UC Might Be Facing Some Big Losses This Week

Those who tire of saying nothing ever changes in Cincinnati might take note this week as the Crosstown Shootout loomed on the back burner while the University of Cincinnati needed to worry about

Jerry Dowling

Those who tire of saying nothing ever changes in Cincinnati might take note this week as the Crosstown Shootout loomed on the back burner while the University of Cincinnati needed to worry about retaining its football coach.

UC head football coach Brian Kelly is a Massachusetts native who's become something of a Michigan man, if not in the sense that Bo Schembechler intended. That could change, quickly. Indeed, Kelly could become just the kind of Michigan man Schembechler became.

After all, Michigan hired Schembechler 40 years ago from Miami University. Michigan could bring in Kelly from UC and have its coach for the next 15-20 years.

A little math moves Kelly to the big house in Ann Arbor, where he can play in front of 105,000 fans every Saturday with the offense and the program to lure big-time recruits for the national championship. It just makes too much sense.

Most disturbing from the UC fan's standpoint were Kelly's remarks in the morning paper on Dec. 6. He evidently expected a quick, new deal at UC as he wraps up his landmark first season, which has placed the Bearcats in the top 20 and continues at the Papa John's Bowl in Birmingham on Dec. 22 with a chance for 10 wins.

For his performance, Kelly won Big East Coach of the Year.

He's in the first year of a five-year deal for a minimum total of $4 million. This year, on top of his $800,000 base salary, he's already earned bonuses totaling $101,000 for his bowl appearance, coach of the year award, three wins against Top 25 teams and nine total wins. A victory in the bowl game brings him $50,000 for a Top 25 finish and another $3,000 for his 10th win.

Kelly could make three times that much at Michigan, which could buy out his UC contract with a couple phone calls to its heavy hitters. Money aside, Kelly evidently weighed other concerns when expressing disappointment that a deal wasn't done.

As he put it in the morning paper, "There are a number of different things. This is about a program."

One can hardly blame Kelly for being what he is. He's a football coach who has won at every stop. He's serious about this. Whatever he wants, it involves outfitting the program with as much state-of-the-art equipment as he can wrangle out of a university that's not historically tied to a leading football program.

The morning paper asked Kelly if he were hopeful about reaching a new agreement with UC. Here's what Kelly said: "I'm always a guy that's hopeful, but I'm a little disappointed. I don't know where it goes from here. My attorney is obviously going to continue to look at other options, but we don't have anything right now. I don't know how to characterize it other than we don't have anything right now that we can call a deal, and it's kind of unfortunate."

Kelly came to UC after three years at Central Michigan. In the third of those seasons, Central Michigan easily won the Mid-American Conference title and lost non-conference games to bowl-bound Kentucky and Boston College by a combined 16 points. Central Michigan appeared in a bowl for the first time 12 years.

Before going to Central Michigan, Kelly coached for 17 years at Grand Valley State in Michigan, the last 13 years as head coach, running a record of 118-35-2. He took Grand Valley to the Division II playoffs six times, winning the national title in 2002 and 2003.

Now Michigan is looking for a coach, and its options are beginning to run thin. Louisiana State coach Les Miles eluded Michigan when his present school bucked up with a huge extension. By newspaper accounts, some Michigan people believe Miles is still in the running. Over the weekend, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano took himself out of the running at Michigan.

Meanwhile, the going is still going on Kelly's contract extension at UC and, as he said, his attorney "obviously is going to continue to look at other options."

Michigan is looking at options, too. Without making a very wild guess, their options and Kelly's options could very easily settle on each other. They're talking about it up in Michigan. No one seems to think it's a terrible idea.

As UC fans await an outcome on Kelly and mostly ignore their basketball team, the Crosstown Shootout beckons with the UC hoopers in an arduous rebuilding process. The Bearcats are 4-4 with wins against Western Carolina, Coastal Carolina, South Carolina-Upstate and Fairfield (the college, not the high school). UC's average crowd at Fifth Third Arena is 7,248.

The bell already has begun to toll on this season as head coach Mick Cronin, working for the first time with his very own operational freshman class, complains that John Williamson shouldn't be so certain of holding his spot in the starting lineup. Following those remarks, Williamson scored only 11 points with eight rebounds in 31 minutes of a 62-52 loss at Illinois State.

It's a miracle season at UC if the Bearcats either finish .500 or qualify for the Big East Tournament. Cronin has to be thinking about the future. He's giving his seniors their chance. Cronin started seniors Williamson, Adam Hrycaniuk, Marvin Gentry and Jamual Warren at Illinois State. Williamson, Hrycaniuk and Gentry have started every game.

Maybe the seniors give UC its best chance to win right now. Problem is, that chance isn't very good.

Playing younger kids today gives UC a better chance in the future. But the younger kids could be decapitated in the Big East this year.

Freshmen Larry Davis, Darnell Wilks, Rashad Bishop, Alvin Mitchell and Anthony McClain played 57 minutes between then at Illinois State. The Bearcats could have lost at Illinois State if the freshmen played twice that much.

While the Bearcats struggle with their present and future, the Crosstown Shootout Wednesday night shapes up as a Xavier blowout at the Cintas Center. Remembering that the records never matter in the shootout, Xavier come into the game went to last weekend ranked No. 17 by both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today.

The Musketeers are a balanced team with good, veteran guard play from Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Six different players average 11 points or more.

Xavier is 7-1, losing only to Miami in the second game of the season. The Musketeers blew a 32-21 halftime lead on the road that night.

Since then, the Musketeers haven't won a game by fewer than 13 points. They demolished Indiana, 80-65. They even beat Creighton, which usually puts them in the loss column.

In short, the Crosstown Shootout shapes up as a loss for UC. But if the situation with Kelly plays out badly, the basketball game wouldn't be UC's worst loss of the week.

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