- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW ORLEANS -- Urban Meyer knows all about Cincinnati football. But until recently, the Florida coach didn't know his alma mater had joined the big time.
Meyer played defensive back at Cincinnati, graduating in 1986. Well, he didn't play all that much, earning his lone letter in 1984.
"I was not a very good player," he said at Thursday's Allstate Sugar Bowl news conference. "I tried real hard."
Meyer met his wife at Cincinnati, and his sister, Gigi, is a vice provost still at the school. But he wasn't exactly a huge fan of the football program.
"There was a little bit of a disconnect," he said. "I didn't have a great experience there. I ... did not have strong feelings about the level of football."
The Bearcats were mired in something less than mediocrity during Meyer's tenure. They went 2-9 during his letterman season, losing by 40 to Memphis, by 31 to Florida and by 60 to Auburn.
In April 2008, Meyer came back to Cincinnati to visit his father, who was having health problems. His friend on the Bearcats coaching staff, Tim Hinton, invited him to campus to watch practice. Meyer spoke to the team that day and said he came away very impressed with how Brian Kelly ran things and how the school had upgraded its facilities.
Kelly and his staff traveled to Gainesville this past summer to visit with Meyer and talk football with the Gators coaches.
"It's one of the few times I allowed a staff to do that, but that was because of the respect that I had for what I saw that day (in April '08)," Meyer said.
Cincinnati scored a touchdown in this year's opener at Rutgers by using tight end Travis Kelce in a Tim Tebow-esque Wildcat formation. Kelly said after the game he had stolen that play from Meyer.
Meyer said the Bearcats have made a succession of good coaching hires, and he's glad his alma mater is in the business of winning football games. He just hopes they lose to his Gators on Friday night.
"I do believe they can sustain," he said. "Cincinnati is a great town. It's got great players. That's two prerequisites of having a good program. I could tell you stories about where we practiced, our weight rooms, and it was just not high‑level football. And now it is."
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