Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Big East-bound


Bearcats now truly will play on national stage

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The University of Cincinnati's leap to the Big East is about a lot of things: money, power, influence, TV, profile and image. Academics, too, apparently. It's mostly about sex appeal. It's about a coach being able to sit in some 17-year-old's living room without needing an atlas of America to show him or her the location of Hattiesburg, Miss.

Nothing against Hattiesburg, home office of the University of Southern Mississippi. As Rick Minter noted, "We might not be able to get pecan pie in New York." But, come on. You can't be big-time and make regular visits to Hattiesburg. It's just not possible.

"Once you get there, it's nice," baseball coach Brian Cleary noted. "We've actually flown there and had parents who drove and beat us there."

The difference between Conference USA and the Big East is the difference between vinyl and leather, chewing tobacco and good Scotch. Southern Miss? Or South Bend? Case closed.

The basketball Bearcats will be playing Dickie V's Big Room regularly now. Bill Raftery will be your guy, Bearcats fans. When the Bearcats begin conference play two years from now, their silk suits will come out of the closet all the time, not just in March or when they play Louisville. The women will play UConn. The UConn women are the Yankees of college sports. Three national championships in the last four years. They get all the good free agents.

There are visions of 5,000 UC football fans road-tripping to Pitt and West Virginia, and visions of a sold-out Nippert Stadium, when Pitt and WVU fans come here. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese mentioned Louisville and South Florida as worthy football additions, a fact that didn't escape Minter.

"Perception is reality," Minter said. "For so long around here, people have referred to other schools as big-time. What are we? We're a Division I-A school, we play some of the best teams in the country, we've beaten some of the best. Our fans, students and players can begin to think this is as good as it gets, that there's no more saying someplace else is big-time ..."

That's what this is about. UC now will be seen as big-time. That wasn't possible in C-Hyphen-USA, a geographical absurdity constructed with TV markets in mind. The only thing UC and TCU have in common is they exist in the same, known universe.

As women's basketball coach Laurie Pirtle put it: "Now, I don't have to do all the explanations. Now I just say, we're in the Big East."

Wait 'til Madison Square Garden gets a load of Bob Huggins. Wait 'til Huggins sees the reaction in Syracuse's Carrier Dome, which seats, we are certain, the entire adult population of western New York.

The Big East is not quite the basketball gorilla it was in the mid-80s, when Georgetown ate teams, and St. John's and Villanova were almost as good. But it's a national league, with national respect. And nice airports.

It is time for UC to put on its dancin' shoes. Uptown awaits. If that means never seeing Hattiesburg again, well, life is a series of tradeoffs, isn't it?

"Most people, if they had their choice, would probably elect to go to New York, I'm guessing," Huggins said. "What can you do in Hattiesburg you can't do in New York?" he asked, repeating a question. "Fish."

UC won't be catching fish in NYC. It will be a big fish. Two years can't come quickly enough.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




U.C. JOINS BIG EAST CONFERENCE
Big time beckons as UC joins Big East
Daugherty: Big East-bound
What do you think about UC joining the Big East?
Meet the new Big East
Tranghese not worried about change
Huggins: Other sports big winners
Minter: Recruiting doors could open
Fans excited for the future
A history of the Big East
AD Goin expecting to see profit
Switch will raise profile, revenue
Fallout may improve Xavier's competition

REDS/BASEBALL
Upbeat Rose keeps talking
Reds giving Dempster his unconditional release

BENGALS/NFL
Bengals Q&A
Playoffs can follow expansion quickly
Broncos battered heading into bye

COLLEGE SPORTS
Miami 33, No. 15 BGSU 10
Buckeyes opt for QB rotation
Louisville stands in TCU's way of BCS debate
UK 107, Nike Elite 89

PREP SPORTS
West falls short in state semis
Heisel's goal lifts Madeira into final
All-Ohio volleyball teams
Today's schedule

ON THE AIR
Sports on TV, radio

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NEXT GAME
vs. South Florida (3-4)
• 1:00 p.m. Sat. Nov. 20
• Nippert Stadium
• Radio: WLW-AM 700

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THE BIG EAST
Big East logo
UC joins Big East
• A special section of complete coverage, as the UC Bearcats join one of the nation's elite sports conferences.

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