Fall sports poised for the big time
If you want a telling forecast of the future of athletics at the University of Cincinnati, walk onto Nippert Stadium's football field.
To begin with, take note of the new conference logo on both the scoreboard and the new FieldTurf playing surface. Where once it read "C-USA," fans will now find "Big East."
Campus has been buzzing about its invitation to play in the Big East, a Bowl Championship Series conference, since the announcement in 2003. Soon fall-sport athletes and coaches will get their first crack at Big-East competition -- a chance to turn all that buzz into business. The football team will jump headfirst into its new conference when it takes on Pitt (from last season's Fiesta Bowl) in Pittsburgh Oct. 8.
A week later, fans can catch UC's first Big East home game when the Bearcats (winners of the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl) welcome Connecticut Oct. 15, followed by a familiar foe in Louisville the next Saturday. And all of that should gear up the program for its nationally televised home contest with West Virginia (from last season's Gator Bowl) Nov. 9.
"We are extremely excited about our initial season in the Big East Conference," says head coach Mark Dantonio. "This year's schedule, with home games versus UConn, Louisville and West Virginia, will create a dynamic environment at Nippert Stadium."
While soaking up that big-time environment, fans won't miss the obvious progress on the Richard E. Lindner Center just beyond the stadium's eastern grandstand. Wedged between Nippert and Fifth Third Arena, the eight-story facility is scheduled to open in December and will provide centralized administrative and coaching offices, new training facilities, an academics center, a practice gym, a museum detailing the history of the university and its sports programs, an auditorium, a new faculty club, reception areas, a gift shop and a ticket office.
The athletics center is the centerpiece of the Richard Lindner Varsity Village, which already opened Gettler Stadium for track and soccer and a new baseball stadium, which recently had its walkway named after Glenn Sample, UC's baseball coach from 1961-81. Varsity Village projects still underway include a tennis complex, renovation of Armory Fieldhouse and a boathouse along the Licking River for the rowing team.
Whether still in Nippert admiring the new field or in a department store stocking up on Bearcat merchandise, check out the enhanced look of the new C-paw. To coincide with the move to the Big East, UC introduced a "bolder and stronger" athletics logo in June. The more claw-like italicized version of the familiar symbol, adopted in 1990, was designed to be "more aggressive."
"The C-paw will always be a symbol of identity and strength for the University of Cincinnati throughout this country," said athletics director Bob Goin when the change was announced. "The C-paw will always be our mark, and the university will never lose its identity with the C-paw."