First there were rumors that UC was a lock for Big 12 expansion. Then there were rumors that the Big 12 is not expanding, and never intends to do so. While I tend to believe that counter narratives are overstatements, I thought it might be helpful to point out some recent statements made by the man leading the University of Cincinnati.
But before I do that, and in the spirit of full disclosure, let me tell you what this article does not contain:
(A) I do not have any hot scoops superior to those presently available to the general public;
(B) I have not received any exclusive tips from President Ono; and
(C) I have not received any texts or voicemails from Athletic Director Mike Bohn.
While I have been included in the “sources close to the University” texts from various sources allegedly close to the University, I have nothing solid. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, feel free to stop reading and send me a mean tweet @bearcatsradio.
Put simply, my intent is to outline the circumstantial case that President Ono continues to make UC’s case to Big 12 Conference decision makers. In this article, you will see the not-so-subtle pattern of recent tweets from President Ono. Then, I will conclude with a couple of observations. First, the case…
Circumstantial Evidence of Salesmanship
The Big 12 Conference has 10 members. Their name, “Big 12,” is a misnomer that comes from a time when they had a larger membership (the inverse of the Big 10 Conference, which actually has 14 schools). Of those 10 member schools, President Ono has made his rounds to spend time with senior leadership from nearly half of those schools, memorializing the visit and time spent with a picture.
On January 8, 2015, President Ono visited with the President of Baylor University. Baylor is a member of the Big 12 Conference.
On January 9, 2015, President Ono visited with the President of Texas Christian University. TCU is a member of the Big 12 Conference.
On January 30, 2015, President Ono visited with the President of the University of Texas. Texas is a member of the Big 12 Conference.
On January 31, 2015, President Ono visited with the President of the University of Oklahoma. Oklahoma is a member of the Big 12 Conference.
Over the course of many interactions, it appears evident that President Ono and the President of Kansas State are pretty chummy, at least online. On February 19, 2014, K-State’s President tweeted: “Happy Prez day to Univ of Cincinnati Prez Santa J Ono who is taking UC to great places – a must follow for higher Ed on Twitter!” In April of 2014, they interacted on whether it was best to wear socks with boat shoes. In August of 2014, President Ono challenged K-State’s President to complete the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In November of 2014, they interacted over an ATO leadership meeting. And then on January 8, 2015, K-State’s President retweeted a picture of President Ono with Baylor’s President.
By the way, I acknowledge that statements about socks with boat shoes are utterly meaningless in the abstract (and some readers may think it’s meaningless applied here). But, I include K-State in the discussion above just to say that the two presidents seem to be friendly. Maybe they text periodically beyond their Twitter interactions; maybe not. In the least, their online interaction is more warm than President Ono’s interactions with Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University, which is isolated to a couple interactions on one topic. #Justsayin. Now for the observations…
What Does This All Mean?
It’s difficult to say what this means. The recent flurry of images may be some sort of Bat-signal to certain donors that in order to get in, UC needs the donors to pony up more cash. Or, the meetings may be taking place because President Ono is just trying to negotiate UC’s way back into the conversation, but no deal is in the works. Whatever the case, let’s acknowledge the obvious – there are a lot of colleges and universities between Clifton and Texas. President Ono could have spent time (or displayed pictures of himself) with presidents from the AAC, the ACC, the SEC, the Pac12, or the Big 10. And yet he posted pictures of himself with presidents from nearly half of the Big 12 membership schools in a month’s time.
While I doubt he’s trying to say anything in particular, I think he is saying one thing in particular – “I am out here, Bearcat Nation; I am selling UC!” That I believe with every fiber of my Bearcat being. I believe President Ono is making the University of Cincinnati’s case to any Big 12 president who will listen. I hope they listen.
By Brian Fox