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Entries in Brian Kelly (15)


Jason Whitlock Gets It Wrong On Brian Kelly

One Great Season

I almost always agree with Jason Whitlock, but Friday's piece screaming for the firing of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was a bare-knuckled miss.

And what a coincidence it was that my friend Lee sent me the Whitlock piece yesterday as I was reading the Oct. 21 Don Ohlmeyer Ombudsman piece on In it Ohlmeyer wrote about how the WWL is adjusting to the ever-evolving media landscape, quoting "SportsCenter" anchor John Anderson, who said the great writers of previous generations all seemed to abide by the same rule:

"When you poke the stick you stop short of drawing blood," Anderson said. "Today, a lot of times, drawing blood seems to be the goal."

I love that Whitlock tackles race and other hot-button topics and I agree with him far more often than not, but calling for Kelly's head right now because of Wednesday's tragedy is indeed little more than an attempt to draw blood.


Coaches Can Learn From Colleagues' Missteps

Urban Meyer

One Great Season

BROOKLYN -- Five coaches were at the center of five different types of embarrassments since November, and if any of their colleagues owns a television, then there's no excuse for such missteps to be repeated in the near future.

Most recently, Urban Meyer's family-first flip-flop initially turned the college football world upside down. Many admired the strength of a high-profile sports figure to swallow a dose of perspective and step down while at the top of his game.

Then Meyer slept on it, supervised a sizzling Gators workout and had a change of heart. Perhaps his family isn't as important to him as he'd stated just the night before.

Brian Kelly

Three weeks ago, Cincinnati's Brian Kelly surprised nobody when he left the 12-0 Bearcats to take the job he'd long coveted at Notre Dame. After being named as a possible Charlie Weis replacement since early in the 2008 season, the usually PR-savvy Kelly had plenty of time to devise a healthy exit strategy. And even though Cincinnati fans couldn't blame him for taking arguably the best opportunity in coaching, they'll all agree that Kelly could have handled that situation far better than he did.

Also around that time, Florida State decided once and for all that Bobby Bowden was not going to return for another season. The school that once had no chair in the musical world of college football eventually kept a seat at its head table for most of Bowden's 34 years in Tallahassee. But the last few seasons were disappointing by the standards FSU had set for itself ... thanks to no one more than Bowden.

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Bowden caught plenty of criticism -- much of it deserved -- for not knowing when to step down on his own, but he wanted to keep coaching and the university that he helped make rich finally pushed him out the door. No ceremony, no formal announcement that would end with ovations, tears and hugs. Just a press release handed out at the weekly news conference. Stay classy, T.K. Wetherell.

That same week, Mark Mangino, who made Kansas football matter in the Big 12 in recent years, resigned two weeks after the school announced publicly that it would investigate charges that the coach physically and verbally abused some of his players.

Now I have no problem with old-school, Bobby Knight-style discipline. There used to be a time when a coach was able to grab or push a player to emphasize a point. But this is 2009 and our soft culture no longer allows for that, and some of the things Mangino is alleged to have said were about as classy as, well, T.K. Wetherell's absence from Bobby Bowden's final press conference.

If you want proof that it's difficult to be a disciplinarian, just ask South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. Bulls administrators began an investigation into his conduct recently after a player's father told AOL Fanhouse that Leavitt physically abused his son. But the player in question, Joel Miller, told ESPN that Leavitt didn't hurt him.

"He only grabbed my shoulder pads to motivate me," Miller told Joe Schad. After Miller was quoted in the report, his father backed off his own original comments.

And who will forget Tommy West's November meltdown? At his farewell press conference, the Memphis coach pleaded for better support and encouragement from the school, its fans and even the local media. Sure coaching can be rough and you are under the microscope, but isn't that the nature of the business? Your generous contract typically brings certain expectations, and if you don't meet them, you get fired. To West's credit, he did take the Tigers to five bowl games in six years, so perhaps West was hoping for some leniency. Which of course he did not get.

What lessons can be learned here? Other than "Don't get into coaching," I'd say the rules that apply to life also apply in coaching. Be honest, mean what you say, do your best and keep things in perspective. Pretty simple, right?


VIDEO: Did BK Know His UC Days Were Over In Pittsburgh?

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

PHILADELPHIA -- I've been sitting in the same spot at the same coffee shop for going on seven hours now, and I'm pretty sure this will be my last Brian Kelly post.

Until the next one.

But take a look at the short video clip at the bottom of this post. Lots of things to consider here.


+ HUMOR: What Would You Get Kelly For Christmas?
+ OPINION: Xavier Fans To UC Fans -- "Welcome To Our World"
+ GUEST COLUMN: Don't Blame Brian Kelly; Blame UC
+ ANALYSIS: Cincinnati Is Going To Hate BK

I shot a bunch of postgame celebration video on the field in the minutes after the Bearcats just pulled off a thrilling win at Pittsburgh, 45-44, on Saturday, to claim their second straight Big East championship and automatic BCS bowl bid.

In the video, you see Kelly walking off the field as U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" reverberates over the sound system at Heinz Field. Draw your own parallels with that one.

As Kelly paces toward the UC locker room, flanked by state troopers, you see in the back corner, 100 yards behind him, a hearty collection of red-sweatered Cincinnati fans who made the trip. So why is he waving in the other direction? Certainly Kelly was walking in the right direction, toward the locker room where he'd greet his 12-0 Bearcats, but why the big, grand, sweeping wave toward an empty section full of Steeler-yellow seats?

Did Brian Kelly know he'd just coached his last game as Cincinnati's coach? Did the towel-to-the-face move in this clip hold beneath it a meaning far deeper than just the emotional release that follows a high-stakes victory on a cold field in a rival's packed stadium?

You decide.


Jilted Cincy Fans: Consider This Holiday Gift For BK

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

PHILADELPHIA -- So, what do you get for the man who seemingly has everything?

The holidays are right around the corner, and if Robert Wuhl's Larry Hockett character taught us anything in "Bull Durham", it's that candlesticks always make a nice gift.

But if you're a jilted Cincinnati fan and you're not the place-setting type, or you don't think new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is into silverware patterns, something tells me you'd consider giving him this book. I'd understand if you got him a used copy.

What other gift ideas can you think of for the man who just broke your heart so close to Christmas? Suggestions are welcome here.


UC Fans Still Have No Idea How Xavier Fans Feel

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

PHILADELPHIA -- I just talked to one of my old Cincinnati buds, a 30-something cat with some savvy takes on sports.

We both agreed that losing a good coach to a better job sucks.

"There's nothing I can do about it," said John Thompson, who's been living out in Portland for a few years now but still pays close attention to the sports scene back home.

"It makes sense for (up-and-coming coaches) to leave," John reasoned. "If you're one of those guys, you want the best ingredients to win championships. It's harder to make good runs and great teams out of consistently mediocre to moderately good recruits."


+ GUEST COLUMN: Don't Blame Brian Kelly; Blame UC
+ VIDEO: Kelly Actually Waved Goodbye In Pittbsurgh
+ ANALYSIS: Cincinnati Is Going To Hate BK

Now close your eyes for a minute and try to imagine who Thompson could be talking about if I told you our conversation had little to do with the Cincinnati Bearcats' football squad, which just lost Brian Kelly to Notre Dame Thursday night.

"If you're one of these hyper-competitive guys, why would you settle for Xavier basketball recruits or UC football recruits if you're trying to win championships?" Thompson asked.

That's right. Thompson is a former Xavier student and lifelong Musketeers' fan. The hell that fans in Clifton think they were introduced to Thursday is something Xavier fans have lived through four times in recent years.

Four times!

Try losing Brian Kelly four times and see how that feels.

Now I'm not saying Sean Miller did for Xavier hoops what Kelly did for Cincinnati football. But he came pretty close, especially with that splendid Elite Eight run in 2008. And when he left after last season for the warmer climate, bigger stakes and fatter recruiting budget of the PAC 10 Arizona Wildcats, no one could blame him. The same could have been said about his three predecessors Thad Matta (who left for Ohio State), Skip Prosser (Wake Forest) and Pete Gillen (Virginia).


+ ARTICLE: Does Daunte Culpepper Hate Hot White Women?
+ GALLERY: The Hot Girls Of College Football
+ OPINION: Five Reasons Why Tim Tebow Should Not Win The Heisman

"It's not about loyalty to your school," Thompson said. "It's about getting to the bigger conferences. And I've settled into that fact as a Xavier fan."

Thompson said the reason why he thinks Xavier, despite the departures, continues to be consistently successful over time is because the coaching jobs are pretty much kept in the family, meaning recruiting suffers little harm. Prosser was an assistant under Gillen. Miller was an assistant under Matta. And current coach Chris Mack is a former XU player -- and one-time star at local St. Xavier High School -- who was promoted from assistant.

"There's been that built-in identity as a result that, essentially, leaves the new head coach as the guy who recruited most of the kids playing for him," Thompson said.

Don't expect Cincinnati to follow that blueprint. Such a move would mean Kerry Coombs would be the next head coach, and that theory has been blown out of the Ohio River as speculation heats up over Kelly's replacement. Coombs, despite the lofty title of Associate Head Coach, has only been a head coach at the high school level, albeit a very successful one. He built a great tradition at local Colerain High School, but promoting him at UC would probably be a step backward for the Bearcats.

So the search begins for the next coach. Will UC look for someone to keep the Bearcats merely competitive before leaving after three years? Or will the school commit to the various upgrades for which its newly former coach pushed and make Clifton a destination for a new football tradition?

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Don't Blame Brian Kelly; Blame UC

Lee Gerowitz

Special To One Great Season

NEW YORK -- When rumor turns to reality, as it did with Brian Kelly leaving Cincinnati for Notre Dame Thursday, love often turns to hate.

This particular saga, which, quite frankly, started the day Kelly stepped foot on UC's campus, began as a love affair.

The University of Cincinnati, its students and fans who had supported the program throughout the years, all wanted a winner in Clifton. After all, many of these folks were witnessing a once-proud basketball program struggle to recover from the fallout of the Bob Huggins era.

+ MORE FROM GEROWITZ: Kelly's Early UC Years Similar To Huggins'

Enter Brian Kelly. The wins on the gridiron quickly piled up, and the love affair was on.

A 22-6 record in two seasons, including a BCS berth in the 2009 Orange Bowl, will make football fans fall in love with you. Follow that up with an undefeated 12-0 regular season and another BCS berth in the Sugar Bowl, and Notre Dame comes knocking on your door.

Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly not only answered the door, but he let them in, let them take all of his belongings, pack them up and move them to South Bend, Indiana.

And now, some, not all, but some UC fans are hurt. Some are betrayed, even hateful toward the man they once supported. For these people, the love affair with Kelly is clearly over.

And why? Because Brian Kelly lied to them. Kelly promised them he'd stay at UC. He told the media, the fans and even his own players so.

One Cincinnati blog recently displayed comments directed at Kelly such as "Two Faced" and "...liar, traitor and he shall be marked with the sign of the beast for eternity!"


+ VIDEO: Brian Kelly Waves Goodbye To UC Fans In Pittsburgh
+ ARTICLE: Does Daunte Culpepper Hate Hot White Women?
+ GALLERY: The Hot Girls Of College Football
+ OPINION: Five Reasons Why Tim Tebow Should Not Win The Heisman
+ ANALYSIS: Cincinnati Is Going To Hate Brian Kelly

Well, there are always two sides to a love affair gone wrong, and if you're one of the bitter ones, shame on you. Shame on you for being blind toward what are the real reasons why UC is looking for a head football coach ... again.

BK, as the kids called him, was always up front about two key things: 1) What he thought it would take for UC to compete for a national championship each year, and 2) His admiration for Notre Dame. He repeatedly stated his case for point No. 1, and those close to Kelly were well aware of point No. 2.

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And let's get this out of the way before we continue: Blame the NCAA for the supposed dishonesty you get from the Brian Kellys of the world during sagas like this. It's the NCAA that allows schools with coaching vacancies to hover like vultures over coaches who currently have jobs and seasons that are still playing out. Because of this, if Kelly denies a rumor if only to protect his players, he's a liar and a traitor. Or, if BK gives an honest answer if only to protect his players, he's a liar and a traitor. It's a lose-lose situation for a coach like Kelly, but before you so quickly judge him, ask yourself something: What would YOU, the angry, betrayed fan, do if you were in his shoes? What would YOU do if you had the opportunity to upgrade your life for your family, all while trying to protect the players that helped you get to your current superstar status?

Kelly's message to UC was always clear: he and his staff would need sufficient monetary support to stick around. His team would need to practice on a field other than the one they played games on. The 107-year-old, 35,000 seat stadium, which he called the "Wrigley Field" of college football, would need to be upgraded and expanded.

To its credit, UC listened. In tough economic times, the administration supported Kelly and his staff as best as it could. Money was raised for the practice fields, which are currently under construction. Possible scenarios to expand and upgrade Nippert Stadium are being considered.

But it's too late. Unfortunately, the University of Cincinnati played a waiting game, and got burned.

Simply put, UC wanted to have its cake and eat it too.

UC wanted a coach who'd be the school's rock for years and years to come, but didn't provide enough foundation for him to build upon. Mark Dantonio arrived at UC in December 2003. Nearly three years later, he recognized the program's shortcomings, accomplished his mission of using UC as a stepping stone in his coaching career and was off to Michigan State, which drew 25,000 fans ... to his first spring game.

A week after Dantonio was named MSU's coach, Kelly arrived at UC. And three years later, he's gone too.

The bottom line is, if UC truly wanted a coach to commit to the Bearcats on a long-term basis, UC should have committed to upgrading its program a long time ago. How about after Rick Minter, who coincidentally came to UC from Notre Dame, ended his 10-year, 53-63-1 tenure with the Bearcats in 2003?

UC's facilities have certainly improved in recent years with the completion of its Varsity Village, but one has to wonder, at what point was UC going to sweeten the pot for the long-term stability of the football program? At what point were they going to make the program a destination job, not just a stepping stone, for a football coach?

Kelly certainly used the Cincinnati football program as a stepping stone in his coaching career. But he did much more than that. He showed anyone who has ever supported this program that the school with no practice fields, the school with the 107-year-old stadium that is the smallest in the Big East conference, is a school that can compete for national championships.

Kelly may be gone, but the momentum he built is not. At least not yet. There is a small window of opportunity for the University of Cincinnati to capitalize on what Brian Kelly built in such a short amount of time.

Kelly's departure leaves two questions: Who will be the next Bearcats' coach? And will UC allow time to run out on him, too?

Gerowitz is a New York-based television producer, a Cincinnati graduate and occasional OGS contributor.


Cincinnati Is Going To Hate Brian Kelly

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

BROOKLYN -- I've said it before and I'll say it again; in no other line of work is a man's employment status more public than in coaching.

Painfully public.

If you coach a professional team or a major-college basketball or football program, your future is probed, dissected, analyzed, predicted and about 100 times a day for certain stretches, tirelessly inquired about.


+ GAMEDAY GALLERY: Cincinnati At Pittsburgh
+ VIDEO: Bearcats Celebrate Thrilling Win At Pittsburgh
+ DISCUSSION: Was UC's Win At Pitt Most Exciting Game Of NCAA Season?
+ IMAGES: The Hot Girls Of College Football
+ ANALYSIS: Archbishop Tebow Is Right Man For Notre Dame Job
+ ANALYSIS: Screw Notre Dame; Best Job In Sports Is UK Hoops

And I absolutely hate the media, the industry in which I grew up, because of it.

The coaching circus turns good men into liars. Every December, when hard-working coaches dedicated to winning championships and helping turn young boys into productive citizens, the names of a few hot honchos get tossed around and they end up having to answer every day the same question, and it has nothing to do with Santa Claus or holiday wish lists.

In the case of the very likeable Brian Kelly, I have a bad feeling that many, many fans are going to end up feeling -- wrongfully -- betrayed by him.

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Kelly as recently as five days ago told his players he wasn't going anywhere. He'd told reporters three days ago to get a handle on the swirl-o-meter as rumors for two weeks have now suggested that he is in fact going to be the next Notre Dame coach. Apparently, there are many reliable "sources close to the situation" these days.

And now that Kelly has told his players he will interview for the job, anyone who knows how easily he'll charm the black-watch-plaid pants off Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrink knows he's as good as gone.

Prior to yesterday's admission that he'll meet with the Irish, what options did he have? Should Kelly have told his players, "Yes, I expect to get the offer and I will take it?" Obviously, he couldn't do that, so what he has to do is ... lie. Of course he's going to tell his players and the scoop-hungry media that he and his family love it in Cincinnati, that they're not going anywhere, that they're focused on the next opponent and the next opponent only.

But if you worked in news, and you toiled at, say, a local TV station in a mid-sized market and suddenly the network called and wanted to bring you up to New York, the media capital of the world, what would you do? A fat contract and better perks awaited, as did a more challenging and rewarding work environment. Would you stay in Cincinnati? Would you openly tell your colleagues and even your supervisors you were thinking about another job?

Now, South Bend might not be Midtown Manhattan. Far from it, but whether you like or hate the Irish, it is the capital of the college football universe. It's hard to say no to that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the fan base at your current job doesn't always sell out a 35,000-seat stadium.

So if Brian Kelly takes the Notre Dame job, please bite your tongue when you want to call him a liar and accuse him of betraying the citizenry of Cincinnati. Before you start throwing around curse words in the name of thine holy Bearcat, just ask yourself if you've ever made a career decision in which you placed someone else's interests ahead of yours. I'm guessing you haven't, and if you have, then perhaps college football shouldn't be your most pressing passion.


VIDEO: Bearcats Celebrate After Thrilling Win At Pitt

One Great Season

PITTSBURGH --Typically I like to hustle home after a game and load up some still pictures. I'll try to get to those before the end of the day today, but I wanted to give you a look first at what it was like to be on the field as Cincinnati celebrated its second straight Big East Championship after the Bearcats claimed a thrilling victory at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on Saturday. Enjoy the six video clips below:

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Cincinnati Players Count Down Final Seconds

Two Cincinnati players rejoice on the sideline and sprint onto the field after the Bearcats claimed a thrilling 45-44 victory at Pittsburgh, locking up a 12-0 season, the Big East championship and the league's automatic BCS bowl bid.


Binns, Bearcats Storm The Field

UC hero Armon Binns and the Bearcats claim temporary ownership of Heinz Field moments after earning permanent ownership of the 2009 Big East championship in Pittsburgh on Saturday.


Cincinnati Players Join Fans To Celebrate Big East Title

It didn't take long for the Cincinnati players to want to rush over to the corner of Heinz Field where their red-clad supporters were stationed, road-weary but ready to celebrate their squad's second straight Big East championship, won Saturday in thrilling fashion over Pittsburgh, 45-44.


Cincinnati Teammates Congratulate Pike On Heroic Effort

Pay attention to the end of this video, where you'll see a quick flash of the game ball jammed in Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike's helmet. He and Mardy Gilyard teamed up to lead the Bearcats to a thrilling victory Saturday at Pittsburgh to win the Big East championship.


Cincinnati Coach Brian Kelly Emotional During Postgame Celebration

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly shared an emotional embrace with one of his players, then walked off Heinz Field with a finger in the air, U2 blaring on the sound system and on a couple of occasions lifts a towel to his misty eye.


Cincinnati's Travis Kelce: "It Feels ------- Great!"

Cincinnati tight end Travis Kelce wasn't shy when asked how Saturday's defeat of Pittsburgh felt.


Bearcats Win Most Exciting Game Of NCAA Season

One Great Season

PITTSBURGH -- I lost a job in July and had no idea what I was going to do next. Then I revived a project I'd thought about 15 years ago, hit the road in late August, and 14 Saturdays later, spent a snowy afternoon in Pittsburgh watching through a camera's viewfinder on the sideline as my alma mater finished off its most successful season in school history.


+ DISCUSSION: Was UC-Pitt Most Exciting Game Of CFB Season?
+ ANALYSIS: Archbishop Tebow Is Right Man For ND Job
+ IMAGES: The Hot Girls Of College Football
+ ANALYSIS: Despite Injury, Pike's Numbers Better Than Tebow's
+ GAMEDAY GALLERY: Pittsburgh at West Virginia
+ OPINION: I Hate The Cliche Holiday Piece, But ...
+ DONATE: 30 Thousand Helpers
+ VIDEO: OGS Featured On FOX61 In Hartford
+ FOLLOW: Facebook, Twitter

And the Cincinnati Bearcats did it by beating Big East-rival Pittsburgh in the most exciting college football game of the season at frigid Heinz Field.

The Panthers couldn't hold on to a 31-10 second-quarter lead, and allowed three touchdowns in the final 11 minutes as the Bearcats claimed a thrilling 45-44 victory.

Mardy Gilyard wasn't the X factor for the visitors. He was the A-Z factor, repeatedly breathing life into an unusually tame Cincinnati attack. After Pittsburgh built that 21-point cushion late in the first half, Gilyard returned a kickoff down the left sideline and into the end zone right in front of 1,000 or so screaming red sweaters who made the drive from Cincinnati.

The play pulled the Bearcats to 31-17 just before the break.

The second half featured several momentum swings, big plays, a few key mistakes and even a couple of questionable calls by officials.

Senior quarterback Tony Pike connected with Gilyard on a 68-yard touchdown for the only points of the third quarter.

Pitt's talented freshman Dion Lewis scored the first of his two fourth-quarter touchdowns -- he also had one in the opening period -- to give the home team a 38-24 advantage, but Pike and D.J. Woods teamed up on an 8-yard scoring strike just 77 seconds later. Jake Rogers's point-after attempt hit the upright, leaving Cincinnati with an 8-point deficit.

More than five minutes passed before Isaiah Pead bulled his way to a 1-yard touchdown, and Gilyard's leaping grab of a Pike pass for the two-point conversion made the score 38-38.

Then the fun started.

Pitt took more than four minutes on a drive that ended with Lewis' 5-yard touchdown run at the 1:36 mark. Panthers holder Andrew Janocko couldn't corral the snap, however, so Pitt's lead was 44-38.

You had the feeling that it wasn't just those in the red sweaters behind the far end zone who knew that PAT failure was going to be relevant a short time later.

Pike, who completed his final 11 passes, got UC into what anyone else would call its two-minute offense. For the Bearcats, it's called Saturday.

UC marched easily down the field, and tied the game when Pike found a diving Armon Binns a half step beyond his man. The 29-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 44 with 33 seconds left. Rogers's PAT was good this time, and the celebration was on.

Cincinnati players stormed the field, donning brand new red, white and blue caps, the first symbols of a second straight Big East championship.

Pike, Gilyard and all their sweaty, grass-stained friends exchanged hugs, high-fives and hell-yeahs; a few even ran around with tears streaming down their faces.

The two stars were among the last Bearcats to leave the field and join the locker-room party. Pike signed autographs, shook hands with fans and even took some weak trash talk from bitter Pitt students who hung around near the UC tunnel, at least 20 minutes after the game had ended.

Meanwhile, Gilyard enjoyed a few minutes in front of the cameras, covering such topics as his support for Nebraska, Cincinnati-style chili and the future of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly. You can watch that below, and come on back for more celebration video Sunday morning.


Monday Notebook: Bill Stewart, Jim Harbaugh And A Boring Season?

One Great Season

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- I heard an expert recently contradict the claim that this has been a boring season in college football. His argument was persuasive at the time, but now that we're 12 weeks in, I think it has indeed been a boring season.

YOUR THOUGHTS: Has This Been A Boring Season?

There is no dominant team and there is no dominant player. Such absences certainly breed the parity fans have been brainwashed to prefer, but if there's one sport that shouldn't want parity, it's college football. Why? Well, perhaps you've heard there is no clear-cut system for determining a champion, so parity means three or four or maybe five teams would have a good argument -- especially this season -- for why they belong in the BCS Championship Game.

Florida has surely been a steady team all season long, but at No. 1, the Gators should be more than steady. They've looked dangerously beatable a few times, especially against Arkansas, when shaky officiating helped them out. But their only true test was a 13-3 slugfest they claimed in Baton Rouge. Because Florida and LSU rep the SEC, though, that game went down as a defensive classic, but in any other league it would have been a yawner, evidence admitted as Exhibit A in the case against any other football conference that considers itself a good one.

Texas also has been steady, and appears headed to play the Florida-Alabama winner in the national championship game, but like the Gators, the Longhorns haven't played anyone of note outside their conference and have looked vulnerable for stretches longer and more numerous than you would expect from a No. 2 team.

Both teams had preseason superstars at quarterback, but Tim Tebow has hardly been the player he's been the last two seasons, and Colt McCoy took far too long to get warmed up this season.

Alabama, meanwhile, now boasts the Heisman front-runner in tailback Mark Ingram and boasts a splendid defense, but has no quarterback at all.

The sport has had its share of great games or exciting finishes this season, no doubt, but in recent seasons we've seen more great games involving two elite teams, where stakes are high. The great-players-making-big-plays-in-big-games cliche has gotten far less use this year than in season past.

Also in years past, if there was no clear-cut favorite to win the Heisman this late in the season, it was because too many players had outstanding numbers. This year, however, one guy will string together a few great weeks, but not until after two or three less-than-dominant outings.

Other tidbits:

+ I'd buy anything from West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. Not because he's a slick salesman like many of his colleagues, but because he's just so doggone nice. I sat in on his weekly press conference today (video coming Tuesday) and he's just so polite and sincere and seems like he's got a healthy outlook on where college football should rank on his list of priorities. Don't get me wrong; he wants to win as badly as the next guy, but his stop-and-smell-the-roses approach is indeed refreshing.

+ Wouldn't it be funny if Jim Harbaugh led Stanford to a win over Charlie Weis and Notre Dame this week, then took the job in South Bend? It could happen. Weis admitted after the Irish lost to Connecticut that 6-5 doesn't cut it at Notre Dame, and I think Harbaugh, if not Cincinnati boss Brian Kelly, would be able to turn it around quickly ... which is what Weis was supposed to do.

+ In case you're wondering, I still hate when people say things like, "Terrelle Pryor's so dangerous" or "he can beat you so many ways" or "he's a dual threat." Pryor is a running quarterback. He can beat you one way. In four games, he's completed fewer than 10 passes and also in four games, he's thrown for fewer than 100 yards. I'm not saying he's bad or that he won't be better next year, but right now, he is not a dual-threat quarterback.


Wednesday Notebook: Cincy's New Predicament

Brian Kelly

One Great Season

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Cincinnati has an odd predicament on its hands, and it has nothing to do with the Bearcats' inconvenient depth at quarterback.

Does UC root for Notre Dame at Pittsburgh this weekend? An Irish win would extend Charlie Weis' shelf-life as the coach in South Bend, precisely what Cincinnati fans want in order to keep Brian Kelly in the Queen City.

But a Pitt victory on Saturday ups the BCS ante when the Bearcats head north for their season-ender on Dec. 5 that will likely determine the Big East champion. Both UC and the Panthers are 5-0 in the Big East.

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If you're more interested in the long view, you might be rooting for the Irish, but those whose eggs are all in the 2009 basket surely recognize that Kelly will leave soon anyway, so why not try to win the whole thing right now? As a UC grad, I think I prefer the latter logic, so on the same weekend that football fans in Cincinnati will be rooting against the hated Steelers, I'll also be cheering on the Panthers.

Jim Tressel

WHAT TO DO NEXT? I have my own personal debate I could use your help with. The college football season is winding down, and I'll be back at my luxury Brooklyn apartment in no time. What should I do with One Great Season? Still keep the site college football-exclusive? Or broaden it to cover all sports or even non-sports categories? Any feedback would be appreciated.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES: I was on the field under a gorgeous autumn sky at Beaver Stadium an hour or so before Ohio State and Penn State kicked off Saturday. That's when I heard Iowa was trailing late against Northwestern, and one thought hit me: Wouldn't it be funny if Ohio State -- in a down year when after Week 2 folks in Columbus were calling for coach Jim Tressel's head, when fans seemed ready to plan a bowl trip to Florida for a weak New Year's morning kickoff -- won out and grabbed the Big Ten's automatic Rose Bowl bid?

Well, that's exactly what's going to happen and if there's a year for it to happen, it's this year, when the Buckeyes won't likely have to deal with the psychological burden of preparing for 40+ days to meet USC in January. USC never loses in January.

That's not to say teams want to avoid playing the best competition, but trying to beat Pete Carroll in a bowl game is about as easy as figuring out who's leading the Heisman race right now.

Terrelle Pryor

A BCS bowl win for Ohio State would do wonders for the Buckeyes' confidence in the national picture, and depending how temperamental Terrelle Pryor performs, he could very well launch a Heisman candidacy in much the same way an athletic quarterback named Vince Young announced his own bid as a Texas sophomore in a breathtaking Rose Bowl win just a few years ago.

And then the countdown will be on for next year's Week 2 meeting in Columbus, when Miami's own 2010 Heisman candidate, Jacory Harris, will lead his Hurricanes into the Horseshoe.

BLOUNT DRAMA: LeGarrette Blount will be back in a Ducks uniform Saturday against Arizona State, and that's a good thing.

But it's a good thing in a general sense more than the specific sense. It's good for the sake of second chances, but there's still a sour taste left by the harsh suspension of Oklahoma State wideout Dez Bryant, whose transgression was far less offensive than Blount's.

I believe in second chances in most cases, especially if the student-athlete has at least met any requirements set forth by his school, which, according to word out of Eugene, Blount has surpassed.

Lastly, the argument that I've heard from some, that Blount shouldn't have been penalized so harshly because football is his meal ticket, that the sport is all he has and the university so coldly took that away from him, is ridiculous. Punishment is doled out according to the severity of an offensive act, not according to the level of inconvenience it will cause the perpetrator.

NOT TOO KEEN ON HOUSTON QB: It's impressive that Case Keenum is 4-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer this year. Being cool under pressure certainly adds a feather to his fedora, but let's remember one thing: Keenum plays for Houston, whose Cougars needed a field goal at the gun to avoid a loss to 4-5 Tulsa Saturday, about a month after giving up 58 points in a loss to 3-6 UTEP.

Such stories are rarely told about Heisman winners.


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Believe In The Bearcats, UC Grad Urges

This week, three old buds I wrote sports with at The University of Cincinnati's The News Record many years ago are contributing guest posts to One Great Season. Today's third and final update is from Phil Frye, now a real estate salesman in Newark, Ohio.

Special to One Great Season

CINCINNATI -- Who would have ever thought the University of Cincinnati Bearcats would be ranked ahead of the almighty Ohio State Buckeyes? Phil Frye

Me, but that was back in 2002 when I thought for sure the Bearcats were going to upset OSU when the teams met in Cincinnati.

I watched that game while pacing in a Philadelphia hotel room on vacation. As the Bearcats continued to score against Ohio State that afternoon in Paul Brown Stadium, I started to pick up my phone to taunt my Buckeye friends but never dialed.

Remember how that story ended? Coach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes rallied to beat the Bearcats, and then went on to win the national championship. Just imagine if Cincy would have pulled off the upset and knocked Ohio State out of the title hunt.

I tell myself and anyone who will listen that Cincinnati let Ohio State win that game and continue its national championship run so the entire state could return to national football prominence and help our struggling economy.

The Bearcats had once again let me down, but just the fact that they gave me a reason to believe they could beat Ohio State was all I needed to proudly tell people that I graduated from the University of Cincinnati, which was often followed up by the other person saying, "They gave Ohio State a good game."

Seven years later in Columbus, some Ohio State fans want to fire Coach Tressel and Notre Dame fans are waiting for Brian Kelly to leave Cincinnati so he can replace Charlie Weis. I'm just waiting for UC to win a National Championship and for Brian Kelly to stay for years and continue to build a national powerhouse the right way.

I always thought a Cincinnati championship would come on the basketball court, or some obscure sport that barely made any headlines. Now, I choose to believe that Cincinnati can continue to win football games this "One Great Season" and with a little luck, you never know, I may be calling you up in January to remind you that I graduated from the top football school in the nation, The University of Cincinnati.

Of course if that doesn't happen I can always look forward to my Chicago Cubs winning the 2010 World Series.


Bearcats Sliding Into National Prominence

This week, three old buds I wrote sports with at The University of Cincinnati's The News Record many years ago are contributing guest posts to One Great Season. Today's update is from James Weber, a sports reporter here in Cincinnati.

Special to One Great Season

CINCINNATI -- As a University of Cincinnati graduate, I feel like I'm on an episode of the sci-fi, alternate-reality show "Sliders." In that show, a group of upstarts was stuck in another version of Planet Earth for a random amount of time until a wormhole could open up to take them somewhere else.

Just the other day, when the UC football team debuted at No. 5 in the official BCS rankings, I started looking at the schedules of Alabama, Florida, Texas, Boise State and Iowa to see what games they could lose the rest of the way. I found myself wondering if the Bearcats could play in the national title game and I didn't think it was a crazy notion.

While I've lived this ascension in men's basketball under Bob Huggins, I never thought this day would come to the football program. Just five years ago, I laughed at myself watching UC lose 70-7 to a highly ranked Louisville team in UC's second-to-last game before joining the Big East. I wondered if UC could ever be competitive in the Big East with performances like that.

Not long before, just sniffing the Big East was a pipe dream. I was covering the Bearcats for the News Record, UC's student newspaper. In 1993, the Bearcats put together a great 8-3 season, but as they were not in any league in football, they had no bowl tie-ins and had to desperately recruit someone to invite them. Granted, there weren't quite as many bowls as there are today, but I remember the leader of the Independence Bowl was treated as a visiting head of state.

After that season, head coach Tim Murphy left UC to coach Harvard in the Ivy League, which today would be like Bill Belichick leaving the Patriots to coach the Rams.

I was still around at UC in 1997, when as members of Conference USA, the Bearcats went 7-4 in the regular season. That earned them a trip to something called the Humanitarian Bowl in fabulous Boise, Idaho, and its blue turf against a noteworthy Utah State team. While a USC or Florida would laugh at a game like this, I loved every minute of UC's 35-19 victory.

As the years went on, UC went to several other bowls of similar stature. Eventually I became apathetic about another Tuesday night bowl game in December against another MAC school. Then came the Big East, and at least a potential for bigger things. 2007 was a promising year (10-3), but thanks to politics and provincialism, all the Bearcats could get was the Bowl in Alabama against old rival Southern Miss.

But in 2008, as we know by now, it all changed. A stirring overtime win at West Virginia, the first solo conference title in 44 years, and a berth in the Orange Bowl, a game usually reserved for the ancient royalty of college football. The only drawback is it wasn't a playoff game, but that's another column.

So far this year, even the Orange Bowl looks to be a stepping stone, as UC is unbeaten heading into the Louisville game, with all these crazy, wild, unheard of dreams before them. Instead of going to the Ivy League, UC's head coach was linked to places like Washington and Tennessee last year, and Notre Dame this year.

Even if the Bearcats stumble down the stretch this year, Brian Kelly has the program set up for future runs at the biggest prize of all. Who knows if this is a long-lasting trend or a short-lived affair, but as a UC fan, I hope that wormhole doesn't open up for a long time.


Kelly's Early Years Reminiscent Of Huggins'

This week, three old buds I wrote sports with at The University of Cincinnati's The News Record many years ago are contributing guest posts to One Great Season. Today's update is from Lee Gerowitz, who now lives in New York and is a senior producer for Howard TV On Demand, which is Howard Stern's totally uncensored on-demand channel.

Lee Gerowitz

Special to One Great Season

CINCINNATI -- There were two significant arrivals on the University of Cincinnati campus in 1989.

First and foremost was the arrival of yours truly. I would spend five glorious years at UC before graduating in 1994.

Overshadowing my grand entrance onto the Clifton campus was the arrival of some up-and-coming basketball coach named Bob Huggins. Huggins wouldn't leave UC until August 2005. And as we all know, he didn't exactly graduate from UC -- but let's not beat a dead horse, right? (My apologies to Art Long, whose name you should Google along with "horse" in case you don't know).

Bob Huggins put Cincinnati Bearcats basketball -- heck, even the entire university -- back on the map. Some would argue, based on the program's downfall that followed his departure, that he also wiped them off of it.

Twenty years after his arrival, the Bearcats have re-emerged, but this time via the gridiron, courtesy of football coach Brian Kelly.

It's unlikely, but not entirely impossible, that Kelly will spend 15 years coaching his version of the Bearcats. Yet, when you look at the beginning of both Huggins' and Kelly's tenures at UC, there are clear parallels.

Before UC, both men had great success at smaller schools. Huggins compiled a 71-26 record (including a 30-0 regular-season mark in 1982-83) at Walsh University before heading to Akron, a Mid-American Conference school. Kelly won two national championships at Grand Valley State University in 2002 and 2003 before heading to Central Michigan, also a MAC school.

In five seasons at Akron, Huggins compiled a 97-46 record, reaching the post-season three times, including a 1985-86 trip to the NCAA tournament. His first squad, the 1984-85 team, went 12-14. The following season the team went 22-8.

In 2004, Kelly's first CMU team went 4-7. The next season, the Chippewas went 6-5, the program's first winning season in seven years. In 2006, his final season at CMU, he went 9-4, won the MAC title and played in the Motor City Bowl.

Then came their arrivals in Clifton. Both men were brash and outspoken. Huggins challenged, well, everybody, while Kelly targeted the local media for their lack of coverage of his program.

Huggins took over a once-proud basketball program that hadn't reached the NCAA tournament since 1977. A once-proud program boasting legends such as Oscar Robertson and national championships in 1961 and 1962.  Huggins had inherited a program that had lost its identity, thanks to the pathetic 70-100 record accumulated during the Tony Yates era. To say the Bearcats established a new identity under Huggins is an understatement. Bottom line: during the 1991-92 season, just his third at UC, Huggins would begin a string of 14 consecutive NCAA appearances by storming into the Final Four.

Mark Dantonio, who left to coach Michigan State University in 2006, was Mother Theresa compared to Yates, leaving the UC football program in much better shape for Kelly than Yates did for Huggins. Despite this, Dantonio was a straight-laced, defensive-minded coach who preferred smash-mouth football. In short, some would label his style of play as boring.

Kelly, upon arrival, ripped that scheme to shreds and installed a fast-paced, and more important, fan-friendly spread offense. In his first full season with the Bearcats, Kelly won 10 games, a feat the program hadn't accomplished since 1949. The following season, Kelly won 11 games and his second consecutive Big East Coach of the Year Award by reaching what some believe is college football's equivalent to the Final Four - a BCS bowl berth (in the Orange Bowl).

Which brings us back to Bob Huggins and that magical third season.

This is also Brian Kelly's third season. Entering this weekend's Homecoming game versus rival Louisville, the Bearcats are sitting pretty (despite Tony Pike's injury) with a 6-0 record and No. 5 ranking. Another Big East title and BCS bowl berth appear to be within reach. So does an undefeated season.

And dare we say, a potential slot in a national championship game?

One thing's for sure -- just like Huggins and his 1991-92 Final Four squad -- a campus, as well as a nation, is staying tuned.


UC Coach Kelly Gives Latest on QB Tony Pike

One Great Season

CINCINNATI -- Tuesday was my first exposure to Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly. After giving an update on the health of star quarterback Tony Pike, he tried to close that part of the discussion with some good-natured ribbing of longtime TV guy Denny Janson, another Cincinnati funny guy.

But of course when the starting quarterback of your No. 5 team is injured, among this year's Heisman hopefuls and of course a local kid, ending a conversation about his injury isn't an easy thing to do. Reporters peppered Kelly with questions about Pike at the coach's weekly press luncheon on UC's campus Tuesday.

And then of course the conversation shifted to what the plan is for the week for Pike's two backups, Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson.