Recently in Wayne Box Miller Category

Yancy Is Not To Blame...

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But he and everyone else involved have to accept responsibility for their actions. Now that being said I waited a day before I would weigh in, in my official capacity as a featured blogger for the University of Cincinnati athletic department. I remember when my father came home and the house wasn't clean and we started blaming each other; he always said "There's enough blame to go around." And that's what we have here and I'll leave it at that. 

This isn't the first time a fight or punches were thrown in the history of this game and anyone who really claims to know this rivalry conveniently forget to mention it. I heard, saw and sampled so much overreaction immediately after the game, I got tired of the subject and took long breaks between conversations for that very reason.

Reality check! Every game between rivals has episodes where things get out of hand and you have to deal with it accordingly and move on! Head Coach Mick Cronin, Athletic Director Whitt Babcock, and yes President Greg Williams moved swiftly to reiterate the values of the University and the responsibility of student athletes that wear the prestigious C-Paw. They vowed to handle it so let them; the respective conferences said they would react with punishment accordingly, let them; and the officials are going be reviewed so we await that report as well. What we haven't done is evaluate ourselves and how we throw blame around like snowballs in the winter time with no regard to our target.

I am done with the game but not the rivalry; I am done with trash talking but not having confidence; and I am done with blind reaction but not honesty. Everyone knows Yancy Gates wasn't the only who threw a punch but, because people aren't happy with his play they want to punish him above and beyond everyone else involved. I have yet to hear anyone talk about the other (cheap) or intended punches that may have landed even better, but hit someone in a place where blood doesn't reveal the evidence yet were just as damaging. I have yet to hear someone say that anyone else is a coward because they threw a punch and backed up as to not be hit back, so why just Yancy? I readily admit I think he should be doing more on the court but isn't it safe to say so should everyone else on UC's team?

I am not hear to uphold Gates or any other player involved, but I am here to be my father and say there's enough blame to go around and it has nothing to do with how you played, but more so how you react in the heat of the moment. I start with me as I did the very thing I'm writing about; therefore I admit guilt in jumping to some conclusion with the officials not calling a technical foul at the end of the game when a Xavier player was clearly and unapologetically taunting UC's bench. I am now going to wait and see what their superiors say which is the right thing to do.

Anything you overreacted to you can admit? The healing process includes you too.

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

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Debt!

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So the Big East title didn't come with all the trimmings for this Christmas but we did get a bowl bid and one that should be encouraging to Bearcat fans. With Bowls in Miami, New Orleans and even Texas, the expense may have forced some faithful to decline the expenditure in this economy. But the Liberty Bowl is very doable in terms of cost, travel and support.

Think about it; it's an 8 hour drive and you can weave so much more into the trip like the Civil Rights Museum, Stax Records Museum and a wealth of Southern Cuisine second to none. The fact you can drive eliminates the fear some still have after 911 and you can car pool and share the expense. In this economy having a bowl game you can actually afford to attend should be encouraging and a message to the kids and coach Butch Jones that you appreciate the season they had after rebounding from a disappointing season a year ago. And what a great recovery after the loss of senior quarterback Zach Colloras to still be within a South Florida fumble of a BCS game when many thought they were done. 

Now yet again people are looking at another UC coach, Jones, to restore their programs credibility with its boosters and fans. Your message, good or bad, will be heard December 31st as Bearcats square off against Vanderbilt. Coach Jones will look up in the stands, having been given a number of tickets sold prior to the game, plus what he ultimately sees and determine how much support he has and that may weigh into his decision to stay or go. 

If you're tired of coaches leaving; schools plucking away our great hires and talented kids going elsewhere because on senior day (and a must win scenario), they look up and see a less than sold out stadium then do something about it. Make the trip to Memphis, even if it's with a group, and support these kids who are proud to represent the C-Paw that you claim you rep as well.

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

Got Hoops?

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I read the well written article by my colleague Tom Groeschen asking the fair question about the absence of fans at the Shoe and I think of this often. I have an opinion and I'm sure you do to so lets have at it and see what comes of it.

I have often said the entertainment dollar in Cincinnati is a hard one to attract when you look at the cost, team, parking and competition; not only between opponents but like minded entities in this case the Reds, Bengals, Xavier and yes High School sports and more. As a member of the Greater Cincinnati Sports Corporation we find it hard to compete with other markets who have robust budgets and venues but we still try thanks to the steadfast efforts of Leslie Spencer the Executive Director and a solid board. One thing I have learned being on this committee and engaging with some committed Cincinnatians is that you can't stop trying and you have to find your niche and exploit it.

What is UC basketballs niche? I have my theories and I have other elements I think lend itself to raising the basketball profile not only locally but regionally. We have so much storied success here and arguably the best college basketball player to ever play the game along with many other tangible assets. The key is leveraging them for the program and its success in the stands. I believe it is a right now thing because with the uncertainty of the Big East, the opponents could get less than attractive even in the conference going forward which doesn't translate into sales. Take away Syracuse and Pitt who are leaving and you lose perrennial top ranked teams that have an attraction to the non-season ticket holder through proximity or alumni affiliation. So who do you replace them with? Hyphenated schools or Kentucky and North Carolina? The problem with the latter is that in many cases they won't play the better teams on the road for fear of upsets and that leaves the ones that people say they don't want to see. So scheduling isn't as easy as calling John Calipari at Kentucky and saying lets do a 2 game home and home; or Roy Williams at North Carolina likewise. With their respective conference schedules, the RPI ratings are rock solid so the benefit to them is less of a need.

So who then? Do you try and schedule teams who land the top blue chippers that don't go to the bigger schools? With their one/two and done style hopefully you can get them on the calendar. Do you offer some unique incentive to lure bigger teams here (what I don't know but that would be an NCAA issue)? Or do you promote your product knowing you can control that more than anything else? I will take the latter for $500. In saying that as Tom noted don't compare apples and oranges, i.e. Xavier. Basketball is their sport; men and women's and they do a great job of marketing the X with their ad campaigns. I would say it starts there in the marketing world with research, feedback, strategic plan, brand assessment and ultimately the deployment of a unique but highly effective campaign that endears people to the program, the coach and the players. 

I also know there are people still mad at Bob Huggins leaving but gone also is Nancy Zimpher; that Kennedy didn't get the job but his off the court cab fiasco fell into another programs hands fortunately, and finally a team that had no name players and little success still leaves a bad taste in peoples mouth. Never mind Mick Cronin finally got UC back in the tournament, but they even won a game many said they weren't going to in beating Missouri. So how do you get people to move on and embrace the positives even after the upset to Presbyterian and a tough loss to an athletic Marshall team?

Treat these kids like your kids, its really that simple. They came to UC to fulfill a dream like your kids play to fulfill theirs. You try to attend all your kids games and make the effort to accomplish that regardless of what you may miss in the process. I am not saying they should be your child's equal but as a University of Cincinnati alumni and yes even a Cincinnatian you really could make this a difficult place to play again for visiting teams and a great place to play if you wear the C Paw. As a recruit you might feel like there IS something special about wearing the uniform. But for right now they see the banners, the trophies and the Big O, Oscar Robertson; but they don't see the fans. To an impressionable kid, that is the missing piece. So if you want big name players and a program to root for in the stands, you have to commit just like you want the player too. He has a choice of schools to attend and yes, you have a choice too. But if you're a UC alum do you really?

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

P&R Nightmare

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What a tough time to be a University of Cincinnati sports fan this past weekend. First UC football loses convincingly to Rutgers putting their Big East title hopes on fountain square's ice rink; and with excitement running high going into a year fresh off their first NCAA tournament appearance under Mick Cronin, the basketball team loses a guaranteed win to Presbyterian at home.

I honestly don't know which one hurts their sports program more. While I think many would say the basketball loss hurts more I think you could have a point but, West Virginia lost at home to Northern Kentucky and Pitt lost to Long Beach State. All three games were written down as wins as soon as they were scheduled. But these days kids aren't in awe of program names or players like they use to be. They realize lots of players and programs are only good on paper but more even on the court than many would care to admit simply because the AAU circuit allows these guys to face each other for years eliminating the mystique.

In football I honestly thought the Bearcats would play Rutgers tougher than they did and that Munchie Legaux would play better but that didn't happen either. As a result a season that started out full of optimism and got stronger with each win is potentially going to vanish into thin air. Yes we all realize losing Zach Collaros was the X factor but I guess I just expected more from the defense since Collaros never played on that side of the ball.

This is one of those weekend that will chase fair weather fans right out of the ball park and/or arena because they look at this as the apocalypse of UC sports but in reality it was just one bad weekend of sports; one I'd like to soon forget. 

UC basketball has chance at redemption against Northwestern State and they should be made to pay dearly. As Mick said in his post game show, this team was setting themselves up for a bad loss and he tried his best to avoid it. In the end it could be the best thing to happen to this team going into the real part of their schedule. As far as UC football is concerned Coach Jones will find out who wants to mail it in as a sign of frustration and who wants to rise above the tide and hold tight to the belief that any chance is a real chance. I would love to have been in Coach Cronin's practice after the loss and peek into Coach Jones' practice this week. I assure you it won't be pleasant for players on either side but it's a necessary evil to rid themselves of lackluster performances.

What a great opportunity for UC players to make a statement about pride in their sport and their respective programs. The fans deserve better and the university deserves better. But more important than that, the players owe each other an apology for not respecting their craft.

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

Lets Gaux!

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The Munchie Legaux era has begun unceremoniously, effective immediately. After Zach Collaros went down with a fractured ankle, Legaux the sophomore quarterback was thrust into the spotlight and ask to perform a comeback win against Big East rival West Virginia. He did his part scoring and getting the team in position to tie the game and force overtime. While the outcome didn't go the way UC had hoped there was enough evidence to convince some that Munchie can help the Bearcats win the Big East title and a BCS berth. 

I believe this in part because coach Butch Jones understands you don't dwell on the past or the negative, but you embrace the positive and the future. I can assure you Coach Jones feels as bad for Zach as anyone but he also has a responsibility to prepare those who are capable of playing to get ready for Rutgers who could care less about the 'Cats and their loss. They, as well as any football team, have suffered their share of losses going down the stretch and that's why teams recruit more than one superb player at one position; depth is key to success. When a Collaros goes down, there is a Legaux on standby and the beat goes on...

So while we celebrate the success and contributions of Collaros, we lament his loss. But there is still Isaiah Pead, J.K. Schaffer, and Bearcats en masse to take on the Scarlet Knights and the rest of the Big East. Add Munchie to the mix and you have a chance to win the same way you did prior to his ascension. You may recall there was Tony Pike with Collaros in the wings and its the natural order in football and any sport. Ask any coach and they'll tell you, we want to put ourselves in a position to win and we want to put the best players on the field to accomplish that. With Zach done, UC still has the Munchies for wins and we'll see if their appetite can be satisfied with Legaux in charge.

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

A One Game Schedule

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With UC's convincing win over Pittsburgh they are now 3-0 in the Big East and 7-1 overall putting them in great shape for a conference title and BCS bowl invitation. But before you order your BCS package and jump back on the Bearcat bandwagon follow Coach Butch Jones' (and any sane coach's) tried and true strategy: Focus on West Virginia only

We as fans have a tendency to write in wins after we get a big one forgetting every team we're going to face still has something to play for. West Virginia after losing to Louisville at home, is still mathematically in the running for the Big East crown and that goal starts with beating UC. UC still has to play Rutgers and I think you get the point. It has and always will be from a coaches perspective, a series of one game season and that's the kind of focus that will ultimately land you the BCS bid we all covet.

So lets join the coaching staff, players and the wise ones and look ahead to Saturday's game and not beyond. The other team has a lot of chips to play for and redemption after their home loss to the 'Ville. They're thinking let's return the favor and win on the road and I can guarantee the 'Cats staff is keenly aware of that, and that's why coach Jones said he was paying attention to all the little things in getting ready for this one big game.

You as a fan have a job to do for one game and that is show up, be loud and remind your crew to focus on West Virginia and nothing else. The 'Cats only need you to cheer one game and that's the game they're playing right now. The next one game season doesn't start until it starts; and then one day you'll look up and that one game season will be a BCS bowl game with lots of time to enjoy it. Whoops! We can all see how easy it is to get ahead of ourselves because I just did. With that being said I will see you Saturday, at Paul Brown Stadium for one game and one game only.

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

Get Whit The Program

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It's official and the deal is sealed, Whit Babcock is the new athletic director for the University of Cincinnati. He and is 3 pronged approach: 1) Commitment to comprehensive excellence 2) Preparing student-athletes for life and 3) Engage our community will take center stage in the midst of the conference dice game currently underway.

One of the positives that I hope his hire yields is the working knowledge he has of the Big 12 and their (potential) conference plans going forward. It can't hurt that he at least had some surface knowledge and clear insight as to Missouri's intentions. With all the uncertainty its like we added a piece to the puzzle other Big East schools don't have.

Whit's community piece is a great indicator that he realizes Cincinnatians know their value and their impact. Getting on the wrong side of this city has caused many an early grave to be utilized before its time. 

When President Williams (welcome my my new Kappa Brother!) introduced him, one of the attributes he mentioned was great fundraising success and no matter what league the Bearcats land in that will be a key component. And the key to his fundraising success will be our unique community; learn it, respect it and the most critical piece accept it. Cincinnati is different and that's okay with them. They'll be okay with you, if you get Whit their program and merge it with yours.

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

Stretch Play

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Well turn out the lights, the party's over as Don Meredith use to say on Monday Night Football; and that applies to UC as they begin a stretch run that will surely reveal who this team is and where they land in the Big East standings. The next 4 games, 3 of them on the road, will be match ups testing the Bearcat claws to the fullest. Their dates with USF, Pitt, West Virginia and Rutgers will either reestablish the program as solid or leave questions in the hands of haters. I have no qualms about what I would like to see: 4-0 or 3-1 would be a fantastic conclusion, but even 2-2 says you are one of the better teams in the Big East when 3 of these games are on enemy soil. 

With the russian roulette conference carnival going on UC has so much to play for. It appears they're going to stay in the Big East and I would imagine they want to stick their flag in the sand and say we own this conference no matter who joins. They also want to continue competing for blue chip players and maintain their television attraction to the networks and finally, convince the ever elusive fan base that their support is warranted. Wins do that; losses don't. UC has to make a loud and definitive statement that no matter what conference, what allies, what schedule, they will be reckoned with no matter who stays or joins.

But I really think the bigger question is what does the future hold for UC Football post Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros. In addition the loss of JK Schaffer means they'll need new leaders on both sides of the football. I know the coaches have their idea of who they are, but it would be nice to see someone step up to let us know that I will carry the torch of UC football beyond this season. It is imperative for the good of this program that new names and faces make themselves known before the season is out. In doing such, a major bowl bid should be there for the taking. As bowl committee's go, there is no questioning the following of Bearcat nation. Just ask New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl committee.

So now they get ready to rumble, fight, scratch and claw our way through the heart of this conference schedule. It's no doubt going to stretch UC to the limits but that's why you play in a conference of this size, with this kind of competition to prove you belong. It is the number one reason teams are jumping around like grasshoppers from conference to conference; competition. Except the difference between the conference jumpers and UC is a matter of dollars and no sense of loyalty. 

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

Homecoming On The Road

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Why is the homecoming game not at home? That is a question I have been asked a number of times over the last couple of weeks and I don't have an answer other than maybe the University thought they could make the annual event more profitable moving it to a bigger venue. But with the way the University of Louisville is playing I would think the I-71 traffic may not be what it could be if they had a better record. One thing is for sure they have a considerable number of greater Cincinnati kids on their team including Stephon Ball, son of former Bengal Eric Ball; Preston Brown from Northwest; Dominique Brown, state champion quarterback from Winton Woods and so many more. That no doubt will guarantee a contingent of Cardinal faithful regardless of their record.

This game may be the last ironically these two teams could play while living in the same conference. Many believe U of L is headed out of the conference, potentially to the ACC; either way to see these two schools in different conferences is heartbreaking for someone who remembers them going back past the Conference USA days. So close in proximity, same color palette and raiding each others back yard has contributed to a great rivalry and a Keg of Nails as the reward. 

I hope wherever Louisville goes, UC follows; I can't say with any certainty that it will happen but I would think any conference commissioner worth his weight in Bowls will see this built in rivalry has instant value. Time will tell and I hope sooner than later. Until then we'll just have to enjoy what we have; a battle on the Ohio and a tradition of memories to last a lifetime. No matter who the coaches or players are, the fans on both sides know you have to root heavily against each other. 

While we don't know and really feel slighted that the homecoming football game is not on campus, we have to revel in the fact we're good enough that Paul Brown stadium is now a viable option. I don't think the attendance will be anywhere near the numbers the Oklahoma game provided but lets hope they exceed the capacity of Nippert Stadium. Otherwise the debate fuels itself and it will be hard to put it to rest.

Rest assured though, that this homecoming will be a first at Paul Brown stadium; and you can say you were there regardless of who you're rooting for.

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

UC University of Coaching

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With all due respect to Miami University of Ohio as the cradle of football coaches, I have to say UC is a great place to cut your teeth in coaching if you plan to become a major head coach in college or the NFL. We may not be the only ones who can say that but I started looking not only at the recent coaches like Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly, but Urban Meyer and Mike Tomlin who have been a branch on UC's coaching tree. ESPN broadcaster Mike Gottfried, Illinois head man Ron Zook have also passed this way as well adding validity to  my claim.

(for a inside look go to this link:) 

As one of my good friends always says your blessing can also be your curse. You needn't go back any further than Brian Kelly who galvanized the campus, alumni and community faster than free chicken at KFC. We loved him for who he was but hated him for what he dreamed; being head coach of Notre Dame. I can never understand why people hate someone for taking their dream job other than not being able to realize their own. After much scrutiny and near exile he appears to have the fighting Irish on track. Good for him and good for us because it allows us to breed yet another top notch head coach in Butch Jones. 

Time will tell whether Coach Jones ascends to the upper echelon of college coaches in UC and/or the NFL but if he does, that means we succeeded again in picking solid leaders. I know coach speak always says this is the place I want to be but there is always another overlooked voice called the coaches wife/family. If a coach has a chance to be close to home or the family's home the decision becomes harder to stay. If a coach has an opportunity to lead a top flight program after they have done well here it's hard to say no as well. The bottom line is athletic directors should always have a short list in their pocket next to the breath mints.

UC has produced some great players and coaches over the years and that has put the university in good company. But in football it's not the company you keep, its keeping them part of the company that's the challenge. Easy come easy go is the rule rather than the exception and don't bother mentioning contracts because they are only worth the paper they're printed on.

Lets celebrate the coaching lineage that is UC football dating back to Sid Gillman and more recently Brian Kelly. It gives UC sports another feather in its cap as to why its a top flight university for sports. Now with a bubble practice field and a solid conference affiliations, sans the fallout of 2011, we may be moving to a place considered elite thereby ensuring a coach really does want to come here to stay, not just stay on the path to something better.

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