A Quick History of Bearcat Football

uclogo2As some fans complain about the Cincinnati Bearcats gaining a BCS bowl slot, thought I’d take a moment to inform the curious fans looking for something to know. So here’s a quick history of Bearcat football.

UC Bearcat History

  • Starting in 1885
  • Record: 536-541-51
  • The UC-Miami rivalry (since 1888) is the oldest continuous nonconference rivalry in the nation, the fifth most played, and the oldest rivalry west of the Allegany Mountains
  • Played as an independent from 1970-1996
  • This year’s Big East championship is UC’s first outright title since 1964 (Missouri Valley Conf)
  • Prior to 1997, UC attended 3 bowl games (Sun 1947, 1951 and the Glass 1949)
  • Since UC is a school with a rich basketball tradition, basketball season ticket holders were required to have football season tickets (this recently stopped).


  • Some say the west coast offense originated at the University of Cincinnati with Coach Sid Gilliam (1949-1954)
  • UC-grad Jim O’Brien kicked the winning field goal for the Colts in Super Bowl V
  • QB Greg Cook, a gun slinging QB, had a promising NFL career cut short by a shoulder injury
  • There are current 13 Bearcats in the NFL

Cincinnati (presumably) has an NFL team; Cincinnati is a hotbed for high school football; yet the Cincinnati area as a lukewarm history for accepting UC football.

What I’ve Seen
When I came to town in 1976, UC played as a respectable independent. The mid-80s brought two promising young coaches to town. After the short tenures of Mike Gottfried and Watson Brown, the AD sought stability and hired a stable coach from Long Beach State – whose five years brought losing records, lopsided scores, and a call for discontinuing the football program.

In 1989, a new AD hires Tim Murphy to rebuild the program; and his five years did reset a foundation. Rick Minter’s unexpected 10 years brought the needed stability, respect, and improvement. Those passing through UC as assistant coaches during this period were defensive guru Rex Ryan and two current NFL coaches (John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin).

With downriver rival Louisville setting the model for what could be, a defensive-minded coach Mark Dantonio raised the level of play, quality of players, and improved local recruiting. Since he departed for Michigan State, offensive-minded Brian Kelly has continued improving the program, and led the Bearcat to their first major bowl appearance.

The current level of play and national recognition is a new frontier for UC and its football fans, so pardon us for our enthusiasm. Since I’m a reasonable fan, I don’t claim UC to be among the elite; but the football Bearcats have earned respect and their way into a BCS game – so while we enjoy a moment in the sun, think about the roads taken on this journey.

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