Heard it From Hoard

Heard it From Hoard: Column 90

In case you missed it, Brian Kelly did an interview with Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com last week where he stressed the need to improve the football practice facilities at UC.

I'm guessing that you didn't miss it.

But just in case, here are a couple of noteworthy passages:

Dienhart: What's the key to the program taking that next step?

BK: "Facilities. It's the absolute most critical element that this university has to continue to take a hard look at. We aren't where we need to be. But we put an exciting product on the field. We have won a lot of football games. Now, it's up to the university to step up and get these things done."

Dienhart: Is it true that you really have no practice fields?

BK: Yes, we have no practice fields. We practice at the stadium. There is no ability to go out and practice a spread, no-huddle offense. We don't get 120 yards to do that. We have to do it on 50 yards because the defense is on the other half of the field. It is hard to do, and I give our kids a lot of credit for being able to overcome it and continue to win. And, of course, we have no indoor facility. In fact, to prepare for the Orange Bowl, we had to practice in an indoor soccer facility. It obviously wasn't a very good way to prepare our football team.

The interview has ignited another wave of panic that the two-time BIG EAST Conference Coach of the Year will leave Cincinnati the next time a school with deeper pockets comes calling.

On the Bearcat Banter message board, fans are weighing in under the heading "BK is not happy." A fairly typical posting reads as follows: "What the heck is it about Cincinnati sports? Just when you see light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out to always be the train!"

Here's what you need to know. The football practice facility and indoor bubble IS going to happen. At the moment, it's being called the Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex and construction is tentatively set to begin on December 1st.

But paying for it isn't easy. If all of the funding were in place right now, the project would have a price tag of approximately $13 million. By the time financing is in place, a more realistic figure is probably $14 to $14.5 million. In order to get maximum use of the facility by the University and surrounding community, architects have included seating areas, scoreboards, sports medicine space and locker rooms so that it's more than just a practice field. Deadlines are looming that will determine the scope of the project.

After reading many of your thoughts and having some questions myself, I phoned Andy Hurley of UCATS and got some information on the drive for dollars.

Soon after Brian Kelly's first season, the UC Athletics Department began developing the RAISING THE BAR campaign, which addressed the immediate needs of the program including facilities and salaries for assistants and staff. The response from the UC donor base was impressive, as $5 million was raised in less than six weeks leading up to and following the Papajohns.com Bowl. A total of $12.5 million has been raised as part of the RAISING THE BAR drive to date - pretty impressive.

That came on the heels of the 5-year fundraising drive to build Varsity Village, which raised $36 million. Major Development Drives such as this usually do not run back to back, as it creates donor fatigue. Yet even after five years of constant fundraising for Varsity Village, UC has had several major donors step forward to move the new Jefferson Avenue Complex off the launching pad. In this economy, that is not an easy sell on UC's part, or an easy YES on the part of the folks with the dollars.

With nearly $7.5 million committed to the Jefferson Avenue Complex from multiple sources, including private donors, fundraising efforts will now expand toward all Bearcat fans. You and I can now make a difference and help push this project over the top.

I'm not on the UCATS payroll, and I'm extremely uncomfortable asking you to give money, but here's the bottom line: Is the phenomenal rise of the UC football program worth supporting? Perhaps you're in a position to give a major gift. Maybe you can afford $20 a week, or a dollar a day. That's a decision that only you can make.

It's a very specific contribution that would go directly toward construction, so you could literally point toward the practice bubble in the future and say, "I helped to build that."

That's what I plan to do.

I'd love to hear from you. The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

See you on Saturday and be sure to wear your WHITE!

Column Archives: