November 21, 2011

Upfront and forward with Mick Cronin

Forget the game.

Cincinnati won 71-43 Monday night by playing very hard. The real intrigue cropped up twenty minutes after the game when Head Coach Mick Cronin discussed the difficulties of scheduling high-profile opponents.

Responding to a question about his scheduling philosophy Coach Cronin pounced on Cincinnati Enquirer scribe Paul Daugherty.

"I would like to hire you as a consultant to get me a neutral-site game with Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas," said Coach Cronin. "On CBS. And I mean that. I would like that."

Through four games UC has played four forgettable opponents. Alabama State, Jacksonville State, Presbyterian,and Northwestern State. Though Northwestern State has a respectable team their name gives little credibility to the victors.

"What people don't know about getting those types of games we had Duke last year in the Meadowlands and it was pulled out from underneath us," said Coach Cronin. "Because Butler made the Championship Game they were put in there as a rematch against Duke. Because Lance Stephenson went pro I guess they thought we weren't going to be any good."

Coach Cronin asserts that he spends countless hours seeking serious competitors. He says he emails ESPN Head of Scheduling Nick Dawson all the time.

'We need a big name non-conference home and home series,' said Coach Croin. 'Please.'

Coach Cronin wants his team in the Jimmy V Classic. He wants to return to Maui. He would gladly take Puerto Rico Shootout. Anything to get a better non-conference docket.

"We want to go back," said Coach Cronin of Maui Invitational. "Please."

Unforunately Coach Cronin is at the whim of the tournament directors who can only take one BIG EAST team.

"What happens is the East Coast tournaments want to sell tickets," said Cronin. "They want Syracuse, UConn, or Georgetown, or St. John's. It becomes a matter of ticket sales."

According to Coach Cronin the dried up fan support affects his ability to beef up the November-December docket.

"That is a real factor," said Coach Cronin. "That is hurting us in getting back into Maui. If you were running a tournament and you could invite Wisconsin and half of their state would show up...who would you invite?"

Empty Seats

And here we come to the elephant in the room. Where are all the Cincinnati fans? Coach Cronin got his team to the NCAA tournament, pounded Xavier, extended his contract, and graduated his players.

What more do the fans want to see from him?

For (Sean) Kilpatrick the solution is simple.

"Win."

Outgoing senior Yancy Gates frankly doesn't seem to care anymore about the local fanbase. Years of insults, jeers, and lambasting have apparently jaded the young man.

"Maybe they will show up for BIG EAST play...to see the other team," said Gates. "I was here when they were in the Conference USA and the best game was DePaul. And it was sold out. Now they are the worst team in the BIG EAST and nobody comes. What is the difference?"


Before the game, as the players warmed up, an uncomfortable truth was shared.

"I looked over to Cash and I was like, 'Yo, nobody is coming tonight,'" said Kilpatrick. "This is crazy."

Gates does not sound in the least bit fazed by the apathetic city.

"It is their money," said Gates. "They can spend it how they want to. My mom was here."

The opponent strength does pick up in the next two weeks. UC hosts Marshall Friday. Miami-Ohio might drag in a few extra thousand. But the year closes out with Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Chicago State. The trio represents the dregs of Division-1 basketball.

You know who will be at every game? The players.

"It is something we are used to," said Kilpatrick. "It gives us more fuel."

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