Bearcat fans love victory. Be it over crosstown rival Xavier, or I-71 rival Louisville, when the University of Cincinnati is winning the city has a sense of pride that's been missing from its professional sports teams in recent years.
With a move into the "New Big East Conference" fans of the Red & Black look forward to major football victories and the respect of playing in one of the countries top basketball conferences will bring. No more jokes can be made for playing in a Mid-Major conference against sub-par teams.
But while fans have been worrying about their longtime basketball coach, the university has been looking to make an end-around that would change its athletic fortunes forever.
Recruiting is based on several factors. With Ohio being a state that produces some of this countries top talent, the Bearcats football program saw interest rise while recruiting the Class of 2005. One major reason for this rise in interest was the knowledge of the Bearcats playing in the Big East and the chances of being in a BCS Bowl game.
In the class of 2005, several recruits who signed with the Bearcats came with great academic honors. But mixed into this mix also came some who face some academic struggles. While college is for education, athletics provides many prospective student athletes chances they may not have had. Because of athletic ability many young men and women have entered the university with less then academic greatness only to leave with a degree in hand. Behind the direction of people like Bruce Ivory and others within the university, many athletes who earned degrees may never saw a college campus without their athletic ability.
That may soon change if President Nancy Zimpher has here way. While there's nothing wrong with a college president wanting education to be the main focus of a university, athletics are more than just competition between schools. Bragging rights for alumni, money from donors, and the dollars brought into a school with a successful athletic program play major roles in other areas of a university.
How important are athletics to a college? Very important.... While there's great cost in running an athletic department, a program that reaches elite status can see a financial windfall that serves more than just athletics. New buildings that support the general student population and funding for programs away from the playing field are witnessed everyday students walk into classes from the success of athletics.
While Bearcat fans have been excited about the upcoming move into the Big East, some new rules may impede the overall success in this new conference.
When Bearcat coaches travel and recruit prospective student athletes, one advantage coaches have held is the chance to give young athletes the chance to earn a degree even when they have a questionable academic background. Former players like Trent Cole have entered the University not being fully qualified, but leave with a degree in hand or just short of finishing their work towards one.
Imagine Coach Dantonio not being able to recruit a player like Trent... How much of a difference did Trent make during his Bearcat playing days? If President Zimpher has here way, entrance scores will raise and a player like Trent will never enroll. Today a student athlete needs to score an NCAA approved 17 along with a sliding scale GPA to enter the University of Cincinnati. President Zimpher wants to change this 17 to 20. While it doesn't seem like much of a difference, those three points separate many athletes across the country.
While I want to stress the importance of student athletes getting their education, I also know a change in entrance requirements will change the recruiting plans of the Bearcat coaching staff. In our coverage of the Bearcats, coach Dantonio and other Bearcat coaches have spoken often about the importance of Bearcat athlete earning their degree. They take pride in their players using football as a means to a better life through education. But while an increase in the required test score may look good to the academic administration, it will keep some athletes who could play key parts in the future success of the Bearcats from ever entering the university.
From the looks of President Zimphers planned changes, she's trying to turn the university of Cincinnati into a Vanderbilt or Ivy League institution. The university of Cincinnati has long been a school for local students to earn a degree without having to leave their hometown. So while we look at this possible change through an athletics view point, it must be stressed how many current students or former students who've earned degrees from the university would never have had the chance under these proposed new standards?
While increased test requirements have been installed at Ohio State in recent years, the numbers of national rank student athletes looking at attending OSU are much greater. But in this time Ohio State has had to turn away several top prospects. While they have loss players from ever playing for them, the hardest hits have come from the media when players are let go before ever enrolling on campus. Cincinnati's a program many feel is on the rise, but if the ability of recruiting great athletes is changed they may never see the status they are capable of fulfilling.
Keep in mind no changes have been official announced at this time. With Bearcat football coaches on the road recruiting we were not able to contact them about the fact or fiction of these reports.