Could the Cincinnati Bearcats Ever Be No. 1? Not a Chance

Josh RutledgeCorrespondent INovember 16, 2009

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 13:  Mardy Gilyard #1 of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates his teams 24-21 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers in the game at Nippert Stadium on November 13, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

I've never watched the Cincinnati Bearcats play an entire game of football. Never.

But I still think they're a bad team. I think they play a soft schedule. Ask me who is on that schedule? I could probably name two teams. I've seen them on TV a few times, watched for a few minutes, and then changed the channel. 

Even last year, in the Orange Bowl, I didn't really watch the game. It was on the TV in the house, but I probably caught a total of five minutes.


Because I don't respect Cincinnati's football program. And I readily admit there's no logic to it. There's no reason behind it. I respect their basketball. I don't respect their football. And like it or not, the results on the field won't really change my perceptions.

My irrational perceptions of the program are shaped by the portrayal of Cincinnati in the media. The media allows Cincinnati to be good at basketball, not football.

It's not a cynical or conspiratorial thing. It's just a thing. Americans like order. We like traditions. We like people to be experts at certain things, not others. We want Texas, Florida, Miami, Southern Cal, and Alabama to be good at football. We don't want Cincinnati to be good at it.

So if you ask me why Cincinnati doesn't deserve a shot in the BCS Championship, I'll tell you that it's because their schedule is soft. I'll tell you that they are a pretend team.

But two years ago, I would have argued the exact opposite about West Virginia. The Mountaineers play in the exact same conference as Cincinnati. I respected West Virginia though. I respected their coach, their players, and their tradition.

Had the Mountaineers gone undefeated, I would have told you they deserved a spot in the BCS Championship every bit as much as any other traditional, powerhouse program. 

Put simply, in my own media-shaped mind, Cincinnati is allowed to be good at basketball, not football. Same for Kansas. Same for Duke. Same for Connecticut.

It's rare teams are allowed to be good at both, though it's much easier for schools known for football to earn respect in basketball than it is for schools known for basketball to earn respect in football.

Florida has earned respect in basketball. So has Texas. Southern Cal. Notre Dame.

But name a team that is traditionally known for basketball gaining long-term respect in football? Kansas? North Carolina? Duke? Syracuse? Connecticut? Kentucky?

Those schools could put together several fabulous football seasons, and it still wouldn't earn them respect. Maybe they'd get respect for a year, but the expectations and standards set on them for the future are unbearable and unrealistic.

It's better than some other situations. At least Cincinnati is allowed to be good in basketball. Some schools aren't allowed to be good in either basketball or football. See Boise State. Still, it would take years for Cincinnati to earn true respect in football. Years. The Bearcats wouldn't have to just win a BCS Championship. They'd have to win several of them.

On the other hand, Michigan can gain respect in a moment. A few games into this season, I was already buying the hype that Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier was an absolute stud, bringing Michigan back to national prominence. 

On the other hand, I still think Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike is overrated. And guess what? I can't remember ever even watching him throw a single pass.

Tennessee can gain respect in a few games. So can Miami, Georgia, Alabama, and Southern Cal. Those programs have a media-created, unalterable respect when it comes to football. A series of losing seasons won't affect their long-term success.

Notre Dame can be terrible for several years, then play a very soft schedule and still be guaranteed to play in a BCS Championship if the team has an undefeated season. Why? Because Notre Dame is a respected football program.

And again, the results on the field do not determine who gets respect and who does not. If the results on the field determined who gets respect, there would at least be a playoff system. The BCS system is programmed to let the traditionally respected programs play for the championship.

Sure, teams like Cincinnati can earn a certain amount of prestige. They'll get a shot in a BCS bowl. They'll get a sprinkling of praise and honor from the media. But it will not last. It can't last.

Even if Cincinnati got into the national championship and beat a team like Alabama, they still wouldn't get my respect. Why? I'd probably tell you Alabama lost because they really did not want to play a pathetic team like the Bearcats. So they weren't motivated.

I know this because I said that about Utah last year. It's not logical. It's not reasonable. Above all, it's not fair.

But it's life. America is a democracy. The majority of people want it this way. The minority cannot change that. 

So like it or not, Boise State will never earn national respect. Sure, critics will tell you the Broncos don't have respect because they don't play good teams.

But Cincinnati shoots that argument down. If Miami still played in the Big East, is there any doubt that an undefeated season would guarantee the Hurricanes a spot in the BCS Championship?

No, ultimately, Boise State will never get respect for reasons that have nothing to do with football. If you really probed for a true reason, you'd probably end up with an amazingly childish answer. It's just too cold in Idaho. That field is blue. Idaho isn't sexy.

I know this because that's how I feel if I am truly honest with myself. I don't think Boise State is good at football simply because I just don't really like Idaho all that much. Have I ever been to Idaho? No. Have I ever evaluated Boise State game film? No.

Do I even know anything about Boise State or Idaho? No. I just don't like them. I like Southern Cal because it's in Los Angeles. The weather is nice. The team seems really chill. The girls are good looking.

I like Michigan because it's in Michigan. It's rugged. There's a measure of just toughness I like about it. I envision a bunch of tough mid-western players battling it out in the cold. That's cool.

The exact same thing happens in Idaho, Cincinnati and TCU. But I don't like it. At those places, it's just not very cool to me. 

It's not fair, but I like it this way. And lucky for me, the majority agrees with me.

Deep down though, I know I am wrong. I know I'm just a bias individual with random, illogical perceptions about other people, places and things.

But since everyone else is just like me, it's not going to change. The only thing we can do is try to change the system to keep our emotions out of the equation.

A playoff will help solve the problem because at least we'd let teams like Cincinnati have a shot to win the championship.

I still don't think that would earn them lasting respect. But at least it'd be another step in the right direction, the step that comes right after admitting how bias we really are.


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