I had a chance to check in with new Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock on Friday morning. No doubt he has had plenty on his plate since starting the job several months ago.
His first order of business was securing head coach Butch Jones to a long-term deal. With that done, Babcock has had to turn his attention to continued conference realignment, possible stadium expansion plans, fund-raising and figuring out just who is going to fill the holes open on the 2012 schedule.
Here is a little about what he had to say on the hottest topics facing the Bearcats right now.
So about that 2012 schedule ... Cincinnati has one opening for a nonconference game, and another for a league game with West Virginia out of the picture. Ideally, the Bearcats want to secure a seventh home game. But the few schools that have openings on their schedule would like a home game as well. Babcock would love to add a second team from an AQ conference to the 2012 schedule, but admits that just might not be possible this year because of the unique position every Big East school has been put in with the dual departures of West Virginia and TCU. Babcock has not ruled out the possibility of hitting the road for a game against an AQ opponent, or scheduling a second FCS team at home to fill out the slate.
"I would like to have another BCS opponent, but I'm not sure we can get there this year," Babcock said. "My philosophy is to have two, but right now we only have one. This year has been a challenge."
On maybe playing two FCS teams, Babcock said, "We don't take any of our opponents for granted, and ideally that's not something we want to do. A lot of schools are having to go there this year. It's just a weird year from a scheduling standpoint, and I ask our fans for their patience. I hope they come out and support whoever is on our schedule."
How about plans to expand Nippert Stadium? Those are in the early stages, Babcock says, and predicated on two main factors -- fund-raising and incoming revenue from the new television deal the Big East is in line to receive. A portion of whatever Cincinnati gets from the new TV deal would go to the stadium expansion efforts.
The expansion plans focus on the press box side of the stadium, where the hope is to increase premium seating and improve fan amenities. Babcock did not have a dollar figure on the cost associated with the expansion. "This is part of our vision, and it's something I'd like to do, but this television contract -- we have to get some closure for that."
As for that new television contract ... Babcock says he has not heard any estimates for how much money the Big East is in line to receive, but reiterated the Big East is undervalued in its current deal. It is Babcock's belief that getting the new television deal squared away will lend the league much more stability. "Before we enter into those negotiations, we have to be all in. That contract, getting to that point emphasizes the stability."
And those Big 12 rumors ... There might be the potential for the Big 12 to expand to 12 teams at one point in the future. Cincinnati might or might not be on a short list. Is the Big East stable enough to ward off another raid?
"In this day and age, you don't want to be surprised by anything, but our commitment is with the Big East," Babcock said. "You have to plan for most anything. If we can get to that TV standpoint and the revenues are elevated to what everybody else is making, and the league becomes stable -- I don't see any need to leave. If you're generating from a TV standpoint the same amount as the other leagues, what would be the motivation to leave at that point? We have had no discussions of leaving, and no offers to leave. I want to make very clear that our commitment is to the Big East and our president is on the executive committee of presidents, and has taken an active role and working hard on this."