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Off the field and out of bounds

Go behind the scenes into the UC basketball locker room, Fifth Third Arena's catwalk, Nippert Stadium press box and indoor batting cages.

by John Bach

One question often arises from those who find out we cover University of Cincinnati Bearcat sports: "Can you get me tickets?" Unfortunately, we get only media credentials.

Even though we haven't landed complimentary courtside seats for you and your friends, we can, at least, offer a rare glimpse at some of the restricted areas our passes have taken us.

photo/Colleen Kelley

Men's basketball locker room. Photo/Colleen Kelley

The Bearcats' lair

The posh UC men's basketball locker room is probably best known among the general public for the time coach Bob Huggins barred his own players from using it. It was following a rough stretch in 2001 that Huggins told his players their weak effort didn't merit the privilege to dress in the same space as previous teams.

Undoubtedly, the reference included such greats as the 1992 Final-Four squad with Nick Van Excel, the 1996 Elite-Eight team with Danny Fortson and the country's No. 1 rated team in 2000 with Kenyon Martin. The motivation technique seemed to work as UC finished the '01 season with a surprising tournament run to the Sweet 16.

As impressive as the Shoemaker Center's dressing facility is with its oak wall units, leather couches and a big-screen TV, perhaps most revered in the space are the glass-sealed lockers that display the jerseys of Fortson, No. 25, and Martin, No. 4. Both players continue to be dominant forces in the NBA.

Way above the rim

photo/Peter Griga

Inside Fifth Third arena. Photo/Peter Griga

High above Ed Jucker Court inside Fifth Third Arena, University Relations photographer Andrew Higley checks the strobes that illuminate the court for sideline photographers shooting Bearcat basketball games. Though most viewers never notice the flash, every time Higley snaps a photo, a camera-mounted transmitter sends a signal to powerful lights mounted in the rafters. The units then deliver a simultaneous split-second burst of light over the court.

Two sets of strobes are mounted permanently inside the arena. Photographers from ESPN Magazine and other national publications sometimes install a third set of lights for big games. To do that, they have to show up hours before game time, access a locked door behind the bleachers, haul the heavy flash units up more than 90 steps and maneuver across the grated catwalk above the court.

Thinking inside the box

photo/Andrew Higley

Nippert Stadium press box. Photo/Andrew Higley

The three-story press box over the west side of Nippert Stadium provides the perfect unobstructed view of the entire field and is the ideal place to watch plays develop. Entrance to the press box is at the 50-yard-line. Gaining entrance, however, requires credentials.

Level one is reserved for newspaper, radio and TV reporters. Level two is for special guests of the university, and level three is for coaches, as well as crews from radio and TV outlets that are broadcasting the game.

In addition to the spectacular view of the game inside the glass-enclosed facility, media and VIPs are treated to a complimentary buffet before and during all Bearcat home games. Nippert's press box was added to the stadium in 1991, then was remodeled and renamed the John and Dorothy Hermanies Press Box in 2000. John Hermanies, JD '48, is a longtime supporter of the UC sports program and a former member of the UC Board of Trustees and a contributor of $1.5 million to Varsity Village.

Stadium treats

photo/Andrew Higley

Baseball players' lounge. Photo/Andrew Higley

Tucked well below the concourse level of the new UC baseball stadium is a players lounge with a big-screen TV and a locker room complete with 50 oak dressing units and matching C-paw engraved stools. Beyond those rooms and at the end of a long corridor, is the new heated indoor batting cage and pitchers mound.

There, UC players will be able to show up year-round, swipe their key card and remotely set the state of the art pitching machine for curveballs, fastballs and more. The spacious facility, adjacent to UC's bullpen, is divided with heavy netting so four players can hone their skills at once. The spongy FieldTurf inside even matches the soft green that covers the field outside.