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Bearcat 'hangouts'

UC ‘hangouts’ bring the university to cities across the country

A large inflatable Bearcat sits outside O’Leary’s as patrons enter Chicago’s “UC hangout.”

The inflatable Bearcat marks O’Leary’s as Chicago’s “UC hangout.”

by Keith Stichtenoth
Alumni Affairs associate director

Watching the Bearcats in a big game is much more fun when cheering and shouting with other UC alumni, yet rounding up a few fans who even know what a bearcat is can be nearly impossible for out-of-town grads. Unless, that is, they live in an “alumni network area.”

If you’re in an area like Chicago, for instance, simply travel to O’Leary’s Public House in the River North area when UC is scheduled to be on the air. The Irish pub has been Chicago’s Bearcat bar for about 10 years, since alumni network leader Dave Watkins, A&S ‘92, dined there and chatted with the owner about needing a venue for watching an upcoming UC-XU crosstown match.

“Now, everyone knows they’ll find other Bearcats watching the UC games at O’Leary’s,” Watkins says. “And it isn’t only about sports; it’s great to just socialize with someone who can relate to going to UC.”

Such alumni networks exist around the country, where Bearcats hang out regularly to cheer, eat and tell stories.

Washington, D.C., has a Bearcat bar at Penn Quarter Sports Tavern on Indiana Avenue. A few years ago, Adam Thurn, Eng ‘10, and a friend wanted a place to watch Bearcats games near a Metro stop, given D.C.’s traffic and parking problems. Penn Quarter fit the bill, and in the past year, it has hosted four football and six basketball game-watching parties, including the Crosstown Classic party complete with Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream.

“Having a place everyone knows about and that doesn’t vary from week to week simplifies our planning and provides continuity for alumni here,” says Thurn, who helps lead the D.C. network. “Area alumni know that if the Bearcats are on TV, we will be watching at Penn Quarter.”

Veteran network leaders say that cultivating a “Bearcat hangout” is a necessity in growing a vital alumni network. “The hangouts make it much easier for those who are just getting involved,” says Shaun Simpson, Bus ‘00. His Columbus, Ohio, network calls Gresso’s Pub and Grill on High Street home. “Sporting events provide a common bond, which makes it easier to engage with each other and grow the group.”

“It’s been the single most important thing we’ve done to enlarge our Chicago network,” Watkins says. “Whether they’re regulars here or just passing through, alums love having a place to watch the game with other UC people and feel at home. One told me, 'It’s like Homecoming without the parade!’”