UC-XU News Conference Transcript

June 14, 2012

UC-XU New Conference
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
June 14, 2012

Kim Robinson, President and CEO of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Opening statement:

“Good afternoon everyone. My name is Kim Robinson, I am President and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. I’m very pleased to welcome you to the historic Banks of the Ohio River today. What a beautiful and exciting afternoon we have in store for you.

“The mission of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is to reveal stories of freedom heroes from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, always challenging and inspiring everyone to take a courage step for freedom today. Through these stories, the characteristics of courage, cooperation and perseverance are celebrated by the Freedom Center. They were essential to the eradication of slavery and have been a catalyst for all freedoms – past, present and future. The Freedom Center has a long history of partnerships that help us inspire people. Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati have been key among these partnerships over the last several years. I’m very excited to welcome you here today and to share details of a new partnership.

“Joining me today are many leaders from the universities and from our communities if you please allow me to introduce them. From the University of Cincinnati, President Greg Williams, to my left and your right. UC Athletic Director Whit Babcock and UC Men’s Basketball Coach Mick Cronin. To my right and your left, Xavier University President Father Michael Graham, Xavier Athletics Director Mike Bobinski and Xavier Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Mack. I’d also like to introduce several guests in the audience today. A long time friend of mine and former P&G-er like me, Terry Donovan, Executive Vice President of Skyline Chili. Ray Harris, CEO of U.S. Bank Arena. Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr., Co-Chair of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Doug McDonald and Francie Hiltz, CEO and both Co-Chair respectively of the Cincinnati Museum Center. Christian Sigman, the Hamilton County Administrator. John Deatrick from the City of Cincinnati and The Banks Public Partnership. Jim Moerlein from the Holy Grail. Tracy Schwagman, from Carter, The Dawson Company, the developer of The Banks project. Steve Schuckman is representing the Cincinnati Parks. I’m just thrilled to have the opening of the new John Smale Park. It’s beautiful, if you haven’t been, you have to go. David Ginsburg from Downtown Cincinnati Inc. Mark Reitzes, President of Huntington Bank. Leslie Spencer, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Sports Corporation. Any others that I may have missed, I’m sure there are others here that are certainly deserving of being mentioned. To them, I apologize.



“Now it is my privilege to invite my friends to the podium: Xavier President Father Graham and UC President Williams for their important and exciting announcement.”

Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“Thank you, Kim. Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us here to celebrate another great Reds victory and some other stuff beside. As you know, the annual tradition of the Crosstown Shootout has always been an exciting highlight in Greater Cincinnati and beyond. It’s a point of pride and a celebration of great college basketball between two high quality universities – Xavier University and University of Cincinnati. We intend very much for that to continue. Xavier and the University of Cincinnati don’t just compete on the court, we collaborate in the community. Our schools work together on such notable initiatives as STRIDE, which is aimed at improving student achievement from cradle to career.

“With that in mind, Dr. Williams and I are here today to announce not only a new name and other details about the game, but a new dimension as well to this competition based on our histories of collaboration and community engagement. The new name for this engagement will be the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic. More importantly, it will benefit a great community partner. I’ll leave that to Dr. Williams to speak more about that partner. The game will be held on Wednesday, December 19 and will be played at U.S. Bank Arena. The exact time has not yet been set because we’re still discussing broadcasting opportunities, but we expect it to most likely be televised on ESPN in the evening. The game will be played at U.S. Bank Arena for two years. This year, the University of Cincinnati will be the home team and next year, it will be Xavier’s turn.

“As I mentioned, this collaboration goes beyond the basketball court and continues to grow. For example, our school’s new provost and academic officers have already been in conversation with one another about how the two schools might collaborate for fully in terms of academic programs and faculty life. Meanwhile, last spring, our student governments partnered to work with the Boys & Girls Club in Greater Cincinnati together and those student leaders are already talking about what they might do this coming year to build upon that. Welcome a beneficiary and a complete community partner of the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic builds on this commitment of collaboration and celebrates the good things each of our schools does in the community, especially those things we do together. I’ll leave it to Dr. Williams to share that good news with you, Greg.”

Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“Thank you, Father Graham. As Father Graham mentioned, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University have a long history of collaboration and this is just the latest example of UC and Xavier working together. We have a tremendous sense of pride for both of our universities, our fans, alumni, and our hometown of the city of Cincinnati. Father Graham and I are really delighted about the prospects for this game with its new focus on the city, the exciting waterfront, and the values that both of our institutions share in common.

“As noted last week in the New York Times and a great article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently, Cincinnati has an exciting new renaissance underway, especially along the banks of the Ohio River. Playing our game at a neutral site at the waterfront supports this wonderful revival and brings it to a part of our city that has a brand new riverfront development that deserves to be celebrated and supported.

“Our universities wanted to find a way to remind everyone that we play this game in the spirit of mutual respects and celebration. We want to celebrate the values that we share in common and we want to celebrate the city of Cincinnati. As Father Graham mentioned, we’re adding a community partner that will benefit from our basketball competition. The tradition and addition of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as a beneficiary and as a partner in our rivalry game for the next two years not only fits in with our commitment to the riverfront revival, it fits in with the values that both UC and XU share. Among them are: respect, integrity, freedom, opportunity, community, scholarship and excellence. In addition, we know that our universities also support and share the values that align to the Freedom Center and what it stands for – courage, cooperation and perseverance. The Freedom Center is a tremendous asset not only for this community, but in fact, for our nation. It deserves our support and the support of our community, as well as visits from across the nation, and in fact, around the world. And now, Father Graham and I will officially unveil the new logo for the Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic.”

On how the neutral site will impact the rivalry:
Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“Well we thought it was important to remind everyone that this is a basketball game among two rivals who share a great deal with each other. We feel like we needed to think of a new way to express the competition and the collaboration together, that’s a reason we felt it was important to celebrate the city, to add the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as a partner, which we think epitomizes the things we stand for and also shows our support for the institutions in the city of Cincinnati with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which I personally think is a national icon.”

Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“It occurs to me that if there’s anything that Xavier and UC people are passionate about more than the game and their schools, it’s the community itself. I’m looking forward to the way in which this new reframing of the game and the new point of departure will allow all of Cincinnati to come together in a real moment of celebration about some things that are very important to us.

On the concern of friction between the two schools at a neutral site:
Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“We aren’t the first school to try a neutral site for a big deal sports event. There are plenty of places that have done this. Our folks have a great deal of passion around the game and those things have come up. We’re very confident that in working with the folks at U.S. Bank Arena that we’re going to be able to put together a very good plan. Of course, the premise of it is that our fans themselves will come to the game with a great deal of pride and enthusiasm for a great athletic contest and will act in a completely appropriate way and there will be no need for those folks at U.S. Bank Arena to do a thing.”

Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“I’ll share Father Graham’s concern that there’s not really going to be an issue. It’s a great competition and we’re looking forward to celebrating it at U.S. Bank Arena.”

On experience with neutral site games:
Whit Babcock, UC Athletics Director
“I do have some experience. It’s a unique and exciting event and not many sports fans get to attend a true 50/50 crowd event. While I worked at the University of Missouri, we had a great longstanding rivalry with Illinois and a neutral site there in St. Louis. It was the signature event of the holiday season and I think this game can become that here. We had some neutral site games with Kansas in football in Kansas City. It’s an electric environment and one that not many experience, but once they do, I’m confident it will be a great success. There’s never a play where someone isn’t cheering, that’s for sure.”

Mike Bobinski, XU Athletics Director
“To add to that, I spent five years at the Naval Academy in the course of my career and the Army-Navy rivalry is probably the quintessential depiction of how it’s supposed to be because there’s a tremendous amount of respect between those two institutions. They think about each other in a competitive way each and every day, but that game – every Army-Navy competition, not just football. The football game has always been a neutral site and it comes off and it’s the most spectacular thing you’ve ever seen. That, to me, is the absolute ultimate model of how a neutral site game can come off between two rivals who want to win in the absolute worst way, but share a deep respect for each other at the end of the day. When it’s over, it’s over and you move onto the next day.”

On the reason for a two-year trial period and whether the series will continue past that:
Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“We have created a new culture around the game and we felt this is an appropriate venue and place to do that. We’re going to be evaluating it on a year-to-year basis. We felt that it was an appropriate commitment to have it down here for the next couple of years, but obviously we’ll evaluate on a year-to-year basis. We’re trying to create a new culture of the game and approach.”

Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“Exactly. We thought that rather instead of making it a once-and-for-all-and-forever kind of commitment, what we want to do, as President Williams said, is shape a new culture around the game and to keep evaluating it to see what we can do to improve it as we go forward. Our commitment is to the game and the stuff surrounding it, but we’ll see how that goes.”

On how the players will thrive on the neutral site:
Chris Mack, Xavier Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“I think No. 1, the atmosphere. If you’re a player, how can you not want to play in that type of environment? Whit (Babcock) has mentioned the Missouri-Illinois game, which is a game I’ve watched, whether as a fan or college coach for a long time. Boy, those teams really compete at a high level. It’s a super-charged environment. The game itself has always been a very hard-fought, a very worthwhile game for the city. Whether the floor is over at U.S. Bank Arena, the University of Cincinnati, or Xavier, it’s going to be a great game. I think both games will really enjoy playing in the atmosphere.”

Mick Cronin, UC Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“Two things, first of all our games loves these games, so they don’t care where they play, to be honest about it. For Chris and I, a neutral site is great because we both hope to play in the NCAA Tournament every March. Any time you get a chance to play a big-time game at a neutral site is an advantage for your team. Also, we’ve played games at U.S. Bank Arena historically at UC and we haven’t lost down there in awhile, so I was all for this. That will be put to the test now.”

Chris Mack, Xavier Men’s Basketball Head Coach
“We haven’t lost there in a while either.”

On whether there was consideration continuing to play on campus sites or to discontinue the series:
Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“We felt that we wanted to have a game that everyone in the city of Cincinnati would be proud of. We felt to do that, we needed to create a new culture about the game and the best way to do that was to do it at a neutral place. That’s why Father Graham and I had a number of discussions and that’s where we ended up – that this would be a good place to begin that culture. This was a great opportunity for us to celebrate the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center because it truly is a national icon and something we want to celebrate in the community. The University of Cincinnati and Xavier University support many institutions and we wanted to be very clear that we were continuing to be behind institutions in the city of Cincinnati.”

Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“From my perspective, I believe that the game belongs to the community. Greg (Williams) and I, as it were, are custodians at the moment. For us to be able to have the game in a way that reminds people of a larger context of the game is completely appropriate. As the discussion developed and we began talking about the possibility of coming down here celebrating The Banks, the great movement forward, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center as a community partner. All that made an enormous amount of sense in terms of reminding people that this is, after all, just a game. It’s a very important game, one that a lot of people get very passionate about and that’s a great thing. But, there’s much more that unites us than divides us and we’d like for people to focus on that.”

On the discussions about changing the culture of the players and outside of the game:
Michael J. Graham, S.J., Xavier University President
“There are a series of conversations going on as I indicated in my remarks about getting some constituencies from both the schools together. One of those sets of conversations is going to involve the coaches, the ADs, and the basketball players. Though we don’t have any details yet, and we look forward to sharing those with the community at an appropriate time, it’s our intention to get our players involved her, for example. As I said, we’ll be forthcoming about that as those plans develop.”

On what percentage of ticket sales will go to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center:
Dr. Gregory H. Williams, University of Cincinnati President
“We haven’t worked out the details exactly, but there’s going be a substantial portion that will go to the Freedom Center to express our desire to support the Freedom Center. We’re looking forward to being a contributor to the Freedom Center and the types of things they’re doing here.”