Heart of the City: Cincinnati


Today on ESPN.com, we're taking a closer look at city schools in college football. Our definition of a city school is one that competes in the same city/market as an NFL franchise. The Big East has a few of them. Let's start with a look at the Cincinnati Bearcats.

School: Cincinnati

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Enrollment: 24,000 full-time undergraduate students

Bowl appearances: 11

NFL first-round picks: 1

Losing seasons: 29

10-win seasons: 4

Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: College numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)

The good: Location, location, location. Cincinnati is located in a hotbed of high school football talent, with several strong local prep programs in its backyard. The Bearcats can build most of their roster simply by recruiting the state of Ohio. Cincinnati is a good sports town that loves football, and even though the Bengals share the same space, that franchise hasn't exactly been racking up Super Bowl trophies. Nippert Stadium is small, with a seating capacity around 35,000, but is quaint and unique in the heart of campus. Former coach Brian Kelly showed that the program could win at a high level, and that fans would follow.

The bad: Cincinnati struggled with mediocrity -- or worse -- for most of its history, and people in the area showed more interest in high school football, the Reds or even the school's own basketball team than the gridiron Bearcats. It's a true urban campus that is landlocked with little room for expansion, which makes enlarging Nippert difficult (and discourages pregame tailgating). Ohio State is a couple of hours north but still dominates the state in interest and recruiting. The small stadium also prevents huge revenue streams for the athletic department, which is why the school is playing two of its home games at the Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium this season. There remain questions whether the program can annually compete for Big East titles and BCS bids, or whether that was just a product of Kelly's coaching acumen.