By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
UC basketball coach Bob Huggins doesn't believe the Bearcats' move to the Big East will have a significant impact on his program, because it already has a high profile nationally.
"We play those people anyway," Huggins said. "We've played a national schedule since I've been here."
University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins makes a statement as the university announced its membership in the Big East Conference.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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But he said he favors the move for what it will do for other sports, such as football and women's basketball.
"I think it's the best thing for the university," Huggins said. "That's got to be first and foremost."
Actually, UC has not played many Big East teams during the Huggins era, which began in 1989. The only schools from what will be the new Big East (excluding the newcomers) that UC has played during the regular season since 1989 are Rutgers, which the Bearcats have beaten four times in as many tries, and Notre Dame, which beat UC in the John Wooden Classic in 2000-01.
UC lost to Connecticut in the 1995 NCAA Tournament and to West Virginia in the 1998 NCAA.
Huggins does acknowledge the Big East is a more competitive conference than Conference USA. Connecticut (in 1999) and Syracuse (2003) have won national championships in recent years.
"Top to bottom, there's a big difference," Huggins said. "I've said that from Day 1. We brought people (into C-USA) for football purposes that killed our RPI. That's the truth."
UC dominated C-USA with seven conference championships in eight years, and Huggins concedes it will be more difficult to continue that kind of superiority in the Big East.
"Probably," he said, "but that's hard to say because you don't know what's happening with scheduling. We might play Connecticut once a year. We might play Syracuse once a year. You don't know. The problem with having 16 teams is the best team might not be the conference champion. When you don't have a true round robin, you don't have a true champion."
"We have the opportunity to play in maybe the deepest, most talented conference in the history of college basketball." --Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino
UC basketball history
Ohio Athletic Conference, 1910-25
Highlights: Boyd Chambers, whose teams went 106-81 in 10 years, assumed control of the basketball program in 1918. Schmidlapp Gym, which still overlooks Nippert Stadium, opened as UC's home court.
The scoop: UC's first conference was an alliance of Ohio colleges.
Highlights: UC won league titles in 1926, '28, '29 and '30. Chester Smith became the first African-American to play basketball at UC.
The scoop: UC and five other schools left the Ohio Athletic Conference to form the Buckeye Athletic Association, known as the Buckeye Conference.
Highlights: Dick Dallmer became UC's first All-American. The Bearcats won five straight MAC titles. Bill Westerfield became UC's first 1,000-point career scorer.
The scoop: Until they joined the MAC, the Bearcats were without a conference for nine years after the Buckeye Athletic Association disbanded in 1937.
Missouri Valley, 1957-70
Highlights: Oscar Robertson led the nation in scoring three straight seasons and completed his career as the NCAA's career scoring leader. UC won consecutive national championships in 1961 and '62 and made five straight Final Four appearances. The Bearcats won six straight MVC titles and seven overall.
The scoop: The MVC was one of the nation's most competitive leagues.
Highlights: UC moved its games to Riverfront Coliseum. The Bearcats won the first two Metro Conference Tournament titles. Pat Cummings finished his career with 1,762 points, at the time second only to Robertson. UC made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. UC beat Bradley in seven overtimes in the longest NCAA Division I game in history. Bob Huggins was hired as head coach, and Shoemaker Center opened in 1989.
The scoop: After two years, UC had trouble competing. Louisville and Memphis dominated until Huggins arrived.
Great Midwest, 1991-95
Highlights: UC returned to the Final Four in 1992. The Bearcats won all four conference tournaments and two of four regular-season titles.
The scoop: UC broke from the Metro Conference to form a new league modeled after the Big East.
Highlights: Danny Fortson (at left) was named first-team All-America in 1997, UC's first in 34 years. Kenyon Martin was named national player of the year in 2000. Steve Logan was first-team All-America in 2002.
The scoop: The Bearcats at least shared seven consecutive C-USA regular-season titles from 1996-2002.
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