell he wasn't quite himself.

Still, he smiled and asked about my wife and kids.  Some people will do that in passing as a throw-away line, others actually care.  Norm was the latter.

He cared and he contributed to a lot of people's lives at UC in a lot of ways.  It's tough to measure a man's influence in life, but in my book Norm Oxley was as loyal and dedicated a Bearcat as you'll ever find.

I have no say-so in what transpires at the University, but it's my hope that Norm Oxley is memorialized in some fashion this upcoming football season.

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