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Cincinnati Basketball: Why is Mick Cronin Overplaying His Hand with UNLV?

The current basketball coach isn't feeling the love at his alma mater. Here's why that's the case - and why he's playing this the wrong way.

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Full disclosure: I've been a University of Cincinnati football and basketball season ticket holder since the fall of 2009. Just four years prior, I moved to Clifton to start my undergraduate journey as an already feverishly die-hard fan. I was born and raised in this city. Graduated from it's university. I'm head over heels for all things Bearcat.

Much like Mick Cronin.

So why is the native son of the city, a born-and-raised west sider, an alumni - all of a sudden flirting with UNLV?

I've heard the reasons, and they're valid concerns for a program that wants to be nationally respected for basketball.

  • Fast-tracking the arena upgrade
  • Improving locker room conditions
  • Charter plane service for recruiting
  • Gaining more overall respect from the athletic department

On top of this, is there another coach in America dealt as bad a hand as Mick was? Program given a near death-penalty when he started. Rebuild done in the toughest conference around. Fractured fanbase. Further conference realignment causing changes in recruiting territories. We know the story, and I appreciate all the head coach has done to swallow it and keep fighting.

Which is why I get Cronin's current posturing. You have an athletic director that didn't hire you calling the shots. You have to raise funds for your program all by your lonesome in order to keep up with the competition.

But here's the thing: the university doesn't have any extra money right now. That's a plain and simple fact.

UC's TV deal, as we all know, is paltry. Sure, there are some buyout fees from the old conference churning in, and that helps a little. The Under Armor deal, in its first year, was heavy in equipment, light in cash. Let's hope that changes a bit, although we know new uniforms, shoes, and other equipment keep the student-athletes and recruits happy.

But even with all of this, the athletic department is still hemorrhaging money. The latest set of financial data shows that as of 2014, 46% of UC's athletic budget is subsidized from the general fund. And that's higher than any other "major" basketball school that Cronin's competing with. Add in the debt from Nippert Stadium's recent upgrade plus upcoming debt for a new Fifth Third Arena, and there just isn't any extra money lying around.

Athletic director Mike Bohn and university president Santa Ono know this. I want increased commitment from the athletic department, but I'm smart enough to know it's not feasible right now. Ono has a fiduciary duty not only to all students but to the taxpayers of the state of Ohio.

So with debt mounting and nearly half of the athletics budget subsidized already, what does Cronin do? Put on a public dog and pony show at UNLV?

Give me a break.

Look, I sincerely appreciate Cronin's commitment to making basketball conditions at the University of Cincinnati as great as possible. I know he's fighting for this because it will help take this program to the next level. But the school isn't in a position to fork over anything extra right now, and of all people, he should realize that. I'm sure he's not happy that a bunch of eggs have been thrown in the football basket, but it's a necessary evil in lieu of hopes surrounding upcoming conference realignment. Realignment that will bring more money into the basketball coffers.

Dragging your alma mater through a public temper tantrum is not the way to handle this. National writers are chiming in and diehard fans don't know what's going on. Work something out behind the scenes, coach, and find a way to amicably resolve this. This isn't the first time Cronin's put the pressure on UC by interviewing elsewhere, and at what point does the athletic department call his bluff?

I haven't even discussed what can objectively be argued as the lack of success for the program. I think Cronin's done a terrific job so far given what he has, but many can make an argument for why on-court results should be better by now.

UNLV? Seriously?

I'd expect this type of behavior from a businessman, not an alumni with the kind of roots Mick Cronin has. If a $2.2 million a year salary, a publicly promised overhaul of the basketball arena, and the allure of finishing out a monumental rebuild at Cincinnati isn't enough given the current budget constraints in Clifton, then make your business choice, coach.