Cincinnati Bowl History
Cincinnati's proud football history includes a number of firsts, possibly including the first postseason bowl game.
The NCAA Official Football Records recognizes the Rose Bowl, which was started in 1902, as being the first collegiate bowl game. A manuscript written by former UC athletic director Bill Schwarberg points to a bowl appearance by Cincinnati that pre-dates the Rose Bowl by five years.
Schwarberg, who played for the Bearcats from 1933-36 and served as interim Director of Athletics in 1976, cited a record in the University's McMicken Review. It indicated that following the 1897 season, Cincinnati became the first institution from Ohio to make a trip south to play in a postseason game.
Cincinnati posted a 7-1-1 record that year, which included a 34-0 win over Ohio State. The lone team to beat UC was the powerful Carlisle Indians.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, management of the Cincinnati team received an invitation from the Southern Athletic Club to play a game in New Orleans on New Year's Day. A travel party of 14, which included the substitutes and the coach and manager, departed for New Orleans on Dec. 30 where they were hosted by the Southern Athletic Club. Accounts of the game have UC winning with ease by a score of 16-0.
At a victory party that evening, players from Louisiana State challenged the Bearcats to a game the next day in Baton Rouge. UC accepted the challenge and overwhelmed the LSU team, 28-0. Accounts of the trip describe lavish entertainment provided during the trip.
If this was indeed UC's first bowl game, it was 49 years before the Bearcats again experienced postseason play.
The post-World War II influx of veterans into colleges rejuvenated college athletics, and with that came a surge of new bowls.
Cincinnati capped a successful 1946 season with a trip to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. There, the Bearcats defeated Virginia Tech, 18-6.
UC made appearances in the Glass Bowl in Toledo in 1949 and returned to the Sun Bowl at the end of the 1950 campaign.
Cincinnati then went 47 years without a bowl appearance. That drought was broken when the Bearcats played in the inaugural Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho in 1997.
With Conference USA developing alliances with five bowls, the Bearcats made three straight bowl appearances in 2000, 2001 and 2002--the first two in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit and the third in the New Orleans Bowl.
In 2004, UC was selected to represent Conference USA in the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl, the Bearcats' fourth bowl appearance in the past five years. UC defeated Marshall, 32-14, in that contest.
After the 2006 season, Cincinnati earned its first BIG EAST Conference bowl appearance after knocking off Connecticut in the season finale. In unusual circumstances following Mark Dantonio and his staff's departure to Michigan State before the bowl game, UC hired Brian Kelly from Central Michigan who came in and in just 34 days prepared UC and defeated Western Michigan University, 27-24, in the inaugural International Bowl in Toronto, Ontario.
Following a 9-3 regular season in 2007 - which included three wins against top-25 opponents, the Bearcats earned victory number 10 in the Papajohns.com Bowl with a 31-21 win against former Conference USA foe Southern Mississippi. It marked just the second 10-win season in school history (UC's 1951 squad finished 10-1). In head coach Brian Kelly's first season at the helm, the Bearcats were ranked No. 17 in the final AP poll, the first time in school history that UC earned a spot in the final polls.
UC made history again in 2008, following a school-record 11 wins in the regular season and the programs' first BIG EAST Championship. The Bearcats earned their first ever trip to a Bowl Championship Series Game, taking on Virginia Tech in the 75th FedEx Orange Bowl. UC was ranked No. 17 in the final AP and USA Today Coaches polls, the first time in school history the Bearcats had occupied a spot in both postseason polls.