When the University of Cincinnati joined the Big East four years ago most fans envisioned a growth in athletics in terms of quality. The better competition and higher profile would certainly bode well for recruiting and developing student athletes.
The Big East move was coupled with the completion of the massive $109 million Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village
that brought virtually all varsity sports onto the University of Cincinnati's main campus with brand new, or newly renovated facilities.
The most noticeable result of this investment has been the transformation of a sleepy football program to one that is coming off a conference championship, Orange Bowl appearance and currently ranked in the top ten nationally - and considered to be in the national title hunt.
With that progress comes some additional challenges that might best be summed up as growing pains for the football program. Nippert Stadium
is the smallest football stadium in the Big East and is now having capacity issues. At the same time, Nippert lacks the luxury suites and other amenities major football programs boast to drive higher revenues. Also problematic is the lack of an indoor practice facility where the team can practice during inclement weather conditions, or at the very least, have an additional field to break up the squads during practice.
Enter the new Jefferson Avenue Sports Complex that was originally thought to be a full football field with an additional half-sized field for practice purposes. The full field would have an inflatable bubble that would enclose the facility during inclement weather. Once complete, the new practice facilities will be available for all of the universities athletic programs including the baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and track programs as well.
But with only about half of the $13.5 million needed to build this facility, and with a prominent football coach leading the surge to the national spotlight the urgency seems to be building - especially when the buyout clause in Coach Brian Kelly's contract goes away if the university does not build the facility and begin making the other improvements necessary to maintain and grow the program's current stature.
Officials at UC hope to raise the remaining $6 million by the end of this year and begin construction in early 2010 so that the new facility is ready for use by September 2010. Fans and alumni can make a secure donation to UCATS
to support this development.
Writer: Randy A. Simes
Stay connected by following Randy on Twitter @SoapboxRandy