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Scoring Scarcity Trumps Tuberville’s Taunt

The old adage among human resources managers is you hire for character, train for skill. Tommy Tuberville, the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats (4-5), seems to be coming up short in both categories.

He was caught on camera following Saturday’s 20-3 loss to conference-independent Brigham Young shouting up at a heckler in the stands to "go to hell" and "get a job" after the fan suggested he might be stealing his $2.2 million salary from the university.

The head coach’s urinational sparring with the fan at Nippert Stadium did not have the effect of rallying the dejected fan base or dampening the sting from the team’s latest defeat in a season that is unravelling at breakneck speed. It only focused more attention on an abysmal season. The Bearcats have now lost four of their last five games.

"A good performance, again today," he told a roomful of reporters who looked like they had better things to do. "Especially on the offense side of the ball, we just didn’t make any third-down conversations the first half."

The Tuberville-coached squad has now notched just three points in the past half-dozen quarters of play.

Memo to Tuberville: That’s a huge problem.

In a similar first-half scoring drought, UC dropped its game last week to AAC East cohort Temple University, 34-13. It was an underwhelming gridiron performance that featured a 17-0 deficit at the half.

Tuberville, who has previously served as head football coach at Ole Miss, Auburn and Texas Tech, could provide only vagaries and platitudes at the post-game press conference.

"Our defense started to wear down. [Brigham Young has] a good football team. They’re balanced. They’re physical. We knew that coming in. We matched up pretty good in some areas. Defensively, we played well. We made one mistake on their trick play right before the half."

The Cincinnati offense largely hang-fired against the Cougars with Gunner Kiel, a fifth-year senior and Notre Dame transfer, returning to the quarterback position for the third consecutive game after being named starter. The Bearcat offense logged a feeble 185 yards in the first three quarters of play.

UC is now hanging around the AAC East cellar, just ahead of the likes of East Carolina (3-6) and UConn (3-7).

"[BYU] got a 40- to 45-yard pass play. That should have never happened. But guys are just trying to come up and stop the running game," said Tuberville. "But you’ve got to play your position … We’ve got to get more physical on the offensive line. Gunner didn’t have a great game. We overthrew a touchdown pass. We didn’t make third-down conversions when we needed to. They were like 65 percent on third-down conversations; we were like 30 percent. No consistency."

The Bearcats will now have to win two of their final three games to quality for a bowl. Tuberville’s first two seasons with UC, he led the Bearcats to overall 9-4 records with a 7-1 in-conference record in 2014, tying with Memphis and UCF.

"Six quarters without a touchdown is not going to win any games," said Tuberville. "We’ve got to help our defense. We are struggling. We are struggling bigtime."

Only slightly less acceptable is what happened after the final whistle.

That Tuberville could be baited into verbal puffery with a heckling fan is a problem. Besides the lack of decorum in confronting the fan Saturday, there have been other indicators of questionable judgment. You can fix the X’s and O’s, you can fix on-field execution, but you can’t always fix bad judgment.

Retiring "SEC on CBS" commentator Verne Lundquist is waxing nostalgic as he nears retirement at the end of this season. In doing so, he’s described the well-known but highly questionable practice of coaches tipping plays to the broadcast booth prior to and during games. In some cases, it may involve coaches giving their entire signaling systems to broadcasters. Tuberville’s name is front and center in that narrative.

In May, CBSSports.com writer Chip Patterson penned a potpourri to outgoing play-by-play man Lundquist:

"Lundquist discussed the importance of that intimate relationship with the SEC coaches … It was a great discussion that included a story about coaches tipping plays during their media availability with the television crew."

Said Lundquist in a podcast, "There are some coaches who will say, ‘This is the most important game because it’s the next game on our schedule,’ and I think Oh, dear God, we’re going to get coach-speak now for the next 20 minutes?"

But enlightened head coaches, implied Lundquist, know when to cut bait and genuflect to network nabobs.

Lundquist went on to describe the frequent play tipping to the broadcast booth by then-Auburn head coach Tuberville.

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