College SportsUniversity of Cincinnati


UC History: Nippert Stadium was condemned and football almost went by the wayside

UC's $86 million renovation to Nippert Stadium
Posted at 12:19 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-31 12:21:58-05

CINCINNATI — Bearcats alum Jim Kelly has seen it all with UC football.

Kelly hasn’t been around UC Bearcats football since Day 1 way back in 1885, but if you want to know about the history of UC football, the highs, lows and everything in between, the Bearcats football radio analyst is the man to ask.

His ties to the program go back to 1946, when his father, James Kelly Sr., caught passes as a Bearcats receiver. He eventually played under hall of fame coach Sid Gillman over the 1949 and 1950 seasons.

Dad wasn’t the only member in the family to bleed red and black.

“My mom, before she passed away this summer in July, saw a home game 76 years in a row,” Kelly said.

Jim’s most vivid memories date back to Nippert Stadium back in 1968 when he was a 13-year-old ball boy for the Bearcats while his dad coached the receivers.

“I started going to games when I was around 7 or 8.” Kelly said. “I don’t remember them as much. My fondest (UC football) memories were in ’68 when Greg Cook and UC led the nation in offense.”

Jim joined the team in 1972. The program was under friendly fire by the time he graduated.

“Some professors wanted football gone,” Kelly said. “Some administrators wanted to go the University of Dayton route and drop down to I-AA. I don’t know how close it was, but it was pretty close."

By the 90s, home, Nippert Stadium, was crumbling. It was condemned and renovated during the 1990 season.

“It was very close to going away,” Kelly said.

Like his father, he eventually joined the coaching staff before broadcasting UC football.

The 1991 season, a season to remember, for all the wrong reasons. The Bearcats began the year with a 81-0 loss to Penn State.

“Joe Paterno’s wife was in the suite next to us. We’d look over at her and she’d mouth the word 'Sorry' to us,” Kelly said.

Postseason appearances in major bowls like the Sugar and Orange Bowls and now the Cotton Bowl - Kelly isn’t looking back.

“Been a lot leading up to this week,” Kelly said. “It’s been the wildest things I’ve ever seen.”

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