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On the Road with the Bearcats: The Cultural Differences between Indiana and Notre Dame, Part 1

Syndication: The Enquirer Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Going to the University of Cincinnati, after spending the previous 18 years before college in the same city, has some major benefits. I’m able to go home to do laundry, workout at the same gym I’ve always gone to, and have buddies who all attend colleges within driving distance.

Last year, the first season of full capacity crowds after a gap year in 2020, the Cincinnati Bearcats were scheduled for away games against the Indiana Hoosiers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a three-week span. I was lucky enough that I had friends at both IU and Notre Dame, so a visit to both of those schools amongst a historic football season for Cincinnati was a no-brainer.

First off was a trip to Bloomington, Indiana. I’ve made the drive to IU’s campus plenty of times since I was thinking about going there for college, so I knew the 2 hour and 15 minute drive the day before kickoff was going to be plenty longer since there always seems to be some type of construction going on. After sitting in traffic for 40 minutes, me and my other buddy from college arrived at my friend’s fraternity in just under three hours.

My friend and I quickly found out that IU was a party school over a bar school as the fraternity house we were at was hosting a two-way with another sorority for parent’s weekend. Just like every other house on their fraternity row, the house we were staying at was massive compared to Cincinnati Greek life and housed 70 people. It was a great time meeting everyone at IU, and while there was a couple friendly banter thrown my way, the students didn’t really seem too bothered by Bearcats on their home turf.

On game day, we tailgated at my other friend’s house who was closer to the stadium. Walking into the stadium, the group of UC fans I was walking with were targeted by several different IU groups and were cussed out for our affiliation with Cincinnati. While it was never over-the-top, it was more than I expected for such a lowly football program.

The Cats ended up winning by 14, and the UC section we were sitting in was thrilled unlike the rest of the stadium. There were some IU fans close to us, but they were super friendly and were glad we made the drive to their campus for the game. Leaving the game, my group was again hit with several unfriendly words, but this time they were more mean-spirited rather than lightly playful like they were before the game.

My group of UC friends, along with my friends from IU, went to several parties that night at fraternity houses that didn’t seem to care too much about the game. Obviously, we got some words thrown at us, but the intent was innocent by the IU students. The students were all very nice at the parties and they are a basketball school at heart, so I don’t think they were too upset by the loss. Even some Indiana basketball players were at the parties, and I when went up to them to talk with them, they were all super friendly, even though they clearly saw me wearing my Bearcat gear.

That was my first experience as a student traveling to an away game. For the most part, the IU community was welcoming and very cordial of Cincinnati fans coming to their parties and tailgates. While we got our fair share of insults thrown at us (even some horrible Skyline Chili puns), it was never super aggressive and over-the-top, just friendly for the most part. It was a great experience and truly one of my favorite weekends of college so far, and I’m looking forward to hosting this year for the IU game at home.

Later this week, I’ll be comparing my experience traveling to Notre Dame. In both games, the Bearcats came out on top, but as you read my article later this week, you’ll see that’s where the similarities end.