CINCINNATI - Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville was hired Saturday as Cincinnati's next football coach, leaving the Big 12 for a school trying to move up to a better conference.
The agreement came one day after Butch Jones left to become Tennessee's next football coach, ending a week of uncertainty for the Bearcats (9-3). Cincinnati has won a share of four of the last five Big East titles and will play in the Belk Bowl. Tuberville will not coach the team during the game against Duke on Dec. 27.
Tuberville went 20-17 in three seasons at Texas Tech, after coaching at Mississippi and Auburn, during which he recorded an undefeated 13-0 season. The Red Raiders he leaves (7-5) will play Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl after missing out on a bowl last season.
Tuberville resigned as Texas Tech's coach on Saturday afternoon and was introduced Saturday evening at Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati at a news conference on the basketball court after the 11th-ranked Bearcats played Maryland Eastern Shore.
"I'm proud to be a Bearcat!" Tuberville opened his comments with enthusiastic poise.
Chants of "Tommy T! Tommy T!" rang out throughout the conference from the crowd of hundreds.
“I will be a leader that helps this university go to the next level,” Tuberville told the Bearcat crowd.
When asked why he came to Cincinnati, Tuberville responded, "“I want to help Bearcat nation take the next step, to see what we can do better every day as a group and as a university.”
Tuberville's hiring ends a streak of Cincinnati getting its head coaches from smaller conferences. It's athletic director Whit Babcock's most significant hire in his first year at the school.
9 News' own Dennis Janson asked Tuberville about his age and if his stint here at UC was a last attempt at glory.
"I got a lot of years left,” Tuberville said. "The players keep me young."
The 58-year-old Tuberville takes over a program that has been a stepping stone job for the last three head coaches. Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and Jones all left after three years for bigger programs - Michigan State, Notre Dame and Tennessee, respectively.
Kelly and Jones both came from Central Michigan, while Dantonio was an assistant at Ohio State.
Like Kelly and Jones, Tuberville likes a wide-open offense. The Red Raiders ranked second nationally with 361.9 yards passing this season.
His final season at Texas Tech was marred by a sideline outburst. Tuberville lost his temper with graduate assistant Kevin Oliver during a 41-34 win over Kansas.
Tuberville appeared to strike Oliver after the Red Raiders had trouble getting the right players on the field. Tuberville said he grabbed Oliver's headset, but wished he'd handled the situation better.
It was especially notable because Tuberville was hired to replace Mike Leach, who was fired in 2009 for alleged mistreatment of a player with a concussion. After the incident on the sideline, Tuberville said he needed to set a better example for his two sons, one of whom is a walk-on freshman at Texas Tech.
The Bearcats hope his hiring allows them to end their streak of losing football coaches every three years. Tuberville takes over a program in flux.
The university has been disappointed by the Big East's massive exodus and lobbied to get into the Atlantic Coast Conference. Instead, rival Louisville got accepted by the ACC, leaving Cincinnati hoping it could make the move in a few more years.
“That’s something we can’t control,” Tuberville said at his introduction when asked about the Big East conference changes.
There's also a lot of work to do on the athletic facilities, but when asked if that concerned him, Tuberville responded, "[UC president Santa Ono and Babcock] said 'we’ll give you every possible avenue to succeed.'"
During Jones' tenure, Cincinnati expanded its football facility, adding a practice field with a protective bubble for bad weather. The school is trying to figure out how to upgrade 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium, which is the second-oldest playing site in the nation for a college team behind Penn's Franklin Field. Nippert has been in use since 1901.
Despite their Big East success, the Bearcats have played in front of disappointing crowds at Nippert. They drew only 21,171 fans on senior night - their smallest crowd of the season - for a 27-10 win over South Florida this year.
Babcock said on Friday that the school is developing plans to improve Nippert.
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On May 17, students will present short videos they created about daily life in three remote villages in Tanzania: Roche, Nyambogo, and Burere.