How Cincinnati Becomes the Center of the College Football Universe For One Night

UPDATE 2: Well, Brian Kelly is the next coach at Notre Dame. Cincinnati's stint at the center of the college football universe was short.
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↵UPDATE:
Brian Kelly will meet with his team before tonight's banquet. The media has also been uninvited from tonight's banquet. Make of that what you will.
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↵Cincinnati football is easily experiencing its historical peak at the moment. The team is in its second consecutive BCS game, they just had what seems like their whole roster named all-Big East in some manner or fashion. Star receiver Mardy Gilyard was a first team AFCA honoree. Brian Kelly is picking up armfuls of Coach of the Year hardware. Today, the Bearcats, which easily took a back seat to some of the city's big high school programs 10-15 years ago, announced they've already sold out their allotment for the Sugar Bowl. ↵

↵So yeah, things are going well for the Bearcats ... if you ignore that giant, hovering blue-and-gold cloud over Clifton. Scattered bits of the UC fan base already seem to be publicly flogging Kelly for his departure to Notre Dame, which hasn't even happened yet. (See Twitter, which is also your source for a great and many unsubstantiated Kelly rumors at the moment. Seriously, it's like a bad game of telephone.) But tonight is the big night, and it figures that in the next 24 hours or so, we'll known the fates of Notre Dame, UC, UConn, Brian Kelly, Randy Edsall, etc. ↵

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↵UC holds its football banquet tonight and Kelly, still as of this writing, figures to be a big part of it, despite the fact that he has spoken with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and the school's search firm. This has been the day Kelly has been pointing to for some time now. Let him get through the banquet and we'll have an answer by Saturday at the latest. ↵

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↵Tonight can go two ways and either way figures to send a bit of a shockwave through college football. ↵

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↵1. Kelly has a Tim Tebow moment: ↵

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↵The ramifications of Kelly making a similar statement tonight would be profound. First, he'd be spurning Notre Dame, who presumably wants to hire him. In doing so, he'd be walking away from any number of insane amenities, not to mention a significant pay bump, that would really make the college football world re-evaluate the question of just how desirable the job in South Bend really is. Second, it sends a message that the Big East can be more than stepping stone league. Rich Rodriguez's departure had to be something of an ego blow for the league as a whole. Being the only schools to lose coaches to other jobs between the end of a regular season and a BCS game would be embarrassing, but this would reverse the course, even if only temporarily. ↵

↵2. Kelly takes the Notre Dame job. ↵

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↵It's the scenario that, despite all the Edsall talk, seems more likely. (Then again, it isn't always the obvious hire that gets made.) But if Kelly goes ... well, that's two Big East coaches bolting for other schools in the last three years before a BCS bowl game, leaving programs high and dry. It sets the UC program, which has risen to prominence with back-to-back BCS games, back a few steps and brings into question their Big East dominance going forward. For Cincinnati fans, it probably sets the whole football movement back, too, because this is still an institution of converted hoops fans from the Bob Huggins era. They've been sort of dragged along for a while, and it's only through unprecedented success that they came to love football. Part of what made Huggins such a folk hero was that he stayed at UC through so many overtures from other schools. Kelly has to decide whether that's the path for him. ↵

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↵Part of me expects no answer tonight, although I imagine you'll be able to cut the tension in the air. As unfair as it would be to one-up this incredible season, isn't it equally unfair that the players have no idea if they'll even have their coach in the Sugar Bowl? This is like trying to figure out when it's a good time to be fired. Early in the week or late in the week? Bad news is bad news. Either way, the next 24 hours or so, when we figure to get a decision from Kelly, will say a lot about more than one small corner of college football. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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