Cincinnati won't play at Paul Brown Stadium

JOE KAY AP Sports Writer Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- The University of Cincinnati won't play any games at Paul Brown Stadium next season, a change in philosophy for a school trying to make itself more attractive to fans and recruits.

The Bearcats played one game at the 65,500-seat stadium in 2010 and two Big East games there last season, trying to give themselves a bigger profile.

The two-year experiment didn't meet expectations, prompting the school to schedule seven home games in 2012 at 35,000-seat, on-campus Nippert Stadium. Coach Butch Jones and Bearcats players said last season that they preferred playing on campus than having to travel to the NFL stadium downtown.

Whit Babcock, who took over as athletics director last year, told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday that the two-year experiment with games at Paul Brown Stadium didn't work out financially as well as the school had hoped.

"I think it was a good move to go down the road and explore it," Babcock said. "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."

Cincinnati played at Paul Brown for the first time in 2002, when it nearly upset eventual national champion Ohio State. The Bearcats returned there in 2010, losing to No. 8 Oklahoma 31-29 in front of 58,253 fans.

They played two Big East games against regional rivals there last season, hoping an influx of Louisville and West Virginia fans would result in big crowds that would allow them to pay the stadium rent and make a nice financial return. The games drew 40,971 and 48,152 fans.

Babcock said the crowds weren't large enough to justify playing more games there.

"It wasn't such a significant financial increase that it was a no-brainer," he said. "Unless we can get a crowd of 50,000 to 55,000, like they did for Oklahoma a few years ago. ... Is it better to sell out Nippert at 35,000 and create some demand for tickets, or have 40,000 to 42,000 that looks half-full at Paul Brown?"

The school has studied Nippert for years, hoping to upgrade and expand the fourth-oldest playing site for college football. The Bearcats began playing on the site in 1902. It has undergone numerous renovations.

Babcock said the school's immediate focus is on renovating the west side of the stadium and adding premium seating.

"We've started getting the ball rolling on plans and drawings and options and price," he said. "We don't have a timetable for it."

The Bearcats, who have won at least a share of the Big East title in three of the last four seasons, open on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Nippert Stadium against Pittsburgh.