Have you ever taken a look at the home basketball schedule in 1999-2000, the year that the Bearcats set a single-season record for average attendance (13,176) by selling out all 14 home games?
Here were UC's opponents: Youngstown State, Mississippi Valley State, Wisc-Milwaukee, UNLV, Charlotte, Marquette, Ohio, Memphis, USF, DePaul, Temple, Southern Miss, Louisville, and St. Louis.
Of those teams, only No. 15 Temple was in the Top-25.
Every game was sold out because the Bearcats had
enjoyed a long run of success and were the number one team in the country for
most of that season. The stands were
packed to see the home team - not the opposition.
I mention that because I constantly read and hear how Cincinnati's membership in the new American Athletic Conference could be damaging to home attendance in football and basketball because fans have grown accustomed to watching high-profile opponents in the Big East. But I honestly believe that if Cincinnati is one of the dominant programs in The American in football and basketball, that attendance will eventually go up, not down.
Cincinnati sports fans support teams that compete for championships - whether it's the Bearcats, Bengals, Reds, or Musketeers.
One of the reasons why I am excited about Tuesday's
announcement that the Nippert Stadium Renovation and Expansion Project will
begin in December (scheduled for completion in 2015) is that it is tangible
proof that the UC administration is not deterred by recent developments in
conference realignment and is continuing to invest in building an athletic
department that competes for championships.
Project Website: http://www.gobearcats.com/nippert
Announcement Link: http://www.gobearcats.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/062513aab.html
"Revenue generated from this project will benefit student-athletes in each of our 19 sports," said Athletic Director Whit Babcock. "This facility will also add another piece of signature architecture right in the heart of our beautiful campus."
It's hard not to be impressed by how Babcock - with the support of President Santa Ono and the UC Board of Trustees - made this happen. After announcing a proposed plan to renovate Nippert Stadium in mid-December, Babcock quietly went about lining up financial support, including 18 commitments for Founders Suites at $1 million dollars each, hundreds of club seats, and millions of dollars in private donations. While there is still fundraising to do, enough money has been raised to formally launch the project and no University general funds will be used.
In addition to boosting the amenities at Nippert Stadium and creating a much-needed revenue stream, the renovation project is another bold statement that Cincinnati should be at the top of anyone's list. While I've stopped trying to guess what's going to happen next, I think that UC is doing everything in its power to polish its resume - from winning games, to graduating student-athletes, and investing in facilities.
The UC football team can go to a BCS bowl game this year by winning the first championship in The American. The UC basketball team added a great recruiting class and is aiming to go to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year.
The home team is going to be fun to watch.
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