|First season 1885|
Seating capacity 40,000
All-time record 603–582–51 (.508)
Arena/Stadium Nippert Stadium
|Athletic director Mike Bohn|
Location Cincinnati, Ohio
Head coach Luke Fickell
Division Division I (NCAA)
|Field surface UBU Sports' Speed Series S5-M|
Conference American Athletic Conference
Marching band University of Cincinnati Bearcat Bands
Rivals Louisville Cardinals football, Memphis Tigers football, Miami RedHawks football
The Cincinnati Bearcats football program represents the University of Cincinnati in college football. They compete at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level as members of the American Athletic Conference, and have played their home games in historic Nippert Stadium since 1924. As of September 7, 2015, the Bearcats have gone 76–29 since 2007, while also winning five conference titles and earning two BCS Bowl berths in the same span, making them one of college football's fastest-rising programs. They have also earned a bowl berth every year, with only two exceptions (2010 and 2016) since the 2006 season.
- Early History 1885 1960
- Chuck Studley era 1961 1966
- Homer Rice era 1967 1968
- Ray Callahan era 1969 1972
- Tony Mason era 1973 1976
- Ralph Staub era 1977 1980
- Mike Gottfried era 1981 1982
- Watson Brown era 1983
- Dave Currey era 1984 1988
- Tim Murphy era 1989 1993
- Rick Minter era 1994 2003
- Mark Dantonio era 2004 2006
- Brian Kelly era 2007 2009
- Butch Jones era 2010 2012
- Tommy Tuberville era 2013 2016
- Luke Fickell era 2017 present
- Conference championships
- Bowl games
- Nippert Stadium
- Rivalry games
- Future non conference opponents
Early History (1885-1960)
The Bearcat football program is one of the nation's oldest, having fielded a team as early as 1885. In 1888, Cincinnati played Miami in the first intercollegiate football game held within the state of Ohio. That began a rivalry which today ranks as the eighth-oldest and 11th-longest running in NCAA Division I college football.
Robert Burch served as Cincinnati's head coach from 1909-1911, compiling a record of 16–8–2. It was during his tenure that Cincinnati joined the Ohio Athletic Conference, where they would remain until 1927.
In March 1927, George Babcock was hired as a professor of athletics and physical training at the University of Cincinnati. From 1927 to 1930, he was the head football coach of the Bearcats football, compiling a 12–21–3 record.
Sid Gillman, a member of the College and National Football League hall of fame shrines, was the architect of one of the top eras of Cincinnati football history. He directed the Bearcats to three conference titles and a pair of bowl game appearances during his six seasons (1949–54) before leaving for the professional ranks. Cincinnati, with Gillman developing the passing offenses which would make him successful in the pro ranks, became known for its aerial attack in the early 1950s.
George Blackburn served as the Bearcats' head coach from 1955-1960, compiling a 25–27–6 record. It was during Blackburn's tenure, in 1957, that the Bearcats joined the Missouri Valley Conference, where they would remain until 1969.
Chuck Studley era (1961-1966)
Chuck Studley left UMass and became the Bearcats' 25th head football coach. Under Studley's tutelage, the Bearcats won two conference championships in 1963 and 1964, However, Studley's teams struggled in his other four seasons and Studley was replaced after the 1966 season.
Homer Rice era (1967-1968)
Oklahoma assistant coach Homer Rice was hired as Studley's replacement. After accepting the head coaching position at Cincinnati, Oklahoma's coach Jim McKenzie died of a massive heart attack. Upon Jim's death, Oklahoma's athletic director and president called Homer Rice to request that he return to replace Jim as head coach at Oklahoma. He had already hired his staff at Cincinnati and turned down the Oklahoma job to stay committed to his staff at Cincinnati. Rice compiled an 8–10–1 record in his two seasons at Cincinnati.
In 1968, the Bearcats were the nation's top passing team. Quarterback Greg Cook was the NCAA's total offense leader with receiver/kicker Jim O'Brien the national scoring champ. A year later, Cook earned Rookie of the Year honors as a Cincinnati Bengal. Two years later, O'Brien kicked the game-winning field goal for the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl.
Ray Callahan era (1969-1972)
Ray Callahan was promoted from assistant coach to head coach after Rice's departure. After a 4–6 campaign in his first season, Callahan's Bearcats posted back to back 7–4 records in 1970 and 1971. However, a 2–9 season in 1972 ended his tenure at Cincinnati.
Tony Mason era (1973-1976)
UC's fortunes turned around under head coach Tony Mason, who led the Bearcats for four seasons and compiled a 25–19 record. Mason's Bearcats started slow, but enjoyed an 8–3 campaign in 1976, after which Mason was offered the head coaching position at Arizona, which he accepted.
Ralph Staub era (1977-1980)
Ohio State assistant coach Ralph Staub was hired as Mason's replacement, and the Bearcats stumbled mightily. Staub's Bearcats posted records of 5–4–2, 5–6, 2–9 and 2–9 for a total of 14–28–2. Staub was fired following the 1980 season.
Mike Gottfried era (1981-1982)
Staub was replaced by Mike Gottfried, who had been head coach at Murray State the previous four seasons. Gottfried was able to improve UC's fortunes, posting back-to-back 6–5 records in 1981 and 1982, however, Gottfried left UC for the head coaching position at Kansas after just two seasons. Gottfried's record at UC is 12–10.
Watson Brown era (1983)
Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Watson Brown, brother of legendary coach Mack Brown, replaced Gottfried but he too, left after only a short period of time. Brown's 1983 squad posted a 4–6–1 record. Brown resigned after the 1983 season to accept the position of head football coach at Rice.
Dave Currey era (1984-1988)
Long Beach State head coach Dave Currey was hired as Brown's replacement, and the Bearcats' struggles returned. Currey failed to post a single winning season as UC's head coach and, after a 3–8 campaign in 1988, Currey resigned under pressure.
Tim Murphy era (1989-1993)
Maine head coach Tim Murphy was hired to replace Currey in 1989. Despite one-win seasons in both of his first two seasons, Murphy was able to slowly but surely turn things around for the Bearcats, compiling an 8–3 record in 1993.
Murphy elected to leave Cincinnati after the 1993 season for the head coaching position at the prestigious Harvard of the Ivy League. Murphy left UC with a 17–37–1 record.
Rick Minter era (1994-2003)
Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter was selected as the Bearcats head coach after Murphy's departure. Minter's Bearcats enjoyed mild success, reaching four bowl games (winning one) and posting six winning seasons in Minter's ten-season tenure. It was during Minter's tenure that Cincinnati joined Conference USA, where they would remain until 2004. Minter remained UC's head coach until after the 2003 season, when he was fired following a 5–7 season. Minter left UC with a 53–63–1 record.
Mark Dantonio era (2004-2006)
Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio was named head coach at Cincinnati on December 23, 2003. Dantonio became the first head coach in 23 years to lead the school to a winning season in his first season at UC. The Bearcats' 7–5 record included a 5–3 record in Conference USA, which was good enough for a second-place finish. The Bearcats finished the season on a winning note with a 32–14 win over Marshall in the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl.
During Dantonio's time at UC, he led the Bearcats to a bowl game victory and directed the team's transition into the Big East Conference in 2005, where they would remain until 2012. As head coach, Dantonio had 15 players earn all-conference honors and 25 received conference academic recognition. Dantonio's Bearcats posted a 4–7 mark in 2005 which was followed by an 8–5 campaign in 2006.
Dantonio left UC after the 2006 season to accept the head coaching position at Michigan State.
Brian Kelly era (2007-2009)
Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly was named as the Bearcats head coach on December 3, 2006, following the departure of Mark Dantonio. In an unusual move, Cincinnati elected not to appoint an interim coach and asked Kelly to assume his duties immediately by coaching the Bearcats in their bowl game. Central Michigan was also preparing for a bowl appearance, so while Kelly was in Cincinnati preparing the Bearcats, much of his staff remained at Central Michigan to coach the Chippewas. Following Central Michigan's 31–14 win in the Motor City Bowl on December 26, most of his staff joined him in Cincinnati, where they went on to coach Cincinnati to a 27–24 victory over Western Michigan University in that year's International Bowl on January 6. Cincinnati's victory gave Kelly the unique distinction of having defeated the same team twice in a season as coach of two different teams (Central Michigan had defeated Western Michigan 31–7 earlier that season).
In his first full season, Kelly led Cincinnati to a competitive position in the Big East; the Bearcats' second ever 10-win season (its first since 1949); and a Top 25 ranking. On December 5, 2007, Kelly was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bearcats to a 9–3 record. Coach Kelly later led the Bearcats to a 31–21 victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl over Southern Miss.
In 2008, Kelly led Cincinnati to its first ever outright Big East title with key wins over West Virginia and Pittsburgh. The Bearcats had never defeated either team in Big East conference play. Kelly also became the first coach to win all three of the Bearcats' traveling trophies— the Victory Bell (Miami [OH]), the Keg of Nails (Louisville), and the River City Rivalry Trophy (Pitt). The Bearcats played in the Orange Bowl versus the ACC champion, Virginia Tech on January 1, 2009 but lost 20–7 to finish the season 11–3.
After beginning the 2009 season unranked in all polls, Kelly's Bearcats reeled off 12 straight victories and finished the regular season undefeated. Going into the bowl season, they were ranked #3 in the BCS Standings and faced the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. Kelly did not coach the team in the 51-24 loss to Florida because he accepted the head football coaching position at Notre Dame.
Among the honors that Cincinnati football achieved in 2009 was the highest academic rating among teams in the top 10 of the current BCS standings, according to the 2009 Graduation Success Rates, released Wednesday, November 18, by the NCAA. Cincinnati, which was fifth in the BCS standings, checked in with a 75 percent NCAA graduation rate and a 71 percent federal government rate, the only team in the BCS top 10 to surpass the 70 percent plateau in both.
Kelly finished his tenure at Cincinnati with a 34–6 record.
Butch Jones era (2010-2012)
On December 16, 2009, Central Michigan head coach Butch Jones was named head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. The hiring was an odd coincidence, as Jones had also replaced Brian Kelly as head coach at Central Michigan.
Jones led the Bearcats to records of 4–8 in 2010 and 10–3 in 2011, including a Big East championship, a Liberty Bowl victory over Vanderbilt, and he was named Big East Coach of the Year. Also in 2011, Cincinnati was the only program to win both its conference championship as well as the league's team academic award.
Jones led the Bearcats to a 9–3 regular season record in 2012, leading them to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte to play against Duke University, a game Cincinnati won. Twenty days prior to the bowl game, on December 7, 2012, Jones announced to the team that he would be resigning to accept the job as head football coach at Tennessee, after declining offers from Colorado, Purdue, and others.
Tommy Tuberville era (2013-2016)
On December 8, 2012, Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville, formerly head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn accepted the head coaching position at Cincinnati with a $2.2 million contract. Cincinnati's athletic director, Whit Babcock, had previously worked with Tuberville at Auburn; the two have been friends for several years. On December 9 an article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal pointed out that Cincinnati is only 30 miles from Guilford, Indiana, home of Tuberville's wife, Suzanne.
In 2013, his first season with Cincinnati, Tuberville led the Bearcats into the American Athletic Conference with an overall record of 9-4 and a 6-2 conference record. His 2014 team was also 9-4 overall, but this time earned an American Athletic Conference co-championship by virtue of their 7-1 league mark. Both years also saw bowl losses, in 2013 to the North Carolina Tar Heels and 2014 to the Virginia Tech Hokies.
On December 4, 2016, after a 4-8 season, Tuberville resigned as head coach of Cincinnati. Tuberville left Cincinnati with an overall record of 29–22 and 18–14 in AAC conference play.
Luke Fickell era (2017-present)
On December 10, 2016 Ohio State defensive coordinator/associate head coach Luke Fickell was named UC's head coach, replacing Tuberville. Fickell had also served as Ohio State's head coach during the 2011 season after a scandal forced out previous coach Jim Tressel.
§ – Conference co-champions
The Bearcats have participated 16 NCAA-sanctioned post-season bowl games, with a record of 7–9.
The Glass Bowl is listed in NCAA records, but the games were not considered NCAA-sanctioned bowls.
Nippert Stadium has been home to the Bearcats football team in rudimentary form since 1901, and as a complete stadium since 1924, making it the fourth oldest playing site and fifth oldest stadium in college football. Nippert has earned a reputation as a tough place to play. One national columnist, visiting the sold-out Keg of Nails rivalry game in 2013, described Nippert Stadium as a "quaint bowl of angry noise sitting under the gaze of remarkable architecture" and went on to compare it to a "baby Death Valley" (referring to LSU's notoriously intimidating Tiger Stadium). In 2012, USA Today called Nippert Stadium the best football venue in what was then the Big East Conference. UC boasted a 14-game home winning streak at Nippert, during a stretch dating from 2008-2010. The stadium received an $86 million renovation for the 2015 season, which was completed just in time for the Bearcats home opener on September 5. The Bearcats played their 2014 home games at Paul Brown Stadium.
Future non-conference opponents
Announced schedules as of October 22, 2015
As of 2016 NFL Week 1