Imagine if you will that it’s 1987 where the world is vastly different from today. There are no smart phones. Laptops are as large as suitcases. There isn’t even a fully-functional Internet. It’s a simpler time when Communism is still a big deal and people are leaving their homes after voluntarily tucking their t-shirts into their beltless jeans. The differences can also be see in the sporting world. This is especially so in college athletics where interest in basketball and football are far more balanced. Money and television viewership reflected this.
And it’s in this time period that Sporting News columnist Michael DeCourcy wants to live. Even more so, he wants to constantly remind you that it’s still the late 80’s and college basketball carries as much weight as college football.
In the past DeCourcy has usually been pretty fair to the Cincinnati Bearcats, after all he wrote about them for so long during his time with the Enquirer. But every now and again, especially when news breaks about the Nippert Stadium renovation, DeCourcy goes into uber-troll mode.
Here’s the thing. DeCourcy’s not playing dumb with the snarky comment comparing UC’s facilities to a NAIA soccer stadium. He’s fully aware that Cincinnati is renovating Nippert Stadium. He knows UC’s administration is bringing their football facility into the 21st century by adding suites, private boxes, and club seats. It will finally have the amenities that most every program in college football, regardless of level, current has.
And DeCourcy’s pissed as hell about it.
You see, he absolutely detests that UC would have the nerve of upgrading the football stadium before the basketball arena. I mean, everything we’ve heard since the dawn of the new era of conference realignment is that basketball drives the bus, right? DeCourcy thinks so at least. He would even go so far as to bulldoze Nippert Stadium to the ground and build a brand new basketball facility on the same site. Essentially he wants UC to follow the same path the University of Pittsburgh went down when they demoed Pitt Stadium, moved the football program downtown, and then built the Petersen Events Center in the heart of campus back around the turn of the century. There are just boatloads of problems with his argument.
Firstly, a demo-and-built-from-scratch approach costs millions of dollars. This is money Cincinnati simply does not have. They are still paying off the Varsity Village debt and owe Tommy Tuberville and Mick Cronin over almost $4 million combined next season. If I’m following DeCourcy’s logic, UC could use the money earned from games at Paul Brown Stadium to pay for construction on a new basketball arena. But the Bearcats would lose revenue from their sponsors such as Skyline Chili, who aren’t able to advertise at PBS because the Bengals have an agreement with rival Gold Star. And overall there’s no guarantee that UC would profit from a move downtown, which brings me to my next argument.
The reason the Panthers were able to pull that off was because they partnered with the Pittsburgh Steelers to share use of Heinz Field before it was constructed. But even that arrangement is still heavily in the NFL franchise’s favor. For example, the University of Pitt receives just 10% of the revenue made from luxury suites at Heinz Field. Despite the Bengals showing some resolve recently, you think they would provide a favorable arrangement on a more permanent basis? No chance. Plus attendance for Panthers football games has been piss poor since the move. They experienced a bump at the gates from the excitement of a brand new stadium in the early 2000’s but since 2007, Heinz Field come close to selling out just four times. Clearly Pitt fans are pumped about playing downtown.
Thirdly, UC’s alumni and donors don’t want this. The athletic department itself surveyed these people and they voted vehemently in favor of Nippert Stadium. These donors are the lifeblood of football and basketball programs. Whit Babcock knows as well as anyone that it’s never a good idea to upset the people pouring over $6 million into UC athletics. They want Nippert, are putting their money where their mouth is, and it will flow directly into the athletic budget.
But all of that doesn’t matter because at the end of the day the University of Cincinnati is moving forward with Nippert Stadium renovations. They’ve done their due diligence for months and even years now to realize that keeping football on-campus is the way to go. It adds millions of new revenue to the athletics budget that they’ve determined, remember through years of actual research not unfounded claims, will be higher than if they played at Paul Brown Stadium. In essence, if UC had found that leveling Nippert and moving the program downtown to focus on renovating Fifth Third Arena was a good idea, they would have done it already.
So my message to DeCourcy is this: either get on board or shut the heck up already.
Second photo courtesy Black Shoe Diaries.