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Cincinnati Bearcats History

Why Bearcats?

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats were born on Oct. 31, 1914. The occasion was a football game with the University of Kentucky Wildcats, a star UC player named Baehr, a creative cheerleader and a talented cartoonist.
During the second half of that hard-fought football game, UC cheerleader Norman "Pat" Lyon, building on the efforts of fullback Leonard K. "Teddy" Baehr, created the chant: "They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side."

The crowd took up the cry: "Come on, Baehr-cat!" Cincinnati prevailed, 14-7, and the victory was memorialized in a cartoon published on the front page of the student newspaper, the weekly University News, on Nov. 3. The cartoon, by John "Paddy" Reece, depicted a bedraggled Kentucky Wildcat being chased by a creature labeled "Cincinnati Bear Cats".

The name stuck, but not immediately. Following Teddy Baehr's graduation in 1916, the name dropped out of use, at least in print, for a few years. On Nov. 15, 1919, Cincinnati played at Tennessee. Cincinnati Enquirer writer Jack Ryder's dispatch on the game was the first time that the major media called UC's teams "Bearcats." From then on, the university's teams were regularly called Bearcats.

What is a bearcat?

The word first appeared in print circa 1889 as a synonym for the giant panda. "Bearcat" is a simple translation of the Chinese word for panda-xiong mao-which means "bear-cat".

By 1895, naturalist H.N. Ridley reported that the binturong-a large cat from Malaysia-was known as the "bear-cat". There is a binturong at the Cincinnati Zoo which frequents UC games.

UC's athletic teams sport a logo in which the letter "C" has been converted into a paw. The logo is a federally registered trademark of the University of Cincinnati and may not be used for any commercial or noncommercial purposes without written permission of the University of Cincinnati Licensing Program (513-556-3483).

History of Cincinnati Basketball

Bearcat Basketball...a Proud History

The University of Cincinnati stands among the nation's elite in college basketball.

Six Final Four appearances, and back-to-back national championships, are accomplishments only a handful of programs can boast.

In fact, UC is the 10th-winningest team in NCAA tournament history. The Bearcats have compiled a 37-20 record in NCAA play for a .649 percentage.

Cincinnati's 1,449-836 record (.634), compiled over 102 seasons, places the school among the top 30 winningest programs. Since post-World War II, the beginning of modern day college basketball, UC has a 1,111-518 ledger (.682), an average of over 19 wins per year. The Bearcats have advanced to post-season play 29 times and have been conference champions in 28 seasons.

UC's losses in tournament play have also been noteworthy. Cincinnati has been eliminated from the NCAA playoffs five times by teams which eventually won the title and lost once to the eventual champ in NIT competition.

The Bearcats' excellence is not portrayed in numbers alone. UC is the alma mater of several of college basketball's greats-29 Bearcats have earned All-America honors, two went on to become Olympic Gold Medalists and two are enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

One of the first of Cincinnati's long list of standouts was Jack Twyman, who earned All-America status in 1954-55. He went on to NBA stardom and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Oscar Robertson is still widely-recognized as one of the greatest to ever play the sport-college or professional. A unanimous three-time All-American, he was college basketball's all-time leading scorer at the close of his career. His 33.8 scoring average today ranks third on the NCAA career charts, and he has the NBA's second most career assists. The Hall of Famer led the U.S. Olympic team to the 1960 Gold Medal.

Sparked by the exploits of Robertson, who became the first player to lead the nation in scoring in three consecutive seasons, Cincinnati advanced to the Final Four in 1958-59 and 1959-60, settling for third place both years.

With a rookie head coach and without Robertson, the Bearcats won their first national title in 1960-61. Then to prove that its 1961 championship was no fluke, UC repeated as champion in 1961-62.

Cincinnati made a then-unprecedented fifth straight trip to the Final Four in 1962-63, and narrowly missed capturing a third-straight national crown when Loyola (Ill.) overcame a 15-point deficit and defeated the Bearcats by a basket, 60-58, in overtime.

During those five seasons, UC recorded a 37-game win streak and posted a 161-16 ledger. The five straight Final Four appearances is a feat topped only by UCLA.

Connie Dierking (1958), Ralph Davis (1960), Bob Wiesenhahn (1961), Paul Hogue (1961, 1962), Tom Thacker (1963), Tony Yates (1963), Ron Bonham (1963, 1964) and George Wilson (1963) were accorded All-American recognition with Wilson playing on the U.S. 1964 Olympic gold medal team.

The Bearcats success continued in the 1970's, during which UC compiled a 170-85 record (.667). Cincinnati inaugurated the Metro Conference by winning the league's first two tournament championships and made four post-season appearances. Jim Ard (1970), Lloyd Batts (1973), Steve Collier (1976), Gary Yoder (1977), Bob Miller (1978) and Pat Cummings (1979) earned All-American recognition.

Cummings closed his illustrious career as UC's No. 2 leading scorer of all-time. The 1980's saw Roger McClendon, capitalizing on the new 3-point field goal rule, take over as the No. 2 career scorer.

While UC made only one postseason appearance, groundwork was laid which would make Cincinnati a dominant team in the 1990's.

UC's Winning Tradition Continues Under Bob Huggins

The Bob Huggins era at the University of Cincinnati has made the last dozen seasons one of the brightest periods in the school's rich basketball history.

In fact, only the late 1950's and early1960's, during which the Bearcats made five straight trips to the Final Four and won back-to-back national championsips, shines brighter.

Huggins rekindled those national championship expectations in only his third season at the helm, when he directed UC to the Final Four.

The Bearcats have advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament three times and have reached the Sweet 16 four times.

Cincinnati has won its conference season and/or tournament title in 11 of the past 12 seasons. UC has claimed seven league tournament titles and nine regular season crowns during this span.

The Bearcats have finished in the Top 10 of the final polls in six of the past 12 years. During this time, Cincinnati has ranked among the nation's top 10 winningest programs both in terms of winning percentage and victories.

Cincinnati's record over the past eight seasons is even more impressive. The Bearcats have compiled a 210-55 ledger, posting the sixth-highest winning percentage (.792) and sixth-most victories in NCAA Division I.

Fifteen Bearcats have garnered first team all-conference honors during the Huggins era. Danny Fortson, a three-time first team all-league choice, was tabbed Most Outstanding Player in Conference USA in both 1995-96 and 1996-97. Kenyon Martin was the unanimous choice as C-USA Player of the Year in 1999-00 and garnered three straight league Defensive Player of the Year award. Steve Logan followed suit by earning C-USA Player of the Year honors in 2000-01 and 2001-02

Fortson, Nick Van Exel, Ruben Patterson, Bobby Brannen, Melvin Levett, Logan, Martin and Pete Mickeal have joined Cincinnati's list of All-Americans. Fortson was a consensus first team All-American in 1996-97 after receiving second team recognition in 1995-96. Van Exel was a third team All-American in 1992-93. Patterson garnered third team honors in 1997-98 while Levett, Mickeal and Logan earned honorable mention recognition in 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2000-01, respectively.

Martin was college basketball's top player of the 1999-2000 season, making a clean sweep of the national player of the year awards. Logan was a consensus All-American in 2001-02 and a finalist for every national player of the year award, earning the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award as the top player six foot or under.

As further evidence of Cincinnati's excellence, 10 Bearcats have been selected in the NBA draft, three of whom were top 10 picks.

The headliner of this list is Martin who was the No. 1 pick of the entire 2000 draft by the New Jersey Nets.

DerMarr Johnson was the No. 6 pick of the 2000 draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Fortson was the No. 10 selection of the 1997 draft.

Cincinnati Basketball Timeline

1900-01: After several unsuccessful attempts to organize the sport, basketball became an established part of Cincinnati's intercollegiate program with the hiring if its first head coach, Henry S. Pratt. No games were played that year.

1901-02: Basketball formally debuted as a selected varsity team played nine games. Cincinnati lost to Yale but defeated a team from the University of Kentucky while compiling a 5-4 record, the remaining games against non-collegiate teams. Home games were played in a gym in the basement of McMicken Hall. Pillars on the court gave UC a home court advantage.

1907-08: Cincinnati completed the season with an unblemished 9-0 record, claiming the mythical Ohio Collegiate Championship.

1910-11: Cincinnati joined the Ohio Athletic Conference, an alliance of Ohio colleges.

1911-12: Schmidlapp Gym was opened as UC's new home court.

1918-19: Boyd Chambers began his 10-season coaching tenure, still the longest in Cincinnati history.

1925-26: Cincinnati and five other Ohio schools bolted the Ohio Athletic Conference to form the Buckeye Athletic Association, also known as the Buckeye Conference. The Bearcats compiled a 17-2 record to captured the first Buckeye cage title.

1927-28: Cincinnati garnered its second Buckeye Conference crown. At the close of the season, UC played Xavier in a game to dedicate the latter's new gym, a modest beginning for what later developed as a heated cross-town rivalry. Boyd Chambers stepped down as head coach to become Cincinnati's first full-time athletic director at season's end, capping a 10-year career during which he compiled a 106-81 record.

1928-29: Frank Rice debuted as Cincinnati's new head coach and promptly directed UC to the first of two straight Buckeye championships.

1931-32: Chester Smith became the first African-American to play basketball at Cincinnati. After serving as a reserve, he was a regular on the front line during the 1932-33 and 1933-34 seasons.

1942-43: Cincinnati appeared in two double headers at Xavier's Schmidt Fieldhouse. UC and Xavier played each other for the first time since 1927-28.

1946-47: Firey John Wiethe was hired as UC's 17th head coach. Cincinnati, without a conference since the disbanding of the Buckeye Athletic Association in the mid-1930's, joined the Mid-American Conference and claimed the league's cage crown in that initial season. The Bearcats played half of their home games in a basketball arena constructed at Music Hall.

1948-49: The Bearcats won their third straight Mid-American Conference title. A 23-8 season was capped by a championship in the first Cincinnati Invitational, played in the city's newest sports arena, Cincinnati Gardens. Bill Westerfeld became UC's first 1000-point scorer, capping his career with 1,092 points.

1949-50: Cincinnati posted a 20-6 ledger en route to a fourth straight MAC crown and another Cincinnati Invitational trophy. Dick Dallmer and Jim Holstein each topped the 1,000-point plateau in career scoring, Dallmer closed his career as the school's all-time scoring leader with 1,098 points. Cincinnati Gardens became the Bearcats' playing home.

1950-51: Sophomore Larry Imburgia scored a school-record 40 points in his first game as a Bearcat. After claiming its fifth straight Mid-American Conference title, Cincinnati made its first venture into post-season play with selection to the National Invitation Tournament. UC lost in double overtime to St. Bonaventure in the tourney opener.

1952-53: George Smith succeeded John Wiethe, who was 106-47 in six seasons, as head coach. Cincinnati departed the Mid-American Conference and began national scheduling, appearing in the prestigious Holiday Festival in New York. Jack Twyman made his debut as a Bearcat.

1954-55: Cincinnati opened its new on-campus arena, Armory Fieldhouse, with a 97-65 win over Indiana in the mid-December dedication game. Jack Twyman scored a UC season record 712 points, highlighted by a 49-point outing vs. Western Kentucky. He closed his career owning all of the Bearcat scoring records, including the career mark with 1,598 points, earning second team All-American honors. Frank Nimmo took the spotlight in the Bearcats' venture in the NIT, earning a berth on the all-tournament team. Cincinnati closed the season with a 21-8 record.

1957-58: Oscar Robertson made his debut, and quickly emerged as one of the top college players in the country. He scored over 50 points in three different games and was the nation's leading scorer with a school season record 984 points. The Bearcats celebrated their entry into the Missouri Valley Conference by winning the league title. Cincinnati made its first NCAA tournament appearance, losing to Kansas State in overtime at the Midwest Regional.

1958-59: Buoyed by the offense of Oscar Robertson-the junior repeated as national scoring champ-Cincinnati compiled a 26-4 ledger and a second straight Missouri Valley crown. UC breezed through the Midwest Regional to make its first appearance in the NCAA Final Four, The Bearcats lost to eventual champion California, but rebounded with a win over Louisville in the consolation game for a third place finish.

1959-60: Oscar Robertson scored a school record 62 points in an early-February game vs. North Texas State, and in the process became the NCAA's all-time leading career scorer. Robertson won his third straight National Player of the Year award while Cincinnati won its third straight Missouri Valley title. The Bearcats handily defeated both foes in the Midwest Regional to make their second trip to the Final Four. California again turned back UC's title hopes as the Bearcats finished third. George Smith stepped down as head coach to become athletic director, capping a career in which he posted a 154-56 record in eight years.

1960-61: Largely an unknown team, without Robertson, and with a new head coach, Ed Jucker, in command, Cincinnati stumbled to a 5-3 start. The Bearcats then won their next 22 contests, garnering a league title, a then-unprecedented third straight trip to the Final Four, and a national championship. In the only championship game matchup of two teams from the same state, UC defeated Ohio State in overtime, 70-65.

1961-62: Cincinnati fashioned a 28-2 record, but the Bearcats had to defeat Bradley in a league playoff game to defend their national title. UC won the Midwest Regional to earn its fourth straight trip to the Final Four. After edging UCLA, 72-70, in the semifinals, Cincinnati became a repeat champion with a 71-59 win over Ohio State. Paul Hogue was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

1962-63: UC breezed to its fifth straight Missouri Valley Conference crown and, after winning the Midwest Regional, a fifth straight trip to the Final Four. An 80-46 win over Oregon in the semifinals put the Bearcats in position to win a then-unprecedented third straight national title. Cincinnati held a 15-point lead over Loyola (Ill.) in the second half of the championship game, only to have the Ramblers come back to win, 60-58, in overtime. Cincinnati led the nation in defense.

1963-64: One of the longest home winning streaks in college basketball history was snapped when Kansas defeated Cincinnati in Armory Fieldhouse in early December. During the streak, UC won 72 straight games in Armory Fieldhouse plus 18 in Cincinnati Gardens for a home win streak of 90 games. n 1964-65 Ed Jucker announced his retirement as head coach in February, and the Bearcats won their final three games to send their mentor out with a winning record. Jucker's six-season ledger of 113-28 gave him the school's best winning percentage (.801).

1965-66: Tay Baker succeeded Ed Jucker as head coach and directed Cincinnati to a 21-7 campaign, a Missouri Valley Conference title and an NCAA tourney berth. The Bearcats were defeated by Texas-El Paso, the eventual tourney champion, in the Midwest Regional.

1969-70: Cincinnati compiled a 21-6 record and was selected to the NIT. Jim Ard earned All-American honors.

1972-73: Gale Catlett succeeded Tay Baker as head coach. Lloyd Batts was a first team All-American pick. n 1973-74 Cincinnati, which finished with a 19-8 record, advanced to the NIT.

1974-75: Buoyed by the recruitment of five high school All-Americans, the Bearcats compiled a 23-6 record to return to the NCAA tournament.

1975-76: Cincinnati joined six other schools in forming the Metro Conference, then won the league's initial tournament. The title advanced the Bearcats to their second straight NCAA tourney appearance.

1976-77: Riverfront Coliseum became the new home of the Bearcats, and UC celebrated by winning its first 23 games in the new arena. Cincinnati posted a 25-5 ledger and won its second straight Metro tourney crown to advance to the NCAA Midwest Regional. There, the Bearcats lost to Marquette, which went on to win the national title.

1978-79: Eddie Lee broke a 20-year old Oscar Robertson UC record by dishing out 15 assists in a win over Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden. Pat Cummings concluded his career with 1,762 points, second only to Robertson.

1980-81: The Bearcats rebound from a 3-5 start to post a 16-13 ledger. After finishing third in the Metro regular season race, UC advanced to the championship game of the conference tournament, where the Bearcats finished on the short end of a 42-31 slowdown contest with Louisville.

1981-82: Cincinnati and Bradley battled for seven overtimes, an NCAA record, before the Bearcats prevailed, 75-73, in the longest NCAA Division I basketball game ever.

1983-84: Tony Yates, who had been part of Cincinnati's NCAA championship success as a player, returned as head coach.

1984-85: Cincinnati, 3-25 the season before, posted a 17-14 ledger. Tony Wilson fired in a 54-foot shot at the buzzer to defeat UAB, 69-67, in early December, one of five games won with a basket in the final minute. UC advanced to the second round of the NIT.

1985-86: Roger McClendon scored 35 points, the most by a Bearcat in seven years, to spark an 84-82 win over Louisville.

1986-87: Joe Stiffend's 15-foot jumper at the buzzer boosted UC to a 75-73 win over cross-town rival Xavier.

1987-88: With the completion of its new on-campus arena two years away, Cincinnati moved its homes games from Riverfront Coliseum to Cincinnati Gardens. Roger McClendon, benefiting from college basketball's adoption of the 3-point field goal a year earlier, finished his career as the No. 2 Bearcat career scorer with 1,789 points.

1989-90: Bob Huggins debuted as head coach. Huggins, who promised in his introductory media conference to lead the Bearcats back to post-season play, directed a team, whose fifth starter was a walk-on from the football team, to a 20-14 ledger and the NIT. That football player, Steve Sanders, sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift UC to a 66-64 win over Minnesota in the inaugural game in the new Shoemaker Center. Cincinnati advanced to the second round of the NIT, losing to DePaul on another buzzer-beater.

1990-91: Cincinnati had a 15-7 record in mid-February, but injuries contributed to a 2-5 ledger in the final three weeks of the season and the Bearcats settled for a return trip to the NIT. UC again advanced to the second round.

1991-92: The Bearcats opened play in the Great Midwest, and marked their debut in this new conference by sharing the regular season title and winning the tournament crown. By mid-February Cincinnati made its first appearance in two decades in the Top 20 rankings. The Bearcats were seeded fourth in the Midwest Regional. UC defeated its four regional foes by an average margin of 20.8 points to make its sixth appearance in the Final Four. Michigan edged UC, 76-72, in the semifinal.

1992-93: Cincinnati picked up where it left off, winning 17 of its first 18 games to earn a No. 4 national ranking. The Bearcats accomplished this feat without the services of center Corie Blount, who missed the first 11 games due to an eligibility ruling. UC claimed the Great Midwest regular season outright, then won its second straight league tournament. The Bearcats were seeded No. 3 in the East Regional. UC handily won its first three NCAA tourney contests by an average margin of 27 points. An overtime loss to eventual NCAA champ North Carolina prevented UC from making a second straight trip to the Final Four. Nick Van Exel earned third team All-American honors.

1993-94: After finishing fourth in the regular season race, Cincinnati won its third straight Great Midwest tournament and advanced to the West Regional, where UC suffered a first-round loss. Dontonio Wingfield, who earned Freshman All-American honors, declared himself eligible for the NBA draft that spring.

1994-95: UC closed out the Great Midwest Conference with a fourth straight tournament championship. LaZelle Durden fired in the game-winning shot with 1.2 seconds to play in the championship game win over Saint Louis. Durden had scored 45 points, the most by a Bearcat in 34 years, in a mid-December win over Wyoming, clinching the 81-80 victory with three free throws after time expired. Cincinnati made its second straight trip to the West Regional, where the Bearcats advanced to the second round.

1995-96: The Bearcats captured both the regular season an tournament titles in Conference USA. Seeded No. 2 in the Southeast Regional, Cincinnati made its third appearance in the NCAA tourney Elite Eight the past five years. Danny Fortson, who garnered C-USA Most Outstanding Player honors and was tournament MVP, was a first team All-American selection by Basketball Weekly and College Sports, and earned second team All-America honors by five other polls. UC finished ranked No. 7 by AP and No. 6 by USA Today/CNN.

1996-97: The Bearcats began the season as the consensus No. 1-ranked team and junior Danny Fortson was a consensus preseason All-American. UC rolled to a 26-8 season, capturing the Conference USA regular season title, and made its sixth straight NCAA appearance. Fortson capped his career-he elected to turn pro following the season-as the school's No. 2 scorer and first consensus first team All-American in 34 years.

1997-98: With but one returning starter the Bearcats posted a 27-6 record, claimed both the C-USA regular season and tournament titles and garnered a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Kenyon Martin recorded UC's first triple-double in 31 years with 24 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocks in a late February win over DePaul. Martin was MVP of the C-USA tournament, Ruben Patterson was named third team All-American while Cincinnati posted its third straight top-10 poll finish.

1998-99: Cincinnati won its first 15 games, including an upset over No. 1-ranked Duke, en route to a fourth straight C-USA regular season crown. The Bearcats earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA East Regional. Melvin Levett and Kenyon Martin earned honorable mention All-American recognition.

1999-00: Cincinnati was the nation's top team and Kenyon Martin was college basketball's top player. UC was ranked No. 1 in the national polls for 12 of 18 weeks and Martin made a clean sweep of the national player of the year awards (Naismith, Wooden, Rupp, Robertson, NABC). The Bearcats tied a school record for victories with a 29-4 record and won their fifth straight Conference USA regular season title. UC seemed poised for a run for the national title until Martin suffered a broken leg in the Conference USA tournament. Martin was a unanimous first team All-American with Pete Mickeal earning honorable mention honors.

2000-01: With but one returning starter, Cincinnati got off to a 12-6 start and a meager 3-3 ledger in Conference USA play. The Bearcats won nine of their final 11 regular season games to claim their sixth straight C-USA season crown. After finishing runner-up in the C-USA tournament, UC was seeded No. 5 in the West Regional and parlayed that position to advance to the Sweet 16. Steve Logan, who hiked his scoring output by 50 percent during the Bearcats' final 21 games, was named C-USA Most Outstanding Player.

2001-02 Unranked in the major polls at the start of the season, the Bearcats posted a 31-4 record (setting a new standard for victories)won a seventh consecutiv e Conference USA regular season championship, captured the C-USA tournament crown and earned their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Steve Logan earned his second straight Conference USA Player of the Year award, was a consensus All-American and a finalist for every national player of the year honor.

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Cincinnati Bearcats History

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