The University of Cincinnati football team has a chance to improve its stock with Atlantic Coast Conference against Duke University Dec. 22 in the 11th annual Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
“On behalf of the city of Charlotte, Charlotte collegiate football and the Belk bowl, we’re ecstatic to welcome Cincinnati to our game,” said Will Webb, Belk Bowl executive director. “This will be our 11th game, we’ve had our eye on Cincinnati for a number of years and we’re very excited to be hosting a co-champion of the Big East.”
UC’s failed attempt to gain entrance into the ACC, coupled with the departure of Louisville and Rutgers, leaves the Bearcats stuck in the Big East, which UC has won four out of the past five seasons.
The Belk Bowl is in North Carolina — home to four ACC schools: Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forrest — and should provide the Bearcats with an opportunity to defeat an ACC school on the conference’s home turf.
“We’re in the heart of ACC territory — this weekend we ran the ACC football championship — we think this is a great way for Cincinnati fans to show there support for a program in ACC territory against a good ACC team as you all try to build your brand too,” Webb said.
The Belk Bowl’s contract with the Big East Conference provides UC with an allotment of 12,500 tickets for the game. Louisville, which edged out UC and Connecticut to gain entrance into the ACC, exceeded that number in 2011 as the Big East’s Belk Bowl representative.
UC must reimburse the Belk Bowl for any unsold tickets.
Although Cincinnati did not sell all of its required tickets for the 2011 AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., which is approximately two hours closer to Cincinnati than Charlotte, Belk Bowl officials remain confident in UC’s ability to attract fans to the game, Webb said.
“We [the Belk Bowl] get the No. 2 pick [for bowl representatives] in the Big East after the BCS,” Webb said. “I came out [to Cincinnati] for a game a couple of weeks ago and had some other people here earlier. We liked what we saw with the football team, we liked what we saw with the fan support and we’ve always liked what we’ve heard from Cincy as to your dedication to football, to your players and to your bowls.”
UC head coach Butch Jones joined Webb and UC President Santa Ono at Tuesday’s press conference, just two days after Jones interviewed for the vacant Purdue and Colorado job openings.
Jones, who has also been linked to Wisconsin after the departure of Wisconsin’s head coach Brett Bielema for Arkansas, was quick to dismiss any questions relative to his future.
“This is about the Belk bowl, that is why we’re here today,” Jones said. “We’re just excited, it’s all about our football team. I think all you have to do is look at my past, and I’m still the head football coach here and I think that speaks volumes.”
Numerous reports out of Cincinnati — made before the news of the Wisconsin opening broke — indicated Jones would likely make a decision by Tuesday night, although decisions have not been made public as of press time.
Outspoken about attendance issues at Cincinnati since his arrival in 2010, Jones pointed out the challenge UC will be up against in Belk Bowl.
“It will be a great challenge facing a Duke team, with the proximity from Duke to Charlotte, I’d like to encourage all of our fans to attend,” Jones said. “We had a tremendous outpouring of support last year in Memphis and we’re going to need everyone down there to cheer us on.”