For being such a common sight in Clifton a lot of people seem to forget scenes like this happen rather alot for the Bearcats. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
June is the herald of good things to come. And by good things I mean the Football season which is now, as we speak, faintly visible on the horizon if the choice is made to look for it. But there is a long interval between the first sight of Football and actual Football. The first sight every year is the release of the first of thousands (more or less) of college Football preview magazines.
Like you I pick up every one I see, not in the sense of purchasing the magazines but I will go to my local bookstore, pick them up and see what they have to say about the Bearcats. What is said never changes. The punchline never changes. Ever. It is always a variant of the following sentence for a decade at least.
The Bearcats had a surprising season last year but are poised to take a step back this year because of X.
The obvious question in response is why? But its not a circumstantial question like what play makers have to be replaced this year? or "Whats the schedule like." The assumption that is made never changes. Cincinnati has no long term history of success and as such is always destined to go back to the average chasm from whence they came. But at a certain point that narrative has to change when the facts at hand contradict it so vehemently.
Since the start of the 2000 season the Bearcats have averaged 7.5 half wins per season, have won 4 of the programs 12 total conference championships, ended the season ranked in the final polls for the first four times in programs history and gone to 8 Bowl Games. Whatever validity the long term perception of the program as being bad or lacking history has is being trumped by what the Bearcats have done on the field. Under three different head coaches in two different conferences using a myriad of different styles. That's a disconnect for me.
I obviously watch the program closely, and I do have a certain level of bias to my thought process, but I think I am capible of rational thought about this team. That's why I find it so strange to watch the Bearcats out perform the "experts" expectations year after year while at the same time not forcing the "experts" to raise those expectations. At what point does a program has averaged 7+ wins for over a decade stop being a surprise Bowl Team.
Over the last five seasons only 9 programs have 10 or more games in at least four of those five years. Cincinnati is one of them. The other 8 are Virginia Tech, Boise State*, Oklahoma, Ohio State, BYU, TCU, Oregon and Alabama. What's galling to me is that each of those programs are plastered all over the pre season top 25's this year but the Bearcats are not. There is in short a perception gap.
* Boise State and Virginia Tech are the only programs to win 10+ in each of the last five seasons
The biggest reason for it is the lack of big named pelts on the wall. Season ending defeats on the biggest stages aren't helping matters that much is for certain. It allows the neutral's to dismiss those teams too easily. And maybe that's the point. Its always easier to dismiss a surprise. It's only human nature to do so.
At a certain point the on field success of this program has to stop being seen as a fluke by outsiders. Flukes don't happen year after year. A fluke is Rice winning 10 games in 2008 or Arkansas State winning 10 games last year. Some people are catching onto the fact, but its not enough and the only way to solve the perception is to finally nail that big pelt on the wall. It seems likely that until that happens reading the preview magazines will only be an exercise in frustration.