Just a few years ago the future of University of Cincinnati football program took another step towards being one of major importance. While many former players will tell you they've always had the back of the program, things never seemed to take the next step in reaching the ultimate goal of fighting for major bowls and BCS dollars. Considered a basketball school, Cincinnati never could find the keys to making the program one of major importance to the schools fan base and student body.
Rick Minter showed Cincinnati was capable of getting high quality under the radar athletes and earning bowl berths while in Conference -USA. Mark Dantonio laid an even more solid foundation as the program entered the Big East Conference and embarked on the higher academic needs required in the ever changing environment of college athletics. Brian Kelly enters understanding what it's like to be a successful head coach with National Championship experience and knowing he truly can win a Big East title while playing in and winning a BCS game.
Just as he is on the field, Brian Kelly isn't one to wait around for things to change on their own. In fact, he's received the backing to take Bearcats football to its highest level, something no other coach has ever enjoyed while leading the Bearcats program.
With a blueprint of success seen in conference partners Louisville and West Virginia, Brian Kelly and UC athletics director Mike Thomas know the things needed to achieve their shared goal of winning at the highest level. Will they find the ultimate success Bearcat fans have dreamed of? YES!!!!
But what does the newest head coach need to do in achieving these goals? Let's explore the key for the Bearcats to reach this success.
Recruit Southwest Ohio ---Year in and year out the University of Cincinnati has lacked signing the major talent from its own backyard. Many have expressed the feelings that if any coach could harvest Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio's local talent the Bearcats would be serious contenders on a national scale and in the BCS race. Brian Kelly's first step was in making a surprise hire bringing Kerry Coombs into the Bearcats program. Coombs, a local high school coaching legend from Colerain High School and a person who knows the local coaches like no-one else in college football will be the point man in getting the job done in the Cincinnati area. Other members of the UC staff with Ohio ties will work the surrounding areas of Dayton in search of the top talent in the Miami Valley. Each year these two areas produce some very good college football players.
Already the effects have been seen as higher profiled prospects have visited the Cincinnati campus with a few of the upper ranked ones listing Cincinnati as a school they have serious interest in. Can you expect the Bearcats to sign the top prospect from the Cincinnati area just yet? Maybe not, but Brian Kelly has the will and knowhow to pull such a deep off in the very near future. Kelly will fight and stay in the hunt until the kid says no and at some point the Bearcats will shock everyone by getting the player other programs are fighting for. That player will become the face of the program and have the chance to change UC Football's fate for years to come.
Increase Football Only Money---The biggest difference in the University of Cincinnati football program and fellow Big East members West Virginia and Louisville are private dollars. While budgets may be the same, private donations make a huge difference in taking a program to the highest level. Now, for the first time in schools history, you can donate money to the football program and know it's going to support Bearcats football only. No more money pooling to the general scholarship fund. Brian Kelly is reaching out to former players and fans to help take the Bearcats program to the next level. No coach in recent memory has done so much in so little time. It also shows Mike Thomas understands what is needed for UC Football to become the type of program many have said it could never be.
**If you have interest in making a donation to football please contact the football office for more details.**
Fan Support---Bearcat football is played in one of the top stadiums in the country. Players and prospect love the stadium but need more fan support filling the seats. Numbers show there is a mass number of people in Southwest Ohio who watch University of Cincinnati athletics; they just don't show up in the stadium. The athletics department has now put together great ticket packages for fans and took away the must to purchase basketball tickets. Brian Kelly understands working with the media and reaching out to the fan base. This understanding will be needed to generate the much needed fans to help make Nippert Stadium a place opponents fear to enter.
Embrace the Campus---We've all seen it done at other colleges across the country. In fact Mark Dantonio tried to reach out to the students and staff at UC for their support. But Brian Kelly knows he must get out and reach out to the student body of UC as well as the university staff to garner the support needed. He also knows he's got a few coaches in other sports that can help show why Bearcats football is important to the overall college experience.
Be Ultra Media-Friendly---One thing we've already seen from the Bearcats head coach is an understanding of reaching out to the media. No coach has ever seen more coverage for spring practices then Brian Kelly has this spring. Coach Kelly also knows he must take part in fan interaction events along with having his players and coaches as accessible as humanly possible to fans and members of the media.
Win---We've heard coaches before Brian Kelly talk about winning cures all woes. We'll nothing creates more buzz about a program like winning. But winning alone will not get Nippert Stadium sold out. The Bearcats have won big games at Nippert and still they fight for the respect and fan base needed to make the program one of Championship caliber. With its entrance into the Big East the Bearcats must now play BCS caliber football and Brian Kelly more than any other person understands that. He's not here to finish in second place in the Big East and his coaches and players understand this.
Sometimes when this topic is brought up people want to talk about Ohio State. We'll it's not Ohio State the UC program is chasing. Its league rivals like Louisville and West Virginia the Bearcats must keep pace with. It's only been a few years since a program like Virginia Tech burst onto the national scene and has yet to leave. Winning "BIG" BCS type games will also give Cincinnati a shot at hosting things like ESPN's College Game Day. If the ESPN crew showed up for a Louisville – Cincinnati game would Bearcat fans come out of the woodwork to be part of it?
There you have it… Bearcat Bowl was a major success and Brian Kelly is working his magic to win over Bearcat fans. The staff of Bearcat Insider can say all of the above is being done by the new Bearcats coach. Now it's your turn to do your part in taking ownership in the local university and changing its future forever. Between now and the start of preseason camp we'll have the best football recruiting coverage on the Bearcats. We'll also be out covering many of the top prospects in camps and combines in the coming months so you'll learn more about them and any interest they may have toward UC. Then it's time to start up the Bearcats season coverage and get ready for the season opener.
Will we see you there?