The Bearcats have in my opinion the most unique, and my personal favorite road venue in college football (and I’ve seen A LOT!). Nippert Stadium opened in 1924 and will be renovated after the Louisville game to a capacity of 40,000 with the 2014 Bearcat slate to be played entirely at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati, like Louisville, has always dealt with conference upheaval, going from Independent to the Ohio Athletic Conference, to the MAC, back to Independent, to Conference USA, the Big East and then finally the American. The Bearcats have appeared in 14 bowl games in their history with notable appearances in the Sun Bowl (twice), and the Orange and Sugar Bowls. UC currently has 24 players in NFL training camps and is headed by new head Coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville was 85-40 at Auburn including a 13-0 run in 2004 that ended with the Tigers on the outside of the National Championship game. Tuberville comes to Cincinnati after 3 seasons at Texas Tech.
Is a new D-1, FBS program having made the transition to the top level in 2000. The Huskies have been playing football since 1897, but in their short 13 years as an FBS school they have done quite well appearing in 5 bowls including the 2011 Fiesta Bowl. Connecticut has played in the 40,000 seat Rentschler Field nicknamed “The Rent” since 2003. Currently UConn has 23 players in NFL training camps.
Connecticut is lead by Paul Paqualoni who will forever reign as the winningest coach in Big East conference history. Pasqualoni is best known for his time at Syracuse where he compiled a 107-59-1 record. Coach Pasqualoni is entering his 3rd season at UConn where he has a 10-14 record.
The Houston Cougars have a RICH history in college football. The Cougs proudly claim 1989’s Heisman Trophy winner in Andre Ware, and have appeared in 4 Cotton Bowls. UH has finished in the top 25 sixteen times. Houston was a part of the famous Southwest conference from 1976-1995, and the downfall of the program actually began in 1988 when the NCAA charged the Cougars with 250 violations, placed on 5 years of probation, a 2-year bowl ban, and a Television ban during Andre Ware’s 1989 Heisman run. After the 1990 season Houston was unable to win more than 7 games until 2006. By then UH was in Conference USA after the dissolution of the Southwest Conference.
Houston is in a concentrated area of top-level high school football talent, and currently has 16 players in NFL training camps. Houston is currently constructing their new football facility set to be open for the beginning of the 2014 season, which will seat 40,000. In 2013, the Cougars will play their games at Reliant Stadium home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Tony Levine leads Houston. Levine should be familiar to Cardinal fans as he spent 3 years in Louisville during the Bobby Petrino era in various roles. Levine took over the head job when Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M and is 6-7 as head coach.
If you are reading this you probably already know a lot about the Cards. But just for the exercise, Louisville football is the back-to-back conference champions #9 team in the nation, defending Sugar Bowl Champions, while also owning wins in the Orange & Fiesta Bowls. The Cards currently have 19 players in NFL training camps, and play in the beautiful Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium which comfortably seats 55,000 red & black supporters in 100% chair-back glory. Currently the Cards have 19 players in NFL Training Camps.
The Cards are lead by a walking legend, Charlie Strong. Strong is universally loved in Louisville for his character and confidence. Strong is 25-14 as the head coach of the Cards and is entering his 4th year.
(we don’t need to spend anymore time here do we?)
The Tigers don’t like being referred to as “Memphis State” and name they once proudly claimed. Louisville & Memphis don’t like each other very much, but they haven’t had much interaction lately after the Cards left the Tigers in C-USA. Now, they’ll be together again for one season in the American Conference before the Cardinals head off to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).
If we are being honest, Memphis football hasn’t been very good lately. The Tigers were 4-8 in 2012 and just 2-10 in 2011. Memphis hasn’t been a bowl games since 2008, and has appeared in just 6 bowls since beginning football play in 1928, but they do have 11 plays currently in NFL training camps. It hasn’t been pretty but there is reason for optimism as the program has cash, plays in the 62,380 seat Liberty Bowl, is in a talent rich area, and is currently under the direction of a young Head Coach with lots of potential. Justin Fuente came to Memphis after being a big part of the TCU offense from 2009-11 and definitely has his work cut out for him at Memphis.
Like Louisville Rutgers is in a one year arrangement with the American conference, before the Scarlet Knights move on to the Big Ten. Rutgers, of course, is the first school to ever win an intercollegiate football game when they defeated Princeton 6-4. Football may no longer appear now as it did when it began but Rutgers has been there through it all. But that doesn’t mean that the history of Rutgers football has been glorious either. In 140 years the Scarlet Knights have seen just 8 bowl games, 7 of which are after 2005. In fact, Rutgers football began in 1869 but it took 109 years for the Scarlet Knights to make their first ever bowl appearance in 1978 which remained their only appearance until 2005.
As a result Greg Schiano is considered the godfather of Rutgers football, now the Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano was replaced by longtime assistant Kyle Flood who had an outstanding first season leading RU to a 9-4 mark and a tie for the conference crown. High Point Solutions Stadium is a very nice venue for a college football game and currently seats 52,454 very loud and prepared fans. Currently the Scarlet Knights can boast that 34 of its football alumni are on NFL Training Camp rosters.
The Bulls have made quite an impressive mark on college football since there arrival as a program in 1997 and to the FBS level in 2001. USF plays their home games at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers home, the 66,321 seat Raymond James Stadium and have appeared in 6 bowl games during their brief history as a football program.
Now headed by Florida native Willie Taggart, the South Florida Bulls are in GREAT hands and as in one of the most talent dense areas in the country for high school football. Despite being a program for 16 seasons, there have only been two quarterbacks to ever play football for USF……BJ Daniels and Matt Grothe. (<- last sentence was a joke)
Southern Methodist (SMU):
SMU claims 3 national championships. 1935, 1981, & 1982, none being selected by the AP or Coaches (which brings up an separate issue to be explored later). The Mustangs also claim the 1948 Heisman Trophy won by Doak Walker who now also has an award named after him given annually to the best running back in college football. Southern Methodist’s ‘glory days’ coincided with the decline of the Southwest Conference in the 1980s when only Baylor, Arkansas, and Rice of the 9-team league escaped NCAA probation. ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Pony Excess” was a play on words for the Running Back duo of Eric Dickerson & Craig James known as the “Pony Express” which chronicled SMU’s path to becoming the 3rd athletics program to receive the NCAA’s “Death Penalty” (Kentucky Basketball 1952-53, Southwestern Louisiana Basketball 1973-75). Following the NCAA’s penalties the 1987 (NCAA) & 1988 (rampant transfers) seasons were cancelled and the football program was prohibited from being shown on live TV until 1990.
From 1981 to 1984 the SMU Mustangs won at least 10 games, but after the NCAA sanctions in 1987, SMU didn’t win more than 6 games until 2009. Currently, the Mustangs are headed by June Jones who has a sparkling reputation for offense and Southern Methodist plays at Gerald Ford Stadium (1999) which seats 32,000. Currently 17 SMU alumni are in NFL Training Camps. Being in Dallas, TX and at one of the best Southern Private Universities in the country the program can still become very attractive to the recruits in the fertile area. SMU did major damage to itself, but with the hiring of June Jones and the move into the American conference it seems that they are more serious than ever about restoring their programs rich history…….the right way.
The Owls have been playing football since 1894 and have appeared in 4 bowl games in their history. Temple University has really struggled quite a bit at getting their football program to sustain success and was actually voted out of the Big East after the 2004 season before re-joining in 2012 before moving into the American. If we are being honest here, Temple football has really never been very good, they did do really well during the Al Golden era (now at Miami). Steve Addazio took the Boston College job in the off-season and was replaced by Matt Rhule the former Offensive Line coach of the New York Giants and long-time Temple assistant.
The Owls play in the 68,532 home of the Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field and currently have 17 players in NFL training camps.
The Knights are another relatively new FBS program having made the transition to the top division in college football in 1996. Central Florida has a TON of potential being in the middle of the state of Florida, and playing in their on campus Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando. In their short FBS history the Knights have appeared in 5 bowl games, the most prestigious being the Liberty Bowl (twice 2007 & 2010). Louisville fans know of UCF mainly for the QB recruiting battle between local Seneca product DaMarcus Smith, and the program’s involvement with shady recruiting runner Ken Caldwell and his associate Brandon Bender (former Louisville basketball player) that left the Knights with NCAA sanctions, the removal of its Athletic Director and a few coaches that were involved.
Currently, the Knights are lead by George O’Leary who has really done a fine job in his 9 seasons at the helm. O’Leary, unfortunately, is perhaps best known for his résumé gaffe during his hiring at Notre Dame when it was published that he had received a master’s degree from NYU-Stony Brook University (a school that does not exist). O’Leary had left a successful tenure at Georgia Tech to take the Fighting Irish position, and instead found himself as a Defensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for a few seasons before accepting the Central Florida position.
Bright House Networks Stadium seats 45,323 (Sept 2007) and really appears to be a top notch facility. UCF currently has 23 players in NFL training camps.