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Tuberville's challenge: Attract Cincinnati fans

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Tuberville's challenge: Attract Cincinnati fans

CINCINNATI (AP) Tommy Tuberville's next challenge is to turn Cincinnati's already successful football program into something interesting enough to bring out the crowds and get other conferences interested, too.

It would help if he stuck around for a while.

The 58-year-old coach from Texas Tech brought a high-profile name to the football program when he was hired as head coach on Saturday. His predecessors were up-and-comers - an assistant at Ohio State, two Mid-American Conference coaches - who used the job as a career launch point.

The Bearcats hope Tuberville helps them become more than just a stepping stone.

``His resume, his experience speak for themselves,'' senior quarterback Brendon Kay said. ``I think it's going to allow us to buy into what he's selling right away.''

Mainly, he has to sell the program.

The Bearcats (9-3) have won or shared the Big East title in four of the last five seasons under Brian Kelly, who left for Notre Dame after three years, and Butch Jones, who left for Tennessee on Friday after his third season.

Even though they've been a success on the field, they've struggled to fill 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium. They've had to settle being a low-profile championship team stuck in a conference that's coming apart because of defections.

The Bearcats even tried to leave a few weeks ago, lobbying the Atlantic Coast Conference. It chose rival Louisville instead.

Cincinnati still could jump to a bigger conference as realignment continues in the coming years. Tuberville's hiring gives it a recognizable face for the football program that could make it more attractive to outsiders.

``It certainly was not done with that intent,'' athletic director Whit Babcock said. ``And I want our friends in the Big East to know we're happy to compete in the league and we want to win it. So no, it was not done with that angle in mind.

``But if it gives Cincinnati more visibility - a rising tide raises all the boats.''

Tuberville wasn't turned off by Cincinnati's conference instability, insisting a winning program is attractive to any conference. There are suggestions that the NCAA will eventually wind up with super conferences.

``Things will change and they're going to change every day for the next few years, and everybody knows where it's headed,'' Tuberville said.

He went 20-17 in three seasons at Texas Tech, where attendance increased after he was hired. The school sold 46,565 season tickets for his first year, a school record. Babcock hopes that Cincinnati, which drew only 21,171 fans for the final home game this season, will see a jump in attendance as well.

Babcock was encouraged that approximately 1,000 fans showed up at UC's basketball arena for a pep rally welcoming Tuberville on Saturday night, chanting ``Tommy T'' when he was introduced.

``I hope it energizes the fan base,'' Babcock said. ``He's a great promoter, one of the most laid-back CEO-type of leaders I've ever seen. But he can be fiery, too. I like it. Time will tell.''

As for how long he'll stick around ...

The last three coaches all left after three seasons, moving onto to bigger programs and bigger paychecks. Tuberville left Texas Tech after three seasons, one day after telling athletics director Kirby Hocutt that he was committed to staying with the Red Raiders.

The cycle of having a coach leave as soon as he's had a few successful seasons has stamped Cincinnati as a career launching point, a place to build a reputation before moving on to something better.

Babcock is hoping that with Tuberville, that can change.

When Babcock called Tuberville - an acquaintance from their days at Auburn and his first choice to replace Jones - he got a good feeling about longevity right away.

``I didn't even have to ask about it,'' Babcock said. ``He said, `You know what? If I come there to be your football coach, I'll stay.' I didn't prompt it and I know it's certainly no guarantee, but I was happy to hear that even before I could ask the question.''

Tuberville knew that Cincinnati was looking for someone who was willing to treat the place more like a home than a hotel.

``You can kind of read people's minds in our business and (know) what's going on and what's happened in the past,'' Tuberville said. ``I don't know, it just kind of hit me what the feeling was, what his feeling was. You can tell, too, even though I'm over 1,000 miles away - the attitude of what's happened and how disappointed people are in not having consistency.''

The Bearcats have had consistency with those four Big East titles in five years. What they need is a jump in attendance and a coach willing to stick around for more than a few years.

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter:http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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Redspears or not these uniform designs are a great option for Washington

Redspears or not these uniform designs are a great option for Washington

When looking at the endless amounts of fan concepts and designs out there for the Washington Football Team's next name and logo, it's important to remember that not every idea belongs to the name suggestion of the designer. 

Once Washington makes its final decision, you can bet they'll be looking at a number of different options, and if they want to take a look at the fans' work, they could take a Red Wolves logo and match it up with a Red Tails uniform concept and tweak both to match whatever name they choose. 

In that case, whatever name and logo they choose should have these uniforms, plain and simple. 

 

Mike Joseph created these uniforms as part of his Washington Redspears project and did an exceptional job mocking up a number of different modern uniform designs.

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Redspears isn't a likely name change due to reports saying the franchise plans to stay away from Native American imagery, but that doesn't mean we should ignore these designs.

 

These use the burgundy and gold really well and have a unique number font that has worked for NFL teams like the Ravens, Broncos, Bears, Titans and Steelers in the past. 

The great part about this design is it could be easily rebranded to a different. All the franchise would have to do is lose the spear logo and use whatever logo they settle upon. They could even keep the numbers on the helmet as they have currently. Everything else is versatile. 

Between the sleek design, use of colors and the unique number fonts, this has to be one of, if not the best fan-generated uniform mock-up out there. If the Washington Football team uses these but with a different team name and logo, it'd be hard to complain about that decision. 

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Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

Recent numbers indicate just how hard it could be for Antonio Gandy-Golden to help as a rookie

There were already some decent expectations placed on Antonio Gandy-Golden for 2020 — and then Kelvin Harmon went down. Now, the Day 3 selection is being labeled as someone who needs to really contribute to the Washington Football Team.

But is that too much to ask for a rookie who went on Saturday in the draft? Recent numbers indicate that answer may be yes.

From 2015 to 2019, 25 wide receivers were chosen in the fourth round, which is where Washington nabbed Gandy-Golden a few months ago. Here are some takeaways from looking back on how all of those guys performed in their first professional seasons:

  • Only one target topped 50 catches and 600 yards, and coincidentally enough, it was Jamison Crowder. Crowder caught 59 passes for 604 yards and two scores as a rookie for the Burgundy and Gold in 2015. The only other guy who came close to either of those marks was Antonio Callaway, who had 43 grabs for 586 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland in 2018. Those are easily the two best performances by a fourth-round rookie wideout since 2015, so keep that in mind when discussing Gandy-Golden.
  • Out of that group of 25, 15 suited up for double-digit games for their teams during their first taste of the league. The average stat line for those 15 rookies was 17 receptions for 182 yards and one touchdown in about 14 contests. That's meager. 
  • Just nine out of the 25 recorded a touchdown catch as a rookie, and only four (Crowder, Callaway, DaeSean Hamilton and Malcom Mitchell) visited the end zone multiple times.

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So, judging solely off of that data, it would appear that Washington shouldn't be prepared to lean heavily Gandy-Golden. And once you combine that history with other factors, such as the huge transition he's about to make from Libery to the NFL and the very limited offseason he's had thus far, then the outlook for Gandy-Golden becomes even dimmer.

There is a super simple counter argument, however, at least when it comes to comparing him to his past fourth-round peers, and it has to do with his potential playing time.

While the 22-year-old has to fight through a pandemic, something none of the above rookies can relate to and something that could be detrimental to his early career, he also may be in line for a massive share of snaps right away. Most players who go off the board where Gandy-Golden did are usually worried about simply making the team; he, on the other hand, very well could be a starter across from Terry McLaurin in Week 1.

That alone means Gandy-Golden could end up having enough involvement in the offense to come up with a Crowder-like, impactful debut. In 2019, McLaurin far surpassed other third-round rookie receivers due largely to the amount of opportunity he got with Washington (his ridiculous talent was a bonus of course, too). Gandy-Golden is tracking on a similar path. 

A fairly general rule for any franchise is that it's not exactly prudent to need a Day 3 pass catcher to immediately act as one of your primary weapons. Stats from 2015 to 2019 seem to back up that general rule.

Every rule has an exception here or there, though. Maybe Gandy-Golden, with his outstanding physical traits and possibly featured role in 2020, will be that next exception and make all this math and comparing a totally moot issue. 

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