By Sean McMahon
CINCINNATI — It was nothing short of a magical year for the 2021 Cincinnati Bearcats football team. A second-straight undefeated regular season capped off with an American Championship. And this year, this team broke the College Football glass ceiling by being the first Group of Five team in the College Football Playoff. This team had the chance to do something no other Bearcat team has ever had the chance to do: compete for a national title. While they came up short, they faced the best program in college football.
While the final score is a tough one to swallow, this team played better against the Crimson Tide than many fans across the country expected. They hung with Alabama for a long time, but in the end, Alabama is Alabama. It was a good fight from this team and all Bearcat fans are proud of what this team accomplished this year. The future is brighter than it has ever been for this program.
When I came to UC in 2018, Luke Fickell was in his second year coming off a 4-8 season in 2017. In August of 2018, one of my fellow coworkers on the UC Football video team at the time said we would be lucky to go 6-6 and go to the Cure Bowl. In my head, I wanted to believe he was wrong. Thankfully, he was. Cincinnati traveled to Los Angeles to take on the UCLA Bruins in the season opener and the rest is history. An 11-win season capped off with a victory in the Military Bowl. That success that season only led to another 11-win season and an appearance in the conference title game. Though the Bearcats came up short against Memphis, the season ended with another bowl victory in the Birmingham Bowl.
The 2020 season was one of uncertainty. Up until the start of the season, no one in the country was sure if college football was going to be played. Fortunately, the season happened despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Luke Fickell kept his team ready to win all year, even with a one-month period in the middle of the season where the Bearcats didn’t play. Another season undefeated at home, Luke Fickell captured his first conference championship, and the Bearcats played went to a New Year’s Six Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season. Despite a heartbreaking loss to Georgia, the Bearcats came went into the offseason with a mission for 2021 and they accomplished it. I was lucky enough to be here to witness it all.
I was very fortunate to be a part of the program for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of Bearcast for these past two seasons as well and to witness some of the best teams in this program’s history year after year. I am very thankful for the time I was able to spend with the UC football program and with Bearcast as both provided amazing opportunities for me. I’m proud of this program and I cannot wait to see where Luke Fickell continues to take it. Not once in my college career did I see the Bearcats lose in Nippert Stadium. That’s something not many Bearcat fans can say. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the unforgettable memories these past four football seasons brought.