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Bearcats Build Mansion In Cottage Neighborhood

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Jared Wickerham/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Lots of changes are happening in Cincinnati.

Tommy Tuberville became head coach in December. The Big East is crumbling and morphing into the American Athletic Conference. A stadium renovation is forthcoming. Oh, and the Bearcats recently landed the biggest recruit in the program's history.

Where is the program headed?

Cincinnati has drastically improved the last few years behind the leadership of Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, all of whom guided the Bearcats to plenty of wins before bolting for more prestigious programs. Tuberville could be no different, having had success at Auburn in between stops at Ole Miss and Texas Tech. While his records at Ole Miss and Texas Tech were mediocre, his time at Auburn included an undefeated season in America's best conference, the SEC.

The biggest question concerns Cincinnati's competition and strength of schedule. The Bearcats finished the 2012 season 10-3, including a first-place tie in the Big East. The conference, however, is deteriorating in reputation, with the caliber of its programs significantly declining as the league changes into the "American Athletic Conference." With conference realignment finally slowing down and a four-team playoff replacing the BCS, Cincinnati could be stuck on the outside looking in. While the Bearcats should continue to rack up wins over mediocre football teams, they won't impress anyone by crushing subpar competition.

Still, Tuberville and his players have to worry about what they can control, which is victories, not conference musical chairs. And Tuberville's players are ready; they have experienced success and have added such stars as Jeff Luc, a top linebacker transfer from Florida State, and Gunner Kiel, the top-ranked quarterback prospect-turned-Notre Dame transfer.

While the wins should continue to pile up for Cincinnati under Tuberville, the Bearcats' bleak conference outlook won't help them raise their profile.