Three decades later, Bengals host UC

6-27-01, 12:10 a.m.

Updated: 6-27-01, 4:30 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Ever since Paul Brown called the University of Cincinnati the Bengals' first home back in the '60s, the bond between the franchise and school has stretched through four decades.

There was former Bearcat great Greg Cook's annual comeback bids in the '70s. UC players coming off campus to help the club during the '87 NFL strike. The Bengals spending a second-round pick on Bearcats cornerback Artrell Hawkins before making him a rookie starter in the late '90s.

Now with UC allowing the Bengals to give their premium seat holders first dibs for tickets at next year's Ohio State-Bearcats game at Paul Brown Stadium, the bond is reaching into a fifth decade.

The Bengals plan to inform their luxury suite owners and club-seat patrons in a mailing this week that they have a window of opportunity to buy their seats for the Sept. 21, 2002 game before tickets go on sale to the general public.

After that, the club and UC are looking for ways to

give the Bengals' season-ticket holders access before the general sale.

It is UC's home game, not to mention the first time since the fall William McKinley was running for a second term (Oct. 13, 1900) that Ohio State has played football in Cincinnati.

The Bengals derive no revenue from the ticket sales. But they jumped at the chance to bring it to their new stadium named after a guy who coached the Ohio State program as a young man and coached on the UC sidelines as the Bengals head coach.

"We're appreciative of UC allowing us to do this," said Bengals director of business development Troy Blackburn of the ticket arrangement. "It's a neat deal for both sides.

"They get an advance sale of tickets," Blackburn said, "and we get to give our season ticket-holders a very real perk with some advance access and let them know how much we value their business. It was a no-brainer to try for this game when you have such a special day that brings Ohio State to town for the first time in more than 100 years."

If suite holders choose not to buy tickets for the game, their luxury box will be closed for the day.

If a club-seat customer decides not to opt for the $100 per ticket, UC's premium patrons (UCats, alumni, boosters, donors) will have a chance to buy in the club section.

And, any club-seat holder who buys the UC-Ohio State ticket now will get a complimentary ticket to this year's UC-Purdue game Sept. 2 at Nippert Stadium.

"There's a lot of blend between our fan bases," said UC associate athletic director Paul Klaczak. "It's natural fit because it makes so much sense. We play the same sport in the same town, just on a different level. And there's always been a good relationship with the school and the Brown family."

The same goes at Ohio State, where Paul Brown coached on the eve of World War II and Bengals President Mike Brown became a fan for life as a grade schooler. More Ohio State products have played for the Bengals than any other college, including OSU's current associate athletic director Archie Griffin.

Griffin, the two-time Heisman Trophy winner who played running back for the 1981 Super Bowl Bengals with fellow Buckeye Pete Johnson, isn't sure what the future holds for this game after '02. As OSU athletic director Andy Geiger said, "We've got a pretty nice stadium, too."

"You have to see how it goes," Griffin said. "I don't think any one doubts it's going to be a success. There are so many connections. I was there last year and it's a beautiful building. But let's see how it goes before thinking about the next one."

BYRD RELEASED: The Bengals cut guard Anthony Byrd Tuesday after he completed his season in NFL Europe. Byrd, out of Louisville, hooked on with the Bengals back in February after getting cut by the Jets in his rookie training camp.

The Bengals now have 87 healthy bodies under contract. Fullback Ricky Brown expects to go on the injured NFL Europe list after season-ending knee surgery Tuesday on his torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Bengals have to be at 83 players when training camp starts in 23 days.

STEPHENS EXTENDS: Backup right tackle Jamain Stephens signed a two-year contract Wednesday with the Bengals through 2002 in replacing the deal that ended after the upcoming season. Stephens, a former No. 1 pick of the Steelers who has started twice in a dozen games for the Bengals, figures to stay at the veteran backup price of about $650,000 per year while getting some money up front in exchange for the extra year. The 6-6, 340-pound Stephens also has the ability to play guard in a pinch.

FISHING TRIP: Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon is the big fish at Winton Woods Harbor this Saturday (June 30) when the Bengals help sponsor Kids' Fishing Day.

Dillon will sign autographs from 1 to 3 p.m., during a day that starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The event, also sponsored by the Hamilton County Park District, 92.5 FM The Fox and 1360 AM Homer, and Bass Pro Shops, also features:

_Bank fishing. Prizes will be awarded for the largest fish caught each hour from the South Cove to the other side of Winton Lake, near the wet playground. The first 150 children to catch a fish get a trophy and all children who catch a fish will receive certificates.

_Casting contest on the bank south of the boathouse. All children who can cast their lines into a 10-foot boat anchored in the lake get a goody bag and a chance to win a grand prize.

_Fishing seminars at The Hawg Trough every half hour from 10:30-3:30. Eleven pro fishermen take turns teaching at the park's 50,000-gallon fish tank.

Who-Dey and the Ben Gals cheerleaders will also attend the event, which is free. A valid Hamilton County Park District Motor Vehicle Permit is required to get into Winton Woods and may be purchased at the gate for $1 daily or $3 annual.

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