Report: Emails show Cincinnati's desire for ACC -- and the Big 12

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Emails show the obvious: Cincinnati officials are itching to switch leagues. (Getty Images)

In purely basketball terms, the University of Cincinnati's desires to leave the Big East for another conference aren't all the eyebrow-lifting. Of course the school is looking to get out. The modern Big East -- and what the landslide has reduced it to -- is now proven to be the most volatile major conference that conference evolution has seen. Yes, ever. We're just waiting on the next decision to be made. When's it going to come?

Cincinnati wants it as soon as possible, of course. But now we're getting a look behind the curtain at current feelings within the administration. We're seeing its hopes and motivations. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the school not only has its sight set on the ACC, but the Big 12 might also be a suitable landlord one day as well. This remains the case, per the Enquirer, even after the ACC handed its rose to Louisville, bypassing -- in the meantime -- Cincinnati and UConn.

The newspaper obtained emails via a public-records request, the inquisition spurred in the wake of Maryland and Rutgers going to the Big Ten in November. That news that shook college athletics after we had about 20 minutes of no realignment news to distract us from, you know, the games being played.

“Big 10 and ACC moves ... could cause Big 12 perhaps to rethink staying at 10 schools,” UC Athletic Director Whit Babcock emailed to President Santa Ono on Nov. 18, before the ACC announced its decision. “We need to focus on both ACC (primarily) but also Big 12.”

Not a total shock to see this. The response from Babcock is similar to about 80 other presidents or chancellors around the country in the past 12 months, I'm sure.

How about seeking Urban Meyer's input, though? Yes, that Urban Meyer. The guy who's turning Ohio State into a power and forcing league coaches to bolt to the ultra-competitive SEC. There was a fleeting notion that man might have some cache in this? According to the emails, yes. Seems weird.

Meyer eventually backed away from that request.

“While he is comfortable telling folks he cares deeply for UC and that he knows we are a great school, with great people and great leadership, he thinks his calls would feel contrived and that they would not have an impact,” wrote Gigi Escoe, a vice provost at UC and Meyer's sister, to Babcock Nov. 27.


Both the Big 12 and ACC have said they are done with adding new teams for now, but few believe that the shifting of the landscape of big-time college sports is complete.

“This is going to be a wild ride,” Babcock warned in the Nov. 18 email to Ono. “Can be bumpy and all-consuming. We will navigate it together.”

The story goes on to outline how big Cincinnati's push was to the ACC, from offering meetings with Washington, D.C., to basically forwarding along pamphlets that could prove why UC was best for the ACC.

“Whether they simply replace Maryland or expand, I believe our foot is in the door for the ACC,” Schnier wrote Nov. 21, according to the Enquirer. “I would encourage us to maximize our situation.”

This could eventually pay off. I've written before how schools like Connecticut and Cincinnati are essentially low-grade proteins for big leagues looking to get money more than prestige or big-time hoops. The Big 12 or ACC will eventually call their names when the time comes to bloat the leagues to their capacity, whatever that number ultimately is.

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