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Starring at night — UC Sports

by John Bach

When it comes to playing under the lights, Cincy’s literally an old pro. Bearcat football players first started practicing under the lights in 1909 out of sheer necessity, as the large number of co-op students on the team was only available to practice after dark.

As technology improved, UC’s electrical engineering co-ops designed a lighting system that allowed UC to host one of the first night football games in the United States and the first in the Midwest on Sept. 29, 1923, when the Bearcats opened their season under the stars by beating Kentucky Wesleyan, 17-0.

In the season-ending game that year vs. Miami (Ohio), Jimmy Nippert sustained a spike wound and died a month later on Christmas day of blood poisoning. His grandfather, James Gamble (soap maker and co-founder of Procter & Gamble) donated the $250,000 needed to finish the horseshoe-shaped structure.


  • Though Nippert Stadium was dedicated in 1924, the site has been home to Bearcat football since 1902, making it the fourth-oldest playing site and fifth-oldest stadium in college football. While the facility’s early-century brickwork combined with wrought-iron gates and trim continue to give Nippert a historical charm, modern enhancements have included adding a FieldTurf playing surface, seating capacity for 35,000 and a video display twice as large as the old one.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • Senior wide receiver Armon Binns pulls down a touchdown catch against South Florida.

    photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

  • The completion of the practice bubble at the Sheakley Athletic Complex in November 2010 allows football, baseball, track and field, soccer and lacrosse teams from UC to train day and night on a climate-controlled 100-yard field.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • UC’s after-dark antics lit up UFO websites from around the globe as videos reported odd lights hovering over Cincinnati in October. Though tens of thousands have flocked to the YouTube “sightings,” Bearcat fans who witnessed the Fastrax skydive team’s landing inside Nippert Stadium maintain that the visitors that night were, indeed, rather terrestrial. Skeptics at alienabductionsexposed.com remain unconvinced.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • The 75-foot-high, 370-foot-long air-supported bubble gets used November through March. The space then reverts to an open-air spring and summer venue. Until the bubble was inflated, UC was the only school in the Big East, other than South Florida, without an indoor practice field. Watch the bubble inflate.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • Perhaps the only things that flew with more precision than the skydivers Oct. 22 were quarterback Zach Collaros’ passes. UC’s junior QB threw for a career-high 463 yards, but it wasn’t enough to hold off South Florida. The Bearcats and their high-energy pregame shows return to Nippert this fall as they try to climb back atop the Big East.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • Among the recent treats for Bearcats fans has been the play of UC’s volleyball team. In 2010, they became Big East regular season champions, rose to 18th in the country and made their third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. UC remained perfect inside Fifth Third Arena going 11-0 and stretched its home winning streak to a record 39 matches.

    Head coach Reed Sunahara was named the 2010 Big East coach of the year, while senior outside hitter Stephanie Niemer (No. 4) was unanimously tabbed the Big East player of the year. The future pro is considered the greatest UC volleyball player in history.

    photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

  • UC soccer enthusiasts also had plenty to sound off about inside Gettler Stadium this year as the men’s team finished second in the Big East’s Red Division. The season, highlighted by the Bearcats’ home upset over ninth-ranked UConn, was UC’s best finish since winning the conference title in 2006.

    photo/courtesy of UC Athletics

  • A sellout basketball crowd streamed into Fifth Third Arena Jan. 6, 2011, to watch the Bearcats, then ranked 24th in the country after opening the season 15-0, beat Xavier in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout. UC’s 66-46 drubbing of the Musketeers was the most lopsided win in the city’s centerpiece sporting event in nine years.

    photo/Jay Yocis

  • The win was especially sweet for seniors such as Larry Davis who had endured three straight losses to XU. The men’s team returned to the NCAA Tournament this year, its first trip since 2005. The sixth seeded Bearcats won their first game against Missouri but lost to third seeded Connecticut.

    photo/Ashley Kempher

  • In swimming, a conference champion emerged from all those pre-dawn laps in UC’s Keating Aquatic Center when junior Liz Hansson won a 2011 Big East championship in the 50-yard freestyle. Hansson’s win follows last year’s national championship performance in the same event by Josh Schneider, Bus ’10, considered a 2012 Olympic hopeful.

    photo/Dottie Stover

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