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That's the Ticket(s)

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UC Football fans have spoken and they have shown their resiliency post Brian Kelly regarding their support of UC football. Student season ticket sales have exceeded last year and that speaks volumes about the Cattitude' of the fans and their belief in the new leadership of Coach Butch Jones.

Basketball will once again regain its foothold on the campus but we all have to be amazed, even a little, at what is going on gridiron wise when you think Dantonio, Kelly, Jones combine for less than 10 years of leadership among them. That's not consistency by any definition and that typically leads to fan apathy and lack of attendance. But winning is the great equalizer and while Coach Kelly will get a lot of the credit, and deservedly so, it was Coach Mark Dantonio who turned the corner with the perception of this team. he being a former Ohio State coach who brought "cred" here and now with Coach Jones the winning and belief continues and that means anything less than a Big East title could be disappointing if you choose to be unfair. I want them to win and expect them to compete but when we lose seniors and other teams juniors' now become seniors they have a legitimate shot as well. Please keep that in mind...

Either way its nice to see a consistent product and response to that product by the fans because it was earned. It also a reminder of what will happen in basketball now that they have emerged from the shadows of Huggins, Kennedy and a player-less roster and into Big East tournament game winners and NCAA bubble-ers. If they keep growing then this will be their year and we will have what we all desire; winning sports year round as it relates to the revenue producing sports. Nothing against baseball, track and field or even swimming but the money these 2 sports potentially generate fund the others.

For the sake of the student athletes lets hope both these programs have stellar years and go into the post season with lots of success and momentum. The fans have spoken for the football team and to roll that over to basketball might be what they need to get over the hump. So here's to a great 2010-11 season for UC football and basketball. A hard to find ticket means an easy to find winner.

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

FREEDOM

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OK, much has been made of this free agent move LeBron James made and I just don't get the uproar but I understand to some degree fans feeling lost because Cleveland will return to its normal state of ineptness.

But the reason I brought it up in this column is I've always felt it unfair in college that coaches can come and go but players can't, especially after NCAA rules violations. Typically coaches know the hammer is coming and resign or take another job under the heading of opportunity. Meanwhile the school and players are left with memories and probation. So I know the first push back on this is that too many players would be bouncing around but there could be penalties for the second and third move that are heavy and take away a year of eligibility. I don't know what utopia looks like but I'm always taken back to Gale Catlett who left UC in probation while he headed to West Virginia to start anew.

If players have to stay then let the coach take the probation with him or at least split the penalties between the school and the outgoing coach. If Pete Carroll or any other coach heads to the pros they should be fined for thier part in the period in question. If someone tries to tell me Pete Carroll didn't know what was going on at USC, I'll show you a loyal fan of his or his cousin. His ascension into the pros was very timely considering he'd been there before and didn't inherit a playoff caliber team but just a lot of cash. So why would you give up a great "thing" at USC to to to Seattle? because he's the fugitive and the NCAA was hot on his trail. Staying one step ahead of the posse is a saying in coaching and this was evidence of such. Another example is John Calipari who had NO IDEA what was going on at Memphis when he was there; maybe he didn't but he had to know 1 plus 1 will always equal 2 much coincidence.

I hope one day the NCAA says coach if you're the one who causes the probation, penalties will follow you wherever you land. I wonder how many would be quick to bolt? or more important, how many schools would be quick to make the offer knowing the baggage flies free. It's a shame from a college player and parents point of view that you get recruited by a coach who says I'm going to be here for your son's entire college career knowing if a big school or big money recruits him, he will do what's best for him and his family. Freedom to choose has its limits in college sports when it comes to players, not to coaches and schools and that just doesn't seem right. Once a school gets a player...game over unless the coach or schools grants him a release from his committment. How cool would it be if the coach had to get his release from the players as well?

Independence Days

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Without hesitation this 4th of July I'd to first salute the men and women past and present who serve in our military and afford us the opportunity to experience freedom and even complain about it. So many of them have served and come home to try and re-enter society, sometimes not with so much success. Others come back and are able to without missing a beat and even go on to make their mark in other areas of life including sports.

UC has seen many a military person come back an enjoy stellar athletic and academic careers and in the process teach us something about what really matters. While we sit in traffic complaining, they sit in fields amidst land mines. While we complain about clothes not being ready from the cleaners, they repeatedly wear the same uniforms as standard practice. We rush to get home, they hope to get home. I could go on but I think we all get the picture; military people have given of themselves in ways worthy of constant recognition. So if its July 4th or September 19th or March 10th, its a great day to honor those who fight for us and for those who've lost their lives...rest in peace

I salute teams and sporting events that let military in free because at a moments notice the could be deployed or redeployed and may not come back. While the same applies to us all we know they are in foreign land, not totally aware of their surroundings and not knowing who to trust. Suicide bombers are more prevalent than ever and attacks come from all sides. If we think gang violence is a concern in our inner cities magnify that by 100.

So the next time you're upset about something small, relatively speaking, think of our military. The next time you have an extra ticket seek out a service person and offer it to them or their family. Even simpler than that, the next time you spot a person serving YOUR country, say thank you. We have freedom and they are the reason; no matter what the time, or the season.

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

The Love of Football

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I was out of the country and one distinct thing I noticed is the unapologetic love of football (soccer) that exist worldwide. People watch every movement, game and news alert like its life and death. It started me thinking how important is sports to Americans? 

We have long been accused of being fanatics, going above and beyond but everyone knows it pales in comparison to World Cup and other soccer followers. Death is not an oddity but part of the annual recap of instances attributed to the sport. Divorce and spending ones last moneys to see their team are all too common. So why are we so critical of the bus with UC logos, and painted faces and even dressing our kids up in gear they have no idea they're wearing? Because believe it or not we're the civilized fans for the most part. 

From college to the NFL, our football is a religion make no mistake about it, but we know where the blurred line is; and its a lot easier to see comparatively speaking. Yeah alcohol interferes with common sense but other than carrying someone to jail or back to the house we're tame...

That doesn't justify inappropriate behavior by no means and it shouldn't be encouraged or tolerated but lets keep it in perspective as we watch World Cup football and as our football season approaches. Root for UC, the Bengals or whomever you choose; just do it in a way your children and parents can accept. We are always on the world stage because we are a dominant country and great news to report when things go wrong. The world revels in our troubles. But admittedly we probably do the same. 

The only thing I have to say about the US Soccer team is you better hire a coach from Brazil if you ever want a chance at winning a World Cup, kind of like other countries hiring american coaches for basketball. Get with the people who dominate the game, otherwise they'll keep dominating you; but in our case we can't get deep enough into the tournament to challenge soccer's big boys.

But I digress; It's good to be back amongst the real football fans in America. Blow the whistle and lets get this party started!

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

TV Timeout...

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After watching the Celtics graciously hand the title to the Lakers and with the impending football pre-season rapidly approaching, I need to recharge the batteries. 

I'm taking a Box Blog Break (say that 3 times) and when I return, it will be closer to Big East football season unless they're in another conference upon my return. Thank you for reading and responding and we will fire up the pen (keyboard) and look forward to a great run!

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


...And Away We Go!

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Well the first shot has been fired and the Pac 10 has welcomed Colorado, formerly of the Big 12, to their conference. Others are lining up and jockeying for position as the fight for Super-Conference supremacy takes center stage. The SEC is eyeing Big 12 schools and the Big Ten has its sights set on Nebraska. Now comes word that Texas is staying in the Big 12 but will it hurt or help their national title runs in the future? You can hear the prevailing argument now: we won all our conference games and we were undefeated outside the conference as well. 

But then one of the super conferences will have a strength of schedule 3rd place team with a couple of losses getting a bowl bid over an undefeated team and thus you have college basketball part II. You know the complaints leveled against the Big East for having 8 teams in the tournament and so on and so on...

This, to me isn't going to end up well and what happens to a basketball strong conference like the Big East, who's football isn't a strong suit? What happens to an A 10 who has a couple of football teams who may move up due to vacancies in conferences bigger than theirs? Who knows? The bottom line is we won't know until several years from now whether it was all worth it, the jockeying and relocating, but the bigger issue is watching how the NCAA ranks the conferences this year and next year when the moves are scheduled to take place. Who emerges as THE conference and the TV darling? who gets the ESPN game of the week? the ABC prime time game? All this and more on the next episode of "All My Conferences". 

Stay tuned; I am...

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

CHAMPIONS IN THE CLASSROOM

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I follow Coach Butch Jones on twitter and noticed he was encouraging his players during this final exam week to represent the C on and off the field. I thought for a minute...how legit this is and what it meant to the players. Obviously its legit because the Coach went public with his feelings and expectations; secondly I can't speak for the players but I'm sure it put some of them on notice that if people see them hanging out and not in an environment that is conducive to studying the word may get back to the coach.

We don't know to what degree social media has changes lives and habits but it has. We know information overload is alive and well and this is one time you have to be appreciative of it if you are a parent of a player, concerned alumni or faculty at UC because Coach Jones is basically saying I know its exam week and I expect my players to do their job! What do you expect now that you know its finals week? Do you expect them to focus? stay out of the public eye? avoid distractions,etc.

I can't answer that but I know we have coaches and have coaches that expect academic excellence and yes we've had those to the contrary. We've also had faculty that are on both sides of the fence as well. Its one of the longest running debates on athletes and their obligation to the student part of student-athlete. I, in my brief college hoop career, didn't respect the classroom like I should have until baseball coach Steve Hamilton threatened me with a failing grade if I thought missing class was a perk for athletes. Now I was the lowest form of player, meaning I was a walk on, not a scholarship player or McDonalds All American but I know that faculty and staff are in awe of stars like everyone else and some want to befriend the stars for future perks, thus the grades are "given" vs. earned.

In this day and age of twitter and social media, if that happens someone comped a grade and it becomes public, people will be exposed like never before. The guilty parties will be identified and their crimes posted, shared, copied and pasted before they can say "what had happened...". 

Depending on how you look at it, its a blessing to embrace social media for lots of reasons and it puts people on notice who might prefer to fly under the radar. But if you're representing the "C", "X" or the Norse you can't lay low. You are there to get your grades and game tight and one shouldn't take precedent over the other but I know it does. It shouldn't be so obvious that you disrespect one for the sake of the other. The belief was you can do both, the fact is you need to prove it. The word is Coach Jones is watching and wants us to also.

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

CARAVAN OF LOVE

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The University of Cincinnati football caravan is off and running and what a novel idea for college arm wrestling in the state of Ohio. We all know that Ohio State football is king of football and rightfully so; no one can argue their dominance and national championships but no one can argue either that the entire state belongs to them. UC, this past year, was ranked higher than the Buckeyes and there were plenty of reminders via T-shirts, blogs, signs, etc. The national media has fallen in love with UC and yes former coach Brian Kelly gets a lot of that credit whether you like it or not. But they still love UC and I know they're going to love Coach Butch Jones as well. He is his own man, and a football guy and that will go over well in a football crazed state.

So with the caravan, something the Cincinnati Reds have mastered, UC football has a chance to connect with cities within the state that offer some of the best talent to college football teams across the country. Michigan loves coming here, as do teams in the Big East, SEC, ACC...you get my drift. So what would happen if those players started staying here in bunches? well look at UC the past few years and you have your answer.

So as the Isley Brothers say "Every woman every man, join the caravan of love..." 

With coach Jones in tow there is room for you to get on board; and you, and you too. Why not? Ohio State has enough fans and hanger-ons to last through the next century. And for the rest of the football fans in the state who chose otherwise, you finally have an option in the state to root for: The University of Cincinnati; The UC who has won the Big East; played in two straight BCS games and bring back enough firepower to give us hope they can do it again. With coach Butch Jones, I think they will. With you on board they odds increase; so join the Caravan of Love. Who knows, you could be on the front end of a new football dynasty in the state of Ohio and in a position to lend a hand to the bandwagon fans who will join you sooner rather than later. They'll need help getting on board the Caravan...

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

Nippert Stadium Home Improvement

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The talk has begun again for Nippert Stadium home field improvement and I think this time is the right time to begin moving forward. I had talked to an architect name Wade Price, a passionate UC fan and he had his own ideas about how the stadium could look going forward and I'm sure others in his field have also. With the success of football courtesy of Dantonio and Notre Dame Kel', the way was paved and now with Coach Butch Jones gaining momentum at every turn, the reality that aluminum seats may now disappear gives me joy!

A few luxury suites, upgraded seating for alumni and more restrooms, and this stadium might attract more fans as a result of their efforts. It's why your detergent is new and improved the the Escalade is all new; everybody likes new and improved even if, like me, you don't know what was really wrong with the old product. Well admittedly I do know what's wrong with this product; simply put the stadium is not up to code, football code for the Big East and any pending merger of conferences on the horizon. Don't get me wrong its a special place and its an advantage to have the heat on our sideline during cold games, etc. but it could be so much more. It's like some cars look good but adding a little detail brings out the uniqueness and beauty of the vehicle.

I hope they move as fast as possible given the red tape these projects have in tow; but when I look back at Wade's futuristic approach to upgrading Nippert, I can't help but get excited that yet another Cincinnati iconic structure gets a much needed facelift. Look at the expressway downtown as you drive on it or crossover it, post renovations; look at the Duke Energy Center after its expansion and renovation and look at Kenwood Towne Center (formerly plaza) after it ascended from the ashes and you can see why I'm excited for Nippert too. 

Lets get the stadium the Big East upgrade and division I home improvement it deserves. The luxury boxes will sell as will the premium seating. Oh and while you're at it can you start the preliminary discussion for the Big Orena named (obviously) for Oscar Robertson. He's had yet another birthday since I last brought this up and I will lead this charge as an employee of UC if I have to because I KNOW it can be done. 

By doing this the Nippert home improvement and The Big Orena basketball complex are 2 moves that would make President Williams' tenure a treasured part of UC, past present and future.

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

HISTORY

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I went to Major League Baseball's Civil Rights luncheon hosted by the Cincinnati Reds this past Saturday and enjoyed hearing the stories, in particular, from Willie Mays aka the Say Hey Kid. Please Google and read if you don't know about him, here's a good place to start:

http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/may0bio-1

Willie Mays like so many other sports pioneers seem to fall by the wayside because we don't keep their stories in the forefront. It got me to thinking about pioneers at UC; players of color who had to endure internal as well as external discrimination. In some cases women too. As we think of the success of modern day players at the University let us not forget the ones who dared to come here when it may not have been entirely encouraged. They endured the stares, glares and cowardly threats but chose to stay in the heat of the battle. And what is their reward? I don't think its to be recognized for what they did, I think their reward should be, to know they won't be forgotten as a piece of the equality puzzle.

At the luncheon I saw Chuck Harmon in his wheelchair smiling; others limping and yet others just struggling to "be there". As I get older I realize I'm fortunate that I got to see Muhammad Ali in his prime; Oscar Robertson, Frank Robinson, Jim Brown, John Carlos, Tommie Smith and others at their best. I pass along the stories to the youngsters who proclaim modern day superstars as the pinnacle of the sport without doing their homework. But its our job, those of us who know, to educate and encourage them to look back and read.

So let me take a moment to thank all pioneers who entered the University of Cincinnati when it wasn't comfortable to do so. You were sent here knowingly or unknowingly on a spiritual journey and I'm sure you wondered at times why; Well Mardy Gilyard is why; Lance Stephenson is why and even Antione Drakeford is why. When doors are opened, barriers broken down and opportunities seized, the flood follows the open gates. And young men and women of color and women in general can get a scholarship based on their grades and skills, realizing a quality education in the process.

With the minority enrollment at 14.4% (according to the University's web site) it is working; the bigger question is are the student athletes working? on and off the field. THAT would be the biggest payback they could give the pioneers who said give us a chance...

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