The time has finally come to drop this “rivalry” game or at the very least to alter it. Even though the Bearcats still trail in this 115 game series (59-49-7), the game no longer makes any sense for UC and especially not in its present home-and-home format.
Some will argue that tradition alone says the series should continue as is, but this rivalry game has already seen two major changes over the years. From 1900 to 1970, the game was always played at Cincinnati, but in 1971 it was decided the two schools would alternate as the host site. The second major adjustment came fifteen years later. The UC/Miami game was always played during Thanksgiving weekend. That is until 1986. In more recent years, the games have been played as early as September 12 and as late as October 30 so it’s time to make another alteration-possibly a final one.
In order for this series to continue, Cincinnati should see some benefit, and right now there is none.
Despite a significant increase in UC season ticket holders and no local television on Saturday, the Battle for the Victory Bell couldn’t sellout. Miami football fans barely attend their home games so it comes as no surprise that they wouldn’t make the short trip to Cincinnati to support their team. Other than some parents, there were virtually no Miami fans attending Saturday night’s game.
Financially, this series is a one-way street. Not counting the UC/Miami game last season, which drew 23,493 spectators (many of which were Cincinnati fans), the Redhawks averaged only 8,890 fans at Yager Stadium. Getting UC to Oxford is clearly a financial bonanza for the Redhawks but not vice versa.
Previously, the winning team in this rivalry game could have gotten an advantage in recruiting, but the Bearcats haven’t lost a recruit to Miami in three years, and that likely won’t change this year. Even Miami head coach, Mike Haywood, acknowledged last week that Cincinnati holds all the recruiting cards with better facilities and BCS affiliation making it almost impossible for his school to compete for local prospects.
Another reason to drop the series is these games are no longer competitive. Cincinnati not only holds a five game winning streak against the Redhawks, but the average margin of victory over that time has been over four touchdowns.
If the length of this current contract does go to 2015, it is difficult to imagine what the UC administration was thinking when they signed the agreement. With the ever changing landscape of college football, why would UC even entertain more than a two year deal?
Miami should have be given a two-for-one option to continue the series. If that wasn’t acceptable to them, the Bearcats could have looked elsewhere in the MAC to fill the dates. Any of the other MAC schools might be willing to do the two-for one deal. Some are already playing schools like Idaho, Troy and Tulsa. Wouldn’t a Cincinnati be much more attractive once every three years than any of those schools.
And even if no MAC school was interested in a two-for-one deal, would the Bearcats be any worse off than they are now? Every MAC school would jump at a home-and-home, and most (if not all) would actually bring some fans to the away game. Plus, those schools would put Cincinnati in another market (Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland, etc.) where it could actually benefit recruiting. Playing every other year in Oxford doesn’t help the Bearcats at all.
As an example of such a strategy, just last year Miami (of all people) allowed the University of Kentucky into the Cincinnati market by agreeing to play a game against the Wildcats at Paul Brown Stadium. Kentucky head coach, Joker Phillips, has made it clear he wants to recruit Cincinnati more heavily, and playing at PBS helps his cause.
Miami got its payday, and UK got recruiting exposure in an area it wants more of a presence.
At a time when every school in the country is looking for a chance to do almost anything to help its situation (even if it means leaving its long-time conference home), Cincinnati can’t stand pat and allow itself to continue to play in this very one-sided series.
The Miami/UC game lost its tradition years ago, and the games have become boring. Cincinnati gets no revenue from Miami fans, and even the TV exposure was lacking on Saturday night. Playing in Oxford doesn’t provide the Bearcats with any recruiting advantage so Brian Kelly had it right last year. Either the deal needs to change so UC sees some advantage, or the Bearcats need to look elsewhere for an opponent.