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POST Season

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The University of Cincinnati and  most teams are already in post season mode and as the regular season winds down and the league tournaments start up there is only one area of improvement the Bearcats have to fix. Scoring in the post in the post season; without it the mountain gets a little higher.

I know this is not rocket science or a major discovery but the post season always offer the chance to start over, fix what is broken or to have an epiphany. If you look at last year's run please don't tell me that the majority of us had UC in the sweet 16 but it happened. With the rotating number one teams this year, the evidence supports the fact that anything is possible starting tournament time. Advantage defense, disadvantage post play for now for the Bearcats. As the do or die nature of the NCAA March Madness stage so often does, it affords seniors and teams one last chance to get it right. One final time to throw caution to the wind and one last time to wear the uniform; and hopefully it's not that mess of a uniform Adidas is shoving down the contractual teams' collective throats. Just my honest opinion.

So with the dismantling of the Big East tournament; the uncertainty of admission into a more respectable and deserving conference UC is playing for more than a national championship. They're playing for respect and admission. They're playing for a date with one one of the more attractive conferences and a solid statement that we are no longer an uncertainty but a definitive athletic program with basketball and football success.

The success of UC is well documented with players in the NFL and NBA and olympians as well. But in the what have you done for me lately world of college athletics, it's what can you bring our conference in the form of attendance and dollars and this will be a big test for UC. Seeding is the X Factor because the further away they seed and send you the harder it is for you to make your case. I think in all candor one of the things that makes Louisville attractive is their fans will hit the road and wear the signature red symbolizing solidarity. I've seen it with UC at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and i hope to see it this post season in the Big East tournament as well as the NCAA's. UC should get in regardless after beating UConn and from there the skies the limit or at least the sky above the rim where the big men play. This post season is where the post players will have to post respectable numbers for UC to make statements across the board. No one wants it more than the players do because seeing the stats next to your name that signal a significant contribution is priceless. These kids have done things right off the court, no horror stories that I know of and no lacking in the classroom either. So they have already represented the C in the right way and we know Coach Mick Cronin won't have it any other way. He just wants one more thing from the big men and that's big production. And to be honest it's not a big request.

I have posted my opinion, now lets hope they post the numbers...

That's the way I see it sitting in The Box Seat

It's Academic

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According to the fall academic data recently released, the University of Cincinnati had 60% of its athletes sporting a 3.0 or better and more impressive was the fact that 18 student athletes had a 4.0 GPA. While this won't lead the headlines at ESPN or make an imprint on your daily paper it does deserve a spotlight somewhere, thus I write about here. 

While everyone argues and whines about what conference UC should sell out to, and what coach spurned them for greener pastures we lose sight of the fact that this is an institution of higher learning. The term student-athlete is such a shallow term based on how the NCAA allows conferences and schools to just chase broadcast dollars without any governance while telling students not to focus on money but education. Kids only mirror what they see and they clearly see the grown folks chasing paper.

Sadly lost in all of this are the kids that are true student athletes. Going to class everyday, studying, practicing, excelling at test time and in the competitive arena. They quietly go unnoticed for the student part until graduation and the real world beckons. Their work ethic, ability to multi-task and achieve make them very employable and vital to the future growth of an organization. I know some of them are being honored at the UC-Villanova game but in reality why aren't they given some kind of superstar status? Free parking spots or a week off early at the end of school? There is never a tangible reward that I'm aware that rewards the high achieving student athlete that makes it cool to be in the 4.0 arena, which is rare air indeed.

It would be nice one day if the NCAA would stop chasing dollars and start chasing student athletes to find out what drives them, what makes them tick and bottle it up for the incoming freshman. Retire their textbooks and ink pens or just give them lifetime complimentary tickets to the sport they played in between going to class while they were being a true student athlete. It would be nice to hear a kid say I'm going to college and i'm going to get a 4.0 and make an impact on the field. You have to admit it sounds absolutely perfect. Kind of like the grades of the 18 student athletes at UC sporting a 4.0. Job well done student athletes, job well done.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

New Year, New Coach, New Conference

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Now that 2012 is our rear view mirror and we have exhaled a bit, what does the new year hold for the University of Cincinnati athletic department and more important, the cash cow aka the football team. Coach Tommy Tuberville is in place and now so is his staff; but what's not in place is a conference worthy of UC. No i'm not sounding arrogant as if UC deserves to be in a mega conference by default, but at least we know that they don't deserve to be in a souped up Conference USA. As Boise State retreats back to its original conference and the other Big East schools enjoy their swan song, UC is still on the outside looking in for now.

I agree with my good friend and colleague Dan Hoard that the dust hasn't settled but what I haven't seen, maybe because its confidential, is the full court press of some of UC's finest alums in the marketing world on board. I think for UC to land wherever they think they want to go, they have got to become attractive to other conferences in more ways than one. We are the home of P&G, the biggest advertising juggernaut in the world. Packaging firms like LPK and ad agencies like Northlich reside here and have a global respect and identity for raising the profile of some of the most powerful brands on the planet, so why not market UC athletics? Why not treat them as the brand and the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 as stores where you want product placement? Any good salesman will tell you that you have to have a product worth selling, and UC is. They will also tell you that product needs marketing and promotions and that's where the cream of the crop corporations mentioned above come in. Repackage UC, rebrand the athletic department, resurrect the successful and historic past and roll it out en masse.

I am convinced the brilliant marketing minds in this city and the UC marketing wunderkinds around the world and those who cut their teeth at DAAP can put a one of a kind athletic makeover together to make UC the most attractive team outside a major conference with an automatic BCS bid. It's the way of the world today that marketing matters even in conference courting. And I'm not naive either, money does too. The goal is to assemble the best TV markets to get the best TV packages, to get the most money possible. (Side note) But kids stay in college to get an education and don't chase money is still preached, counter to the actions of college presidents and universities in this day and time. Sadly UC has to dive in this money pit if they want the perks that come with the being one of the big boys.

UC has part of it in place with President Santa Ono in that he wants to be here; and he has a social media presence that can rally people worldwide. You may take issue with it but I don't. Kids that are looking to connect with a university knowing they can connect with the President is a plus. I just saw a retweet he gave an incoming student on twitter. How many people saw, retweeted or talked about that? I don't know but its priceless. So lets get in gear with the rebranding of our athletic department and understand many of P&G's products were reinvented that were already profitable but they did it so they could remain that way going into the future. Ahh the future...I see a new U C on the horizon but only if we market ourselves as the best university a BCS conference doesn't have. As they said about the 6 million dollar man: "We have the tools to rebuild..."

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Can't We All Just Root Along

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What a whirlwind 48 hours on the campus as Butch Jones exited for Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville almost got caught in the revolving door Butch dashed from. Before the UC faithful reached a crescendo of hate they were celebrating the arrival of Coach Tuberville. This college coaching carousel has to be modified or outright eliminated, but how?

I challenged UC fans who were so critical of Butch Jones leaving his players behind to view Coach Tuberville the same way. If you can, thank you and trust me I am not mad at either one of them. It's the business of college sports like it or not. Contracts aren't worth the paper they're printed on and a coach's word is only real when it doesn't interfere with their next stop. I think Chris Rock said it, "People are only as loyal as their options." In fairness to coaches, like Jon Embree who was fired by Colorado when he didn't rebuild a broken down program fast enough, university's aren't loyal to coaches either. There are the conspiracy theorist who say the booster are the blame; some say attendance drives decisions and other will say the barometer of donations is the guide. It's all wrong. If you sign a coach to a five year deal and he's losing you honor your contract, but that will never happen. If a coach signs a five year deal the coach should honor that as well but we know that's not true either; and the kids lose either way. How would you feel as a kid, or his parents when they come into your home and promise you to be there to see you graduate and the following year they're calling a team meeting to tell you it was the toughest decision they've ever made and it was a family decision, as if that lightens the pain. Bottom line is kids grow up quick and reality slaps them hard because all the rhetoric they were fed instantly becomes superfluous sentences. They understand everyone is saying only what they need to get what they want in the moment including them to sign on the recruitment line.

So am I mad at Butch Jones? Absolutely not. Tommy Tuberville? Not a chance. I'm mad because we get angry when our guy leaves and clap when someone's departed becomes our decorated. I get frustrated when we tell kids about values and morals only to turn around and show them money matters most. That is the real crime; the real problem and that issue that may never be resolved. 

Whit Babcok has to keep the athletic program viable and he does it within the rules. He lost a coach and immediately secured another one with more big game experience on the main stage. That seems to have everyone happy for now and lets hope a year from now they're even happier. You have to applaud Whit for being in ready mode and acting quick enough for the current players to determine whether staying here is an option. I have a feeling Tuberville's southern drawl blended with football speak will be a unique attraction for the current UC players. Listening to Coach Tuberville made more than one person want to don football equipment and run through the proverbial wall during his press conference. He's just that inspiring without a doubt. Now he has to inspire the ones that count on their coach to be there the following year and mean it. That is the biggest challenge of any coach and university these days, building a long term relationship with the players and each other.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Growth Spurt!

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It was a game Tony Pike could win; Zach Collaros would win but we didn't know if Munchie Legaux could win...until now. On the road, albeit a home game, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats were tested in all phases of the game because special teams is a source of pride for Virginia Tech on par with offense and defense. 

While we have seen comebacks and excitement we really had no idea how Munchie would play with the game on the line, on the road and pressure in his face. He stood compose, sensing he needed to make a play and did what smart quarterbacks do; let your playmakers make plays. Damon Julian saw the ball and then, saw the ball into his hands to give this new crop of Bearcats a big win in more ways than one. They grew up on that one play in ways that are indescribable but enjoyable as a fan. They realized their coach, Butch Jones, and his staff can game plan against big name programs. They recognize they can match up with most teams in the country (SEC notwithstanding) and in the clutch they can keep their composure. 

Give the offensive line credit and the defense as well; but you have to enjoy seeing Legaux as much as anyone because this teams with its offensive weapons will only go as far as he does. With expectations in place, the shadow of Colloras, and a diminishing power conference allegedly known as the Big East, this quarterback needs to make a statement that the Bearcats are still a team that deserves respect. After yesterdays win at FedEx Field in Washington D.C.  respect was earned but now must be maintained. It is indeed a long season and sticking to the game plan, not believing the hype is a recipe for continued success.

So yes $3.5 million was made not only for football but non revenue generating sports like Lacrosse; yes UC got a big win against the ACC who some say is a much better conference, but more important than that UC got a quarterback who had a growth spurt and has proven he has the skills and the will to win games and win them down the stretch. 

I hope he continues to improve and his confidence grows as well. As long as he has an appetite for studying film, preparing to play and leading his teammates, we will have the Munchies for Legaux believing he can win games regardless of how much time is left on the clock.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Football Jones

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It has been an interesting summer to say the least and with fall upon us the time for football has arrived. UC football in particular has made their annual trek to Harrison for their Higher Ground rite of preparation, only to come back and find out the President of their beloved university, Dr. Gregory Williams, has resigned and the finger pointing has ensued. But it doesn't matter to them and you can credit coach Butch Jones for that.

Oh he cares; and they care about what it will mean when the permanent successor has been named but in football terms it has the value of Enron stock on the practice field. This is football; Butch Jones football and the focus is on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Not that the resignation doesn't fit in all of these categories because it does. It doesn't fit from the lens the team looks through. Neither did Brian Kelly leaving or Mike Thomas heading to Illinois.

Butch Jones is all about football, specifically UC football. He is a leader, a follower, a father figure and more. If it has something to do with UC football, his staff and/or players he knows. He has settled the faithful who were on the ledge about losing Coach Kelly to Notre Dame and now his name is rarely mentioned by the Bearcat followers anymore. That's because Coach Jones respect for Kelly and his forward moving vision makes a great recipe for success. It's not about bashing his predecessor, friend and mentor but thanking him. It's not about resting on last years success but building on it; and it's not about the vacant presidency because he doesn't select them.

Coach Jones keeps his vision between the lines, the classroom and in the community where the players live. His job is to shape young men while trying to win games and titles. When they leave the university he'll be judged by what they become as men, fathers and alumni. What they give back and what they contribute to society. I firmly believe he cares; I know he wants what's best and we all know he wants UC to be a major player in college football. 

So with the shocking resignation of President Williams, the finger pointing and successor talk will build into a ground swell of rumors the size of Nippert Stadium. But rumors can't tackle, attend class or certainly do good in the community. But players can, especially players who can put it all in perspective. I think Bearcats under the influence of Coach Butch Jones will do that; focus on football, academics and the community. Rest assured if they don't rumors of their departure will surely get in line with all the other rumors that have preceded them. The bottom line is this is about UC football and Coach Jones will make sure it stays that way.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

Lessons Learned

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It's called the college life and it's where you can learn some tough and valuable lessons about truth and consequences. It's where you wait for the NBA draft and they tell you the truth about you, and you're faced with the challenge of accepting it and using it to your benefit.

This is the lesson Yancy Gates learned last week and hopefully every other University of Cincinnati athlete who has a desire to compete at the next level of sports. You won't accidentally make it to the pros. You won't stumble into a job; you won't even get there because you have a logo that people love on your jersey. You will only get there by what you have done and how long you have done it. According to reports Yancy knew he wasn't going to get drafted last Thursday in part because there were some concerns about his weight and the ability to keep it down. Others were reportedly concerned about his worth ethic with respect to its consistency. Either way Yancy had a chance, and has a chance to prove the doubters wrong. 

This is that life lesson where the hangers on can't help, your parents can't help and your alma mater can't help. It's your call; your decision and your question to answer: how bad do you want it? If this is what you really want, how much are you going to commit to achieve it? LeBron James said he looked in the mirror and took self inventory of King James and his honesty revealed he didn't do all that he could have to help his team win. That was the first growth spurt but the second one and the most important one was what he did about it. He trained harder, talked to people like Oscar Robertson for wisdom and insight and committed fully to doing everything he possibly could to achieve the desired results.

This is the point where Yancy stands in his life and his basketball career; it's his decision, his commitment and his plan that will guide where he lands. I believe this wake up call will give him the fuel he needs to reach his dream and achieve that which he says he desires. We can watch, wait and even cheer but the results will speak for themselves. They always do...

Here's wishing him all the best; and that his life lesson is transferrable to every player who dreams of making it to the top. Rest assured the pros are watching you as much as you're watching them. The question is what will they see when they look at you?

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

HuMANitarian

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The passing of Jack Twyman was indeed a loss for the University of Cincinnati and he will long be remembered for contributing to the success of its basketball and athletic programs. But by now you know he is being remembered, revered and celebrated for the humanitarian that he was and rightfully so.

I was fortunate to meet him in the 70's when I coached a basketball team in a city league and we played against a team on which his son played. He was there not as an NBA player but a dad rooting on his son and their team. I nervously but with some confidence walked up to him and said hello after the game and he was very gracious. It was the classic brush with a star but left the right and lasting impression on me.

It wasn't until later in life I knew and truly understood what he did by becoming the legal guardian for fellow teammate Maurice Stokes that elevated my respect for him. Not just that he did it but, at the age he made this life changing decision; 23 years old and in the prime of your life as a young man. I can't think of many, if any, who would give up that prime time in their life to the degree that Jack did. Those kind of friends are rare and as Jesse Jackson said should be the basis for an award that epitomizes those qualities in an athlete who understands there is more to life than the game; Jack wasn't just a ball player, he was a humanitarian. He was a giver; unselfish, caring, compassionate and kind. Not perfect mind you, as none of us are, but a step above most absolutely.

Years later we conversed again and this time for quite a while. He was a guest on my radio show thanks to his son in law, Josh, who I worked with at that time. We not only talked about the NBA and Maurice Stokes but also his comparison to a similar physically and talented player named LeBron James. We talked a little about life and it was just as enjoyable as I thought it would be. It was filled with candor, laughter and a joy that makes you glad you had the chance to interview such a special person.

With his passing I found myself, as I'm sure many of you have, asking that hard question: Could I have done the same thing, at the same age with the same set of circumstances including giving up the prime of my life to take full custody of a friend who needed around the clock care? I want to say yes and I want to say I'd do it now if I had to.

We don't have to ask WWJD. We don't have to ask what would Jack do either.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

UC Has A Path To The Draft

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With the conclusion of the 2012 NFL Draft, the University of Cincinnati can celebrate success with players picked in rounds 2,3 and 4 and others heading to league as free agents. They have now become a school that NFL teams target thanks to those who have gone before this class like Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Connor Barwin to name a few. And now with this latest class of players getting the call, you need only listen to Coach Butch Jones and buy in. Your dream can be found inside his vision to make UC a football school that wins, gets players drafted and teaches them to be community minded individuals. Potential recruits who have their eyes on the NFL prize can clearly see that UC produces the desired results and what a great calling card for Coach Jones and his staff. No longer do they have to hear the argument that if you want to stay home and play ball at the next level Columbus is the only option in the state.

Weekly the past few football seasons I have seen a representative from almost every NFL team present scouting players from UC and yes visiting teams too. But the consistency of scouts in attendance serves notice to players and their families that UC can get you a quality education and a chance to fulfill your dream. But the buy in is the key; you have to give to get. Butch Jones has quickly learned the landscape of Cincinnati and its unique personality but he has also shown the campus and the city that he has something to contribute that is uniquely Butch and I see it working daily and so will the players if they stay the course.

It is a great day to be a Bearcat fan but an ever greater day to be a Bearcat football player. Seeing hard work and dedication yield rewards in the form of dreams come true, will surely make some players who were giving 90% give 100 and those giving 100% give 110. Why? The bar has been raised and the only room at the top is reserved for those who want it bad enough to replicate what Isaiah Pead, Derek Wolfe, John Hughes and Adrien Robinson did this year. There's even a little more room at the top for someone to be a first round pick in next years draft. I may have been laughed at for saying that some years back; I think now we all know it's possible and in due time probable.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.


My Annual O-ffering

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As we transition from the NCAA basketball tournament, spring football, baseball, golf and other sports take center stage reminding me of my on going commitment to myself to continue lobbying for the most fitting tribute, for the most deserving alumni in the history of UC athletics if not UC period.

His name is instantly recognizable; his nickname is a brand unto itself and he has stayed connected to the University of Cincinnati not just in name but with contributions beyond the money. With the obvious need for a new basketball venue, seeing that Shoemaker Center's time has come and gone, it is only fitting that I once again champion the cause in print for a new facility to be built in his honor. Ladies and gentlemen, Alumni and students I present to you the Big Orena (not arena).

Oscar Robertson is one of the most deserving individuals in the history of college basketball and the University of Cincinnati. When Bob Huggins was removed he stepped in; when recruits come and coaches want to show him as a jewel of the University he complies. When he is on TV, in print or on radio the UC name is mentioned so much that a PR firm could easily calculate the value into the millions of dollars. So that in itself should offset the cry that naming rights take precedent over Oscar. I think he has valuated himself worthy of the ultimate naming rights for this new venue.

I have seen broadcasters run to his seat to say hello and ask for autographs; game officials do the same. I have seen successful businessmen and parents alike seek out his hand or signature. That alone justifies my request as to his name taking its rightful place on a new arena. And while you're at it, name the street Big O Boulevard and the address One Big O Boulevard to cement the deal.

Oscars' name is as legendary as his play. The National Basketball Writers of America have named their player of the year award after him so why can't UC name their venue after him? Even if it calls for another 1-2 years before you start, make the announcement now. Oscar, nor you or I, are getting any younger and to do this after he would be gone would be sad. I would say along the lines of Buck O'Neil's blatant snub by Cooperstown, not admitting him to the hall until it was done posthumously while everyone knew it should have been done while he was around to see it and enjoy it.

The time has come; it has always been here and while I see other universities name courts after coaches, deservedly so while they're alive to see it, I think why can't we? I would love to help and I think the Nike's, Reebok's, Converse, Magic Johnson's and others would agree too. Maybe we just need to ask them for their support.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.