Let's face it. Not many folks in Cincinnati clicked their red shoes three times and repeated, "There's no place like home" whenever the Bearcats played games at Paul Brown Stadium the past few years.
Anybody who went to a game at the NFL stadium understood why. When I attended the West Virginia-Cincinnati game last season at Paul Brown Stadium, the stands looked kinda sad with so many empty seats, and there was no real home-field vibe. You never forgot you were in the home of the Cincinnati Bengals.
So it makes sense for new athletic director Whit Babcock to scrap future plans to play at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati has seven home games set for Nippert Stadium in 2012, the home field coach Butch Jones and his players much prefer. It is true that Nippert Stadium is small compared to most every other big-time football venue, with only 35,000 seats.
But it belongs to Cincinnati, and sold-out games there provide a wonderful atmosphere that Paul Brown Stadium simply cannot match. Plus, the two games held at the bigger stadium last season -- Louisville and West Virginia -- each drew fewer than 50,000 fans. There seems to be no financial benefit to playing in the bigger stadium if crowd sizes are not going to be exceptionally large.
"I think it was a good move to go down the road and explore it," athletic director Whit Babcock told The Associated Press. "We may do it on a case-by-case basis. But financially, it was good but not great for us. I'm not saying we're not going to go back, but we prefer to play on campus. Right now, we don't have any plans to play future games there (Paul Brown), but that could change."
Last season, Cincinnati only played four games at Nippert. Because Louisville and West Virginia were played at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati went more than two months between games on its true home field, from Oct. 1 until Dec. 3. This is what Jones said about the time away from Nippert, just before the regular-season finale against UConn.
"It's been a great challenge. When you really look at it, our players love playing at Nippert," Jones said. "That's where our program has been built over a long period of time, it's nestled right into campus. It's convenient for our student body. To be able to play on campus in a place that we practice most of our time, that's familiar to our surroundings, that's important. Our players believe in this stadium."
Babcock reiterated the school has begun looking at plans to expand Nippert Stadium, but there is no timetable.