Homecoming brings many former graduates back to the campus of the University of Cincinnati. But while much of the day is spent naming a new queen and king, its football that fills the air of those who came to watch this year's team, or even talk about the teams they were a part of many years before.
On Saturday I had the pleasure to spend some time with a few former Bearcats as they talked about life as Bearcats and how much things have changed at their old school since their playing days in the 1970's.
The beauty of being teammates is no one cares how good you were when you played. Not everyone can be a star, but everyone shares the same stories and feelings about the experiences they lived during their football playing days. Today was no different as I was walking around talking with people about our new issue of Bearcat Insider the Magazine. One stop took me into a tent with plenty of sprit and talk of years gone by. While one of the several men could be called a former Bearcat great, you would never pick him out with the way he and his former teammates enjoyed being together for this one day each year.
Football is a game of teammates giving of themselves in hopes of their team earning greatness. In this mix you will find stars, role players and even a few who were just happy to be called a teammate. Players know only eleven can be on a field at one time and chance of them becoming a star is very small. But while stardom is short lived, friendships can last a lifetime. On Saturday I found a special group of former Bearcats who know all too well football has brought them some great friendships. A couple of these former Bearcats talked with Bearcat Insider about the past, present and future.
The first former Bearcat I spoke with earned four letters during his days in Clifton and was inducted into the Bearcats Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. Howie Kurnick earned those letters from the years 1975-1978. As a lineman for the Bearcats, Kurnick earned two John Pease Awards (outstanding lineman) in 1977 & 1978. He also earned the Claude Rost Award (Most Valuable Player) in 1978 and is listed in the Bearcats Media Guide several times in the Bearcats Record Book. Some of Kurnick's honors include the following.
Total Tackles- Season: 140 (9th)
Solo Tackles-Season: 101 (1st)
Fumble Recoveries-Season: 5 (Tied for second with 5 for the seasons of 1976 & 1978)
Assisted Tackles-Career: 168 (6th)
Fumble Recoveries-Career: 10 (Tied for 2nd)
Kurnick, who played for Tony Mason and Ralph Staub during his career, was a three time captain and played on teams that combined to go 25-17-2.
A fun loving guy who loved his days as a Bearcat talked with Bearcat Insider after the Bearcats victory over UConn, Saturday night.
Bearcat Insider: Howie talk about today. You guys are making this a regular date each year.
Howie Kurnick: Yea it's a great time, we try to get all the guys together and talk about old times and how things have been during the year. It was a beautiful day today the Bearcats won and everything was great today.
Bearcat Insider: Talk about what you saw today as compared to when you played here?
Howie Kurnick: The first thing you see is the campus, it's totally changed. There's a lot more energy around here and it's just a beautiful setting and people are more fired-up, it's also a lot easier getting people in and out of here for a game.
Bearcat Insider: How do you feel Coach Dantonio is doing as head coach?
Howie Kurnick: I think he's doing a great job. He's just a little short on talent this year, but he's got some coaches with experience and I think there going places in the future.
Bearcat Insider: What do you miss most about being a player here at the University of Cincinnati?
Howie Kurnick: I miss all my old friends coming around. We get a lot of the locals back here each year, but were trying to get the word out around the Midwest that were here and having fun.
The next former Bearcat who was willing to talk was Chip Fry. Fry won a letter in 1977 and is a blast to speak with.
Bearcat Insider: Chip talk about your experience of being a Bearcat.
Chip Fry: It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had the great fortune to play for Moeller High School in the mid to late seventies. I came here with two friends of mine Bob Massong (letters 77-78-79) and Karl Woods (letters 77-78-80) and I meet the greatest group of guys I'd ever meet in my life when I came here and that is why were here every year having a big party.
Bearcat Insider: What would you tell the guys who are here now?
Chip Fry: Stick with it. It's tough, really tough sometimes. But if you stick with it your going to stay with probably the best friends you'll ever find in your life.
Bearcat Insider: What do you miss most about being a player?
Chip Fry: Comradery, but that is what were doing here today. I miss seeing the guys on a daily bases. It's not that I miss playing, it's I miss not being with these guys everyday. But that is why were here today.
Bearcat Insider: What do you think about the job Coach Dantonio is doing?
Chip Fry: I think Coach Dantonio is the right man for this job. And I pray that he is here for a long, long time.
Bearcat Insider: What do you think about this years Bearcats?
Chip Fry: I'll be the first one to admit, I didn't think they could beat Connecticut today. I was wrong, and I'm the happiest man on the face of this earth today. They played a great game and they deserve to be recognized in the Big East now.
The next former Bearcat was Mike Frisina. Mike lettered in 1977 and 1978. Mike came to Cincinnati with his high school teammate Howie Kurnick and was in awe with what he saw on and off the field on Saturday.
Bearcat Insider: What do you miss most besides being on the field?
Mike Frisina: The guys. I don't get to see them all. I just miss not being around them on a daily basis.
Bearcat Insider: What would you tell guys from your class that have not come back for this?
Mike Frisina: There missing out, I've got a wife and kids and I'm down here. They got to get their tails off their butts and get down here just to see the changes around the campus. I'm impressed and I'm sure they would be also. This is just amazing down here now.
Bearcat Insider: How do you feel Coach Dantonio is doing?
Mike Frisina: Fantastic! I'm impressed. I didn't know this was a freshman quarterback until halftime today when Howie told me. And I said here we go, that's a start.
Bearcat Insider: What do you think about what you saw today around campus, does it excite you?
Mike Frisina: Absolutely, the buildings that were here when I was here 25 years ago were repressive, but now you see the modern buildings around campus and I'm impressed with what I see.
Bearcat Insider: What one player do you remember most from your playing days at UC?
Mike Frisina: It would have to be Howard Kurnick. I played high school football with him and we came down here on full rides together. I got to watch him play and then I got the chance to see him play for the Bengals, he should have been a boxer because his hearts so big.
The last of the group who was willing to allow us to interview them was Mike Bellisari. Mike earned a letter in 1978.
Bearcat Insider: Talk about your experience about being a Bearcat?
Mike Bellisari: This was the best experience in my life. I meet some wonderful people here and got a great education besides playing for the athletic department. I had an absolute wonderful time. We worked hard and everyone played hard and it was a great experience, best in my life.
Bearcat Insider: What would you tell other members of your class that are not here today?
Mike Bellisari: They need to be here to see us so we can see them, have a little fun and support the Bearcats.
Bearcat Insider: Talk about today's game?
Mike Bellisari: Today's game, there a young team but they show a lot of promise and have come along way in the past couple of weeks. I hope they have a great year and they look like there headed in the right direction to have a good season.
Bearcat Insider: What do you think about the job being done by Coach Dantonio?
Mike Bellisari: I liked Coach Dantonio; I liked him when he was at Ohio State. I think he'll make a great head coach and I wish him all the luck in the world.
Bearcat Insider: What would you tell a kid from the Southwest part of Ohio and those in Northern Kentucky and Ohio as a whole why they should be a Bearcat?
Mike Bellisari: Because I think not only are you going to get a great education here, but the cultural experience here is absolutely wonderful and the athletic department has just made leaps and bounds in the past few years. Plus being in such a great city like Cincinnati, and having a great university is just a wonderful opportunity for anyone who lives in this part of the country to succeed in life.
Bearcat Insider: Is there anything here that you learned as a player that's carried over into your adult life?
Mike Bellisari: I just think the confidence and comradery you build helps you in anything you do in life. Be it family or business. Building those types of relationships with people you play with and are with everyday helps you prepare to deal with people in everyday life.
I want to thank these former Bearcats for allowing us into their party. They didn't have to, but they welcomed about everyone who walked by to come in and have a beverage or some food during the day. While they got there early, they waited until all the lights had been turned off before looking to end their day. I'm sure after I left it was hard for them to say goodbye to each other.
Just a few more notes from these guys. One, they want it to be known there looking for Dan Rains to make a return trip. And second, if you played with these Bearcats, get a hold of one of them to learn about their next get together next year during homecoming game.