Mike Bohn and the University of Cincinnati athletic department have an uphill battle on the horizon regarding future non-conference football schedules. The 2015 and 2016 seasons are pretty much set, but there are problems after that – big problems - with the non-conference games the Bearcats have lined up.
- The 2015 schedule is complete at this point. Four non-conference games are scheduled, with the conference dates and opponents to-be-announced by The American Athletic Conference. 2015 should shape up nicely. The slate will have a balance of six home (and six road games. UC will celebrate the grand re-opening of a renovated Nippert Stadium against cupcake Alabama A&M and host the University of Miami (“The U”/Florida), as well as hosting four conference opponents from the AAC. The road schedule features games against Miami University (Not The U/Ohio) and BYU, as well as four yet-to-be-announced conference foes. 2015 is a great schedule format for UC. A marquee home game, a marquee road game, and two lesser opponents. Ideally, you’d like both of those other games to be at home to get to seven home dates, but that’s life when you’ve signed a contract with Miami (OH) through 2020. Further, some have called for UC to up the competition for the first game at the new Nippert (and they are considering it – see “the kicker” below), but I like playing FCS Alabama A&M. The 2015 home opener will sell out regardless of the opponent, because the fan base will be at a fever pitch to see the renovated stadium. Save the marquee home game against Miami (FL) for later in the year, which UC has wisely done.
- 2016 holds an early-season trip to Purdue (as a return for last year’s opener), sees BYU make the return trip to Nippert for a late-season marquee home game, and includes a home game against Miami (OH). Of course, the conference schedule will continue to have four home and four road dates. Ideally, UC can add a seventh home game for 2016. Perhaps a road game against a Power-5 team, but it would have to be a part of a home-and-home, as UC badly needs home dates in the future.
After 2016, UC’s football schedules (as they stand right now) have a couple of glaring issues that must be addressed.
- 2017 calls for an early trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan (with no return trip), and a road game at Miami (OH). So UC needs two home dates in ’17 just to balance the schedule at 6-and-6.
- 2018 holds home dates with Ohio U. and Miami (OH), with two openings at this point. One of those openings was supposed to be a road game at Ohio State, but when OSU scheduled a home game with North Carolina in 2018, they approached UC to request that the game be pushed back. This has created what can best be described as a cluster for 2019. The Bearcats will most likely have to play two road games in ’18 so that they can get those opponents to agree to come to Nippert in 2017 (see above).
- 2019 is the biggest problem. There are currently three non-league games scheduled – all three of which are on the road. Even if UC adds a home game against a cupcake, that would still leave the Bearcats with just five home games – And you don’t spend $86-Million renovating your stadium to only play five home games there. UC has agreements to travel to Boise State, Ohio State, and Miami (OH) in 2018. There’s no chance Boise would agree to flip the order of the 2019-2020 series, because it would put them in the same position, with three non-league road games in ’19. The rotation for the Miami series is set, so that game will probably stay in Oxford. And let’s face it – there’s about a 0% chance that Ohio State will ever play in Cincinnati again after the Bearcats nearly ruined OSU’s perfect season in 2002. The Bucks went so far as to pay almost a million American dollars to move this season’s game from Cincinnati to Columbus. So the only options at this point are to live with only five home games, or push the Ohio State road game further into the future. Pushing it back again is the best option. Perhaps to 2021 or 2022, since UC is full for 2020 (including a trip to Nebraska).
Now, the kicker: Rumors are out there that UC is talking to Alabama about future football dates. This has been reported by The Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen, and expounded upon by DownTheDrive.com’s Matt Opper. When you are done cringing about the possibility of having to face the Crimson Tide, I’ll continue.
I’m not sure what purpose scheduling Alabama would serve UC. It is mentioned by Groeschen that the opener of the New Nippert in 2015 is a possibility, but that makes zero sense to me. As I mentioned above, re-opening Nippert with FCS Alabama A&M is perfect. The game will likely sell out no matter who the opponent is, so I like playing a cupcake. The irony that UC would consider replacing the Alabama A&M with the REAL Alabama, winners of 3 of the last 5 national titles, is thick. I’m not sure why you’d trade a guaranteed win for an almost sure loss, unless the Tide was going to pay UC a ton of cash and the game would give UC national TV exposure in prime time. Even then, I’m not sure it’s worth it. I guess that’s why Bama still has an opening for ’15 – nobody wants to play the Tide, and I don’t blame them. Further, playing Bama would only solve UC’s future scheduling problems if the Tide were willing to do a home-and-home and come to Nippert in 2017 or 2019. Playing UC’s home game in 2015 would only further complicate Cincinnati’s efforts to find future home games in the years that they desperately need them in. If UC really does want a piece of the Tide, the best option would be to push back/rework the BYU series and use that opening for a game in Tuscaloosa.