Monday, December 4, 2006
Updated: December 8, 4:56 PM ET
Kelly wants Cincinnati football on city, nation map
CINCINNATI -- Brian Kelly's new boss expects him to turn
Cincinnati's ignored football program into a Top 25 mainstay, win a
Big East title right away and make sure his players graduate.
Before the Bearcats' new coach gets started on that daunting
to-do list, he's got to figure out what to do about their bowl.
Kelly arrived on campus and met with players on Monday, a few
hours after he accepted the job of replacing Mark Dantonio. Then,
he was introduced at a news conference that felt more like a pep rally
-- cheerleaders and the band were on hand, with the public invited
to attend and ask questions.
Kelly, who rebuilt Central Michigan into the Mid-American
Conference champion in only three years, promised similar results
at another school not known for football.
"We're going to win a championship here right away," he said
later, in an interview. "We're on a 5-minute plan here. We have to
win right away."
First, he has to decide how to get the Bearcats through the end
of their season.
Cincinnati went 7-5 under Dantonio, who took the job at Michigan
State. The Bearcats accepted a berth in the inaugural International
Bowl on Jan. 6 in Toronto. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who
interviewed for the job, has been running the team during the
The Bearcats play Western Michigan in the International Bowl.
Kelly will leave Central Michigan before its game against Middle
Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl on Dec. 26. He's not sure
how big of a role he'll play in preparing his new team for its
"It's a very fluid situation now," he said. "I'm going to be
here at Cincinnati. In terms of whether I'll be coaching on the
field, that has to be determined."
Kelly has a five-year contract with the school that includes a
$100,000 signing bonus and a base salary of $250,000 but will earn him over $800,000 per year. The
other income is from other bonuses, including radio and television
School president Nancy Zimpher, who forced basketball coach Bob
Huggins out of his job more than a year ago because of the
program's image, said she expects a perennial Top 25 team. "My
job, Brian," she said, "is to raise expectations."
Dantonio coordinated Ohio State's national championship defense
before he arrived on campus and started rebuilding a program that
moved into the Big East for the last two seasons. Even though the
Bearcats were starting to win, they couldn't draw many fans, which
was a factor in Dantonio leaving.
Cincinnati hasn't come close to filling its 35,000-seat stadium
since it moved to the Big East. There were 7,000 empty seats for an
upset of then-undefeated Rutgers this season despite major ticket
discounts and fan promotions, another indication that college
football is low on the community's priority list.
Kelly pointed out that Central Michigan had the second-lowest
attendance in the MAC before he took over, and is near the top as
"There's a niche out there," he said. "High school football
has its niche. The NFL and major league baseball in the Cincinnati
area have their niche, and college football does. We've got to find
our niche and develop that."
He'll change one thing: Cincinnati's reliance on defense.
For the last 13 years, the Bearcats' coaches have been former
defensive coordinators. Most of their success this season was based
upon a stingy defense that kept games close.
At Central Michigan, Kelly opened up the offense and made the
Chippewas one of the nation's top passing teams. He plans to do the
same thing in Cincinnati.
"It's all part of it," he said. "We have a unique opportunity
here. It hasn't been an offense that people would necessarily want
to change their schedule for. You'll change your schedule to see
this offense. People will come to the stadium when you win."
Kelly, who also coached Grand Valley State to Division II
national championships in 2002-03, understands that there's a lot
of skepticism about whether he can turn Cincinnati into a prominent
"At the end, we'll erase a lot of that skepticism," he said.
"But that's natural, and it should be natural. I'm going to come
in here and be perceived as very confident, maybe a bit cocky, if
you will. But it's confidence, it's not cockiness. I've done it
before, and we're going to do it again."
"We're going to win a championship here right away. We're on a 5-minute plan here. We have to win right away."
-- Cincinnati football head coach Brian Kelly