University of Louisville fans are going to miss playing Cincinnati in football.
The rivalry between the UofL and UC football programs began in 1929 with the Bearcats winning the first 12 games. All those early losses are largely why Cincinnati owns a 30-21-1 edge in the series.
Cincinnati has almost always been competitive, drawing from a fertile football recruiting base in Ohio. Any win over the Bearcats is a good one, whether it was UofL beating them 70-7 in 2004 or by three, 34-31, in overtime last year. Those wins were always special.
A strong rivalry between schools with similar backgrounds and common challenges, with a relationship that predates their associations with the Missouri Valley, the Metro, Conference USA, and the Big East and all those challenges for over five decades. Their football fortunes have sagged and soared over the years but the times were always meaningful when they got together.
Within a driving distance of less than two hours, the trip to Cincinnati is an easy one and an attractive destination, the Queen City offers numerous diversions. Many a Cardinal fan has made the trip up I-71, appreciating everything the city has to offer before and after games. Great restaurants, exceptional hotels, and scenic attractions, just a nice road trip.
What I like most about the rivalry is the UofL and UC partisans have always respected each other, with no hint of the animosity that makes other rivalries so ugly and contentious. The rivalry between UofL and Kentucky is so bitter that one dreads the showdowns simply because of all the animosity between the fans and the fear of losing that accompanies the meetings.
Charlie Strong wants to continue the rivalry, as does UC Coach Tommy Tuberville but football scheduling is complex and it could be years before they get together again, with UofL heading off to the Atlantic Coast Conference and UC remaining in the American Athletic Conference.
It’s only fitting that there is so much on the line when Louisville and Cincinnati square off Thursday night, each team having experienced only one loss this season and with major bowl aspirations on the line.
A game both teams have looked forward to all season long, no shortage of respect, no overlooking anybody, a game that will hopefully bring out the best in both teams, a game that could be remembered for a long time to come.
A bittersweet ending for a rivalry that has meant much to both programs.