Finally, finally, finally, my byline has reached the great state of Montana.
I love interviewing offensive linemen, because, for the most part, they’re the most thoughtful, least flashy guys on the team. Chances are: you ask them a question, they’ll give you a better than average quote. While at the University of Georgia, my favorite player to interview was offensive lineman Jonas Jennings – who’s played eight years in the NFL. Didn’t matter if I was asking about the progress of quarterback Quincy Carter or the intricacies of trying to block Florida’s defensive line or about the next day’s weather report, Jennings was always a sheer delight. I could always count on him. The Bengals offensive linemen past and present – Dave Lapham, Willie Anderson, Levi Jones, Bobbie Williams, etc. – are no exception.
Colin Dow – a native of Billings, Montana – was a good talker, thoughtful, kind of funny, all that. But what I really noticed about him while talking to him was his almost lack of confidence. I asked him about it during the interview and I mention it in this story I wrote for the Billings Gazette. In a locker room where confidence is part of the job description, Dow is anything but. Instead, he’s realistic. He realizes he has much to learn, and he realizes that, as an undrafted rookie free agent, he’d better pick up the Bengals offense sooner rather than later. Dow, I imagine, probably won’t make the 52-man active roster, but it was nice to write a story about a guy who really appreciates the opportunity he’s been given. And, of course, it’s always nice to talk to an offensive lineman.
(12:09 p.m.): Since I had to turn in my Big East preseason predictions to the conference last week, I figured I’d release my ballot and tell you my reasoning for picking the way that I did.
2. UC: Naturally, we’ll talk the Bearcats football program to death these next few months – present and otherwise. The defense will have to replace 10 starters, but I don’t think that dooms UC. The offense is probably the best in the conference, and as long as the defense doesn’t hurt the Bearcats, they’re going to compete for another major bowl game.
Read the rest here.
(10:22 a.m.): After the Brian Kelly contract news conference Monday, in which we discussed the removal of the practice bubble/practice facility clause from his contract, I also wanted to talk about the future of Nippert Stadium.
I asked Mike Thomas if there was anything specific in BK’s new contract regarding upgrades to Nippert (there aren’t) and I asked BK if he had shifted his thinking about playing more games at Paul Brown Stadium (at this point, he’d rather play home games at Nippert). To me, it’s an issue that will play a role in determining how seriously a player the administration thinks football can be in the next decade or so (whether BK is here or not).
A few months ago, during a football spring practice, Thomas and I talked for a while about the state of the stadium and what could be done to upgrade it into a facility that could generate more revenue streams. What I took from the conversation: it’s going to be tough to expand the stadium past, say, 45,000 seats, and it’s going to cost a boatload of money to put in club seats and private boxes. Tens of millions of dollars that would take many years to pay itself off.
Read the rest here.
From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince:
You like reading, and you like football, right? Sure you do. So why not give, “Bearcats Rising,” my buddy Josh Katzowitz’s upcoming book on UC football, a shot?
(1:48 p.m.): Brian Kelly officially has signed his new five-year contract, and you know what that means? It means he thinks the Bearcats are on their way to competing for a BCS title.
Big East titles? Feh. Try national titles. That’s what he wants now. Big change of perspective than when he was hired in 2006.
“Then, we were talking about winning and being competitive in the Big East,” BK said. “Now we can talk about building a national championship program. No, we’re not there yet. This contract really signifies the university’s desires and wants to be a national player. That’s all I wanted. Are you happy just being in the Big East? Or do you want to do this as a BCS program and compete every year at this level? Those decisions had to be made, or I wasn’t signing it. They were able to put those pieces together that makes the university committed to being a BCS program.”
Read the rest right here.
Books by the Banks, Oct. 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Duke Energy Center
I originally thought this book fair would be near the river (you know, it being on the “Banks” and everything), but I never really asked anybody where it was. Instead, it’ll be indoors a few blocks from the river. But there will be books aplenty there. And no UC football game that day (the Bearcats are at USF on Oct. 15). So, no excuses.
(2:43 p.m.): Well, we haven’t done one of these in a while. Little mailbag time, based on this blog post I wrote earlier this week.
And if you don’t want to reread the blog entry, the main point I made was Mick Cronin’s contract extension was probably a good move made by UC AD Mike Thomas. Here’s the nut graf (thought it came at the end of the post, making it more of the kicker):
Check here for the rest of the blog post.
EXCEPT for the promised BONUS question that I’m inserting here:
That was a nice article about Mick and the contract extension. However, I don’t agree that the basketball program is getting better under Mick…What happened at the end of last year is inexcusable…Going into the season last year with one point guard is inexcusable…Playing players such as: Rashad Bishop and Alvin Mitchell was inexcusable…. UC basketball is dead at this point in time…It will remain so until Mr. Thomas pulls the trigger on getting UC another head basketball coach…Mick is NOT the answer! Thomas hired Brian Kelly…and gets an A + for that… However, Mick is dragging down his grade point average.
I don’t disagree with some of the points here. Yes, the end of last season was horrible. Yes, Rashad Bishop hasn’t been great so far in his UC career (5.4 points per game) and Alvin Mitchell was pretty much a disaster. Yes, UC basketball isn’t as nationally-relevant as it was under Huggins. But if you’re saying UC basketball has not improved, I think there’s some sort of ax to grind. The win total has increased (although yes, the non-conference schedule isn’t quite as juicy), the players have improved (remember, Marcus Sikes was the starting center in Mick’s first year) and UC was competitive in the Big East last year. UC had a chance at an NCAA tournament berth. You can’t say the same about Mick’s first two teams.
So, now when somebody asks me if they can have a free copy of Bearcats Rising, I’ll just point them in this direction. Since, you know, I don’t plan to make much money on ringtone sales.
I finished the book index late last night, and in reality, it wasn’t a terrible undertaking. I thought it would be brutal – going through each page and looking for names and events sounds awfully tedious to me – but it was more exciting than I thought (exciting, of course, being a relative term). Plus, I found a couple mistakes we could correct. After all the writing and editing and proofing we’ve done, I still don’t know why there were some mistakes I didn’t catch. For instance, there was a guy who played on the football team in the mid to late 1990s with the last name of Petrus. For some reason, I could have sworn his first name was David. But when I went to triple-check the name in the media guide, I couldn’t find a David Petrus. Instead, I located a Brent Petrus who played during those years. Sure enough, I went to quadruple-check, and yep, the guy’s name was Brent. Not David. How do mistakes like that happen anyway? Good thing, though. We’ve cleaned it all up for the book printing. There will be no mistakes, no typos, no misspellings. It’s going to be perfect.
(10:40 a.m.): I sat down with Mick Cronin in early April, and while we discussed the end of last season and what he could expect for next year – as detailed in this blog post – we also got off track a bit.
I asked him about what I perceived as fan negativity with the state of the basketball program. Mick didn’t really address that, probably because he didn’t feel that he needed to answer those types of questions. He said he was more focused on the fans who are with the team – the 6,000 or so that entered Fifth Third Arena for games – than those who wanted to bash him and his players.
It’s perfectly understandable, and when he said that the Mick-bashers were a vast, but vocal, minority, it made sense. If you go by message boards and e-mails, the will of the people says that Mick should have been fired last season after the Bearcats had such a horrendous end to the year. But Mick comes into contact with dozens of more UC basketball fans than I do on a daily basis. For the most part, he said, those people were supportive. Those people wanted to see him stay as the Bearcats coach and to succeed there.
Read the rest here.
(10:44 a.m.): Twice a day, Lionel Jackson and Kenny Anaba find themselves in the warm weather, practicing with teammates they’re still getting to know and trying to understand what their coaches are saying. Twice a day, Jackson and Anaba – former soccer standouts for the Bearcats – feel at home in a land that sits many miles away from Cincinnati. Twice a day, Jackson and Anaba can feel comfortable at last.
“The thing about soccer that’s so beautiful is you don’t have to speak the same language,” Jackson said. “It’s a universal game. But it is really hard communicating with our coach.”
Anaba (who played his final season at UC in 2007 and led the Bearcats with 10 goals that season and finished seventh on the all-time goals list) and Jackson (a two-year starter who finished sixth in the Big East with eight assists in 2007) have spent the past few weeks playing for the Carolina Gigantes FC of the Puerto Rico Soccer League.
Read the rest of this Katz on the Cats entry here.