Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville sat out last year's Belk Bowl

jjones@charlotteobserver.comDecember 11, 2013 

Tommy Tuberville has never coached Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, but he was with the Bearcats during their last trip to Charlotte in 2012.

Tuberville had been named Cincinnati coach earlier in the month but decided not to coach the Bearcats in the Belk Bowl against Duke. Instead, he spent his time shaking hands, taking mental notes and talking in the TV booth with ESPN announcers.

This year, Cincinnati (9-3) returns to Charlotte to face the University of North Carolina (6-6) on Dec. 28, and the scene is familiar, but different, for Tuberville.

“It’s really good to be back,” Tuberville said at a press conference at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday. “I’m back in a different role this year. I was kind of a watching coach last year; this time I’ll be a coaching head coach. I’m excited about coming back and bringing our team.”

Tuberville’s transition from Texas Tech, where he coached for three years, to Cincinnati was tough – just like he knew it would be. So he didn’t spend much time looking at film from the Bearcats in 2012 or the Belk Bowl, but instead focused on spring practices when he installed his system.

“Most of the time I spend, and again it takes a year of transition to kind of get your feet on the ground because I’ve got over 100 employees and people are changing venues,” Tuberville said. “It’s a hard process. I dread going through that. I remember last year when I decided to take the job at Cincinnati coming from Lubbock. I had been there three years; I knew the first year what you go through. It’s a tough ordeal to leave a family to go to another family.”

He spent half a week in Charlotte getting to know the players outside of a school setting, something he said was an advantage for him as a new coach, and that expedited the learning curve.

After a 3-2 start, the Bearcats won six consecutive games before falling to Louisville in the season finale last Thursday.

He compared his team’s slow start to Cincinnati’s Belk Bowl opponent. The Tar Heels began the season 1-5 before winning five straight to become bowl eligible.

Tuberville said he’s been a part of coaching staffs that hold 33 practices in the weeks leading up to a bowl game. But he said he plans to hold about 10 practices so that his team can enjoy the bowl experience – one he said got rave reviews from players, coaches and alumni after last year’s Belk Bowl.

“I’m sure they’ll bring a lot of fans,” Tuberville said of the Tar Heels. “Sometimes you worry a little bit about going into the home state of the team that’s going to play, but we’ll have a lot of fans here, too. They were excited coming here last year, and they’ll be excited about coming back.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; T witter: @jjones9

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