Its future is still uncertain, but the University of Cincinnati football program is delivering the message that it plans to play with the big boys.
Without a head coach for about 30 hours, Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock delivered Tommy Tuberville on Saturday.
Yep. That Tommy Tuberville.
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That’s pretty good.
With the Big East shrinking and changing by the week, Cincinnati still might be searching for a new conference. It’s still trying to put together plans for new facilities, stadium upgrades and everything else it takes to keep pace in the arms race that is modern college football.
It’s a program that’s won a bunch of games in recent years, mostly under the national radar. With Tuberville, it’s a program that has a familiar name and face atop its marquee.
“I want to help Bearcat Nation take that next step forward,” Tuberville said.
After nine years at Auburn and the last three at Texas Tech, what Babcock called a “one-day offer” turned into Tuberville accepting the job on Saturday and being introduced in front of a raucous crowd on campus Saturday evening.
Again, modern college football. Winning the press conference is important, and winning big on the field is the only way to stay popular. The challenges that Cincinnati faces are ongoing, and many won’t be resolved for years to come. When Butch Jones left for Tennessee, Babcock needed to make a hire who not only could take the reigns of what should be a very talented roster in 2013, but also could assure a passionate fan base and potential conference suitors that the success Jones and Brian Kelly have had can continue.
“This is not my first rodeo,” Tuberville said.
In flirting with Purdue, dancing with Colorado and ultimately leaving for Tennessee over the last six days, Jones showed he didn’t want to be at Cincinnati.
Tubberville had a good job in a good conference, and prior to that he had a great job in a great conference. By coming to Cincinnati in a move almost nobody saw coming, he shows that he wants to be at Cincinnati.
That’s important, too.
“It’s a great day to be a Bearcat,” Babcock said.
Babcock and Tuberville worked together at Auburn from 1999 to 2002, and their goal will be to push the Bearcats to those aforementioned new heights. Big East or elsewhere, rivals just down the road or all the way in Boise, Cincinnati is taking a big swing and spending big bucks.
Tuberville knows the challenges, and he knows Babcock will take on a bunch of them. He’ll take the most important one.
“Players win games,” he said. “It’s all about recruiting.”
Jones’ exit was not a surprise, so Babcock has had time to spin his wheels. To land a guy with big-stage experience, 17 years of head coaching experience in all and 130 career wins to commit during these uncertain times shows that Cincinnati is committed to winning, regardless of what happens (or doesn’t) next in realignment.
“He was at the top of our list,” Babcock said. “He’s the man for the job. Simply put, now is the time. This is the place.”
Tuberville said he files realignment under “things we can’t control”, and said he won’t let it bother his players. He said his job is to make sure people see his players belong on the biggest stage, “in whatever conference is out there.”
Thinking Cincinnati would make this kind of hire frankly was pretty much out there. It’s done, and his work on pushing the Bearcats to those new heights starts immediately.