One of the more frustrating aspects of the constant attention that is being paid to the process of conference realignment and the nearly endless potential outcomes of the event is that UC seems to be very passive. It is understandable, the common line from the media here in Cincinnati and elsewhere is that UC is at the mercy of the Big 10 and their decision making process. While I agree that UC is not going to be able to dictate much in the way of terms there are still steps that UC can take to position itself better for a conference looking to react to the Big 10’s inevitable expansion. An expansion that is almost certain to leave UC without a home.
The first thing that I would do if I were Thomas is to have the debt currently on the athletic department books moved to the University proper. That is an option that has been discussed previously. The fact of the matter is that while the Lindner Center is a gorgeous building, it is seriously holding back the Athletic Department because the building was not fully financed when constructed. If the university takes over the debt obligations of the athletic department at least has a chance the climb its way out of its current hole.
The primary limitation for the AD now is a lack of revenue generation from the revenue sports, primarily Football. I love Nippert Stadium but it is completely tapped out as a revenue generating entity. The lack of luxury and club seating puts a very low cap on the amount of money that the athletic department can generate in any given calender year. That fact is not lost on anyone. One of the biggest oversights of the master plan initiated by UC in the 90’s was that it completely hemmed in any potential for expansion for the stadium by building the CRC right behind it. That in and of itself wouldn’t be that big a deal if the department had at least thought that Nippert would need to be renovated at any point in the future. Which they didn’t. So as a result the stadium hasn’t really been touched in almost 20 years, which is much too long in my book. I am not advocating an instant expansion of the stadium. But the athletic department needs to publicly put forward some sort of definitive plan about expanding Nippert, how it would be done, how it would increase revenue streams and most importantly the way to finance it. I think that those two steps are vital to positioning UC for any conference interested in picking up UC.