After taking the University of Cincinnati on a whirlwind week of cat-and-mouse, Mick Cronin has decided to remain head coach of the Bearcats. The rumors of his departure came as a surprise to the administration, students, and fans of the Bearcats basketball team. Upon further reflection, Cronin released a statement that he hoped would help clear the confusion.
“I would like people to try and understand after 10 years of dedicated service I chose to evaluate my career and my life,” Cronin explained, via the Bearcats website. “Reflecting through that process was extremely difficult, but it was something I needed to do for me personally.”
Cronin went on to express his gratitude to the University of Cincinnati and discussed how honored he was to coach for his alma mater. Cronin made it clear that he was looking forward to staying and finishing what had been started. He understands that the program has come a long way under his time as coach. The rebuilding process has been long and tedious.
Cronin also wanted to be specific about one aspect of his decision to remain. He was concerned about the players. In a statement issued per the Cincinnati Enquirer, he opted to put the kids first.
“Having gone through it, for me that would be by far the toughest part of coaches making changes. There is that bond with all of them.”
While Cronin was being wooed by UNLV, analysts and writers speculated that it was just posturing for leverage. Cronin has been lobbying for improvements to Fifth Third Arena. The 26-year-old structure is set for an $87 million renovation project. The repairs and upgrades are due to be finished in the fall of 2018. There was also the money for recruiting. Rumors had Cronin wanting more.
“It wasn’t about all that,” Cronin revealed. “I wasn’t making demands. The arena is already going to be built. That has nothing to do with this.”
University President Dr. Santa Ono was pleased with his decision to stay.
“Mick Cronin has done the tough job of rebuilding our Bearcats program, and I am thrilled to hear he will be returning next year,” Ono said. “I know he is hungry to build on the success of the past 10 years and our six straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament.”
In 10 seasons with the Bearcats, Cronin has compiled a 207-129 mark and owns a 276-153 record in 13 years as a college head coach. He enters the 2016 season as the nation’s most winning active coach age 45 or younger and has the fifth most wins, among coaches under 50 years old, per the Bearcats’ website.
UNLV Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy claims that Cronin snubbed the university. She says he verbally agreed to take the job and then flew back to Cincinnati. Kunzer-Murphy was under the impression that Cronin was going to take the position and resign in person.
According to a tweet by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Cronin never “officially” accepted the UNLV offer.
Mick Cronin to ESPN: "I never officially accepted. The interest was flattering and I understand these things are difficult for everyone."— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 25, 2016
Though there has been no public announcement from UC about modifying Cronin’s contract, it would seem fair to assume that something has changed. UNLV was offering what amounted to $3 million. Apparel manufacturer Under Armour was willing to provide as much as $1 million towards the signing of Cronin. With UNLV’s Nike deal expiring soon, the backing of Under Armour may allow the Rebels to sign a coach that would surprise fans.
University of Cincinnati Athletic Director Mike Bohn is also elated to have Cronin back.
“It’s important to me and the University of Cincinnati to sustain continuity with Mick Cronin leading our storied men’s basketball program. I salute what Mick has built, in his first decade at UC, as he was and is the catalyst for the prominent growth around the program.”
While rebuilding under Cronin, the Bearcats were the only program – from a major conference – that improved its win total every season from 2007 to 2011.
[Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]