Fan Support On The Rise For UC Football

In what portends as a significant development for UC athletics and the university at-large, fan support for UC football this fall has shown signs of reaching new heights.

Nowhere was that more in evidence than at the Bearcats’ last home game, when 30,405 fans came to Nippert Stadium to see UC take on a winless Temple team. The Bearcats struggled early, but rallied in the fourth quarter to tie the game and then claim a 30-24 victory in triple-overtime.

"The neat thing about the Temple game was that the visiting team didn’t really bring any fans. People were there because they wanted to see the Bearcats, and that brought so much excitement into the stadium," said Bill Mulvihill, UC’s senior associate athletic director/foundation and a 23-year veteran of the athletics staff.

When the game ended on the final play – a 25-yard TD run by UC’s Richard Hall – most in the crowd were on their feet, chanting the UC name over and over.

Tim Adams, a die-hard Bearcat fan who has missed only one home game in the last 23 years, was impressed. "This year Nippert has been more electric," Adams said. "During the fourth quarter of the Temple game, our entire group of 28 fans was standing and making noise. One of our guys had his shirt off and was showing that he was wearing his UC underwear. We only sat down for timeouts. It was exhausting, but fun."

Building a fan base has been a long-term challenge for UC. College football attendance in pro-sport towns is traditionally problematic. As recently as 1997, UC’s home attendance average was 20,135, and that was for an 8-4 team that qualified for bowl play.

But three straight bowl appearances and winning seasons in six of the last eight regular seasons have begun to open some eyes. Last year, UC’s home attendance average was a record 28,071. Through two games this year against non-marquee opposition, the figure is up to 29,208.

UC has also sold all the tickets made available to it for road games at West Virginia and Miami University, producing a sizable UC presence in both of those stadiums.

"People are realizing what a fun event college football can be," said Brian Teter, UC’s new associate athletic director who oversees external and media relations. "We have a great stadium here without a bad seat in the house, and they’re finding out it’s a fun way to spend three-and-a-half hours."

"It’s very exciting football," agrees Sherman Fuller, a UC fan who came down from Detroit to attend both the Temple game and the game at Miami. "Teams in Conference USA have come a long way. To me, a Cincinnati game is just as exciting as the atmosphere at a (University of) Michigan game."

Fans say their interest in UC football is growing because the Bearcats continue to win, and because more former Cincinnati high school stars are now playing larger roles in UC’s success. Widespread speculation in the media about UC being an expansion candidate for the Big East conference is also helping.

"Everyone at UC talks about basketball still," said Craig Fischer, a UC junior and pre-economics major. "But interest (among the students) in football is definitely picking up."

UC has been more aggressive in promoting football this fall. A special 2-for-1 ticket offer through Skyline Chili resulted in a huge walk-up crowd for the Temple game. Fifteen minutes before kickoff, a line of fans stretched from the south stadium gates back across the entire width of CCM Plaza. It was almost certainly an unprecedented scene in modern UC football history.

UC (3-1) next plays Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Nippert against Southern Miss (2-2). It is Parents Night for the UC student body, and 2-for-1 ticket offers are also being made for the first 3,000 UC fans to purchase tickets in advance of the game and for all UC faculty and staff.

For information and ticket availability, fans can contact the UC athletics ticket office at 513-556-2287.

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