Are the Glory Days for Cincinnati Bearcat Football Over?

As the Big East dies a slow death, gloomy times ahead for UC football.

UC Bearcat Football PracticeYeah, there are some diehards (all 12 of you) that might argue that UC has a storied past harkening back to Sid Gillman and Greg Cook, but trust me, no diehard college football fan gives UC football a second thought historically. However, UC football has had a pretty decent run in recent years and briefly captured the nation’s attention in 2009 with Brian Kelly’s magical ride that briefly put them in the picture for a national title (until they got punked by Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl). That success, coupled with few 10-plus win seasons and a couple of Big East championships (2011 would have been Big East championship #3 if Zach Colloros was not injured), has put UC football on the map at the very least. Again, no one is losing sleep in Tuscaloosa or Norman, but UC football is at least in the conversation.

So with all this success and a university administration seemingly committed to keeping it successful, why does the future look so gloomy for UC football?

Well, where do we start…

Like everything in life, it all comes down to the Benjamin’s. Follow the money and you’ll have your answers.

UC’s recent rise is all tied to its affiliation with the Big East Conference. Argue if you will that the weak sauce Big East should have never had Automatic Qualifying status in the BCS (a very valid argument, btw!), but because it did, it put UC in position to make its mark in ’08 & ’09 and has primed it for future success-IF the conference can survive and maintain its status as one of the six BCS conferences with an automatic berth in the championship series and all the revenues and prestige that come with it.

However, all indications in the past year are pointing to the Big East NOT maintaining this preferred status (save for one saving grace, which I will get to in a moment). The college football realignment cesspool that has exposed all BCS members to be nothing but greedy money whores with no allegiance to traditional conference rivals and partners (Missouri to the SEC, Syracuse in the ACC), has left the already competitively challenged Big East exceedingly vulnerable to losing out.

I won’t bore you with secretive details of how the BCS determines its conferences to award automatic qualifying status (I got very dizzy–snarky writers get confused easily), but needless to say, the Big East does not come up looking very good. In its desperation to add some teeth and bolster its competitive credentials after losing Syracuse, West Virginia, & Pitt, adding Boise State certainly helps, but according to ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards, the addition of the Broncos will still not be enough to meet the murky criteria set forth by the BCS. The addition of minor leaguer upstarts UCF, Memphis, Houston, San Diego State, SMU & Navy does nothing as well.

Further complicating the situation is the BCS’s newest endeavor to create the much longed-for college football playoff (college football fans will be very disappointed in how little it solves). While all the details have yet to be worked out, a couple of issues are already in place, and again, the Big East is not in an enviable position. The playoff will be tied to the major bowls, and whereas the Big 10, Pac 12, Big 12, SEC, & ACC have aligned themselves with major bowls for their champion, the Big East has no landing place for its title holder.

So goes the Big East, so goes UC football.

What was once UC’s biggest strength (a BCS conference with automatic qualifying status, a national stage, and weak competition making them always a contender) is now their biggest burden. And there is not much UC can do about it. With its small, antique stadium, lack of historical relevance, and relatively small fan base, UC is not going to receive a get-out-of-jail card like WVU, Pitt, & The Cuse and get an invite to another conference.

UC is stuck.

But, lo and behold, all is not completely lost for UC and the Big East. Though it’s infusion of minor leaguers and Boise State doesn’t exactly get ones heart racing, it does have one variable very coveted by the pimps who run college football-it creates a lot of potential eyeballs in the form of TV markets in its disjointed, ridiculous geographic footprint.

While Houston, SDSU & SMU might be considered homecoming fodder for many BCS schools, combined with Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, & Cincinnati, the Big East potentially has a load of potential TV sets that television rights holders get all hot and bothered by. At the end of the day, isn’t that what all the whorish frenzy of conference realignment has been all about anyway?

Even though most football fans in these large Big East markets have no idea where these teams even play, something tells me the BCS may yet find a place for the potential TV sets—and a cut of the revenue—the Big East potentially commands.

Like I said, follow the Benjamin’s and all will be revealed.

At least, UC better hope so.