This year begins an new era for Cincinnati as they leave the American Athletic Conference for the Big 12. However, it also brings back the possibility to end an 18-year quest for a certain bowl destination.
In what may seem like eons ago, Cincinnati joined the Big East in 2005. I’m addition to access to an automatic bid to the BCS came other great Bowl tie-ins below the BCS.
In 2005, the Big East was tied to three bowls after the BCS, the Gator, Meineke Car Care Bowl (now the Duke’s Mayo), and Insight (now the Guaranteed Rate) Bowl. The Insight Bowl had the fourth choice of Big East schools and had been a partner of the Big East since 1998.
All of these Bowl tie-ins were huge for Cincinnati as they were all against teams from Power Conferences and the Bearcats had not played a power conference team in a bowl since the 1946 Sun Bowl when they played Virginia Tech. But even then, the Hokies technically were not a power conference team then as they played in the Southern Conference.
Cincinnati’s first Big East season in 2005 was filled with growing pains as the Bearcats went 4-7 and 2-5 in Big East play. One of the non-conference losses was to Miami (OH), the Bearcats’ last loss in the series to date. The Insight Bowl ended up selecting Rutgers as its Big East representative.
The next year, the Insight Bowl ditched the Big East and Pac-12 for the Big Ten and Big 12 and would not partner with the Big East or American Athletic Conference again.
This year, Cincinnati enters the Big 12 which has been a partner of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl since replacing the Big East in 2006. They have the sixth choice of Big 12 schools, making it entirely possible for the Bearcats to make the trip to Phoenix they missed out on 18 years ago.
The Bearcats have played twice in Arizona, with games against Arizona State in 1954 and 1976, but have never played in a bowl in Arizona. To say the Guaranteed Rate Bowl is a different bowl destination for Cincinnati would be an understatement.
Not only would a trip to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl during the current bowl cycle be a rare trip for Cincinnati, it would be a Bowl bid nearly two decades in the making.