MORGANTOWN - If Butch Jones had his druthers, he sounds like he would prefer that when his Cincinnati football team hosts West Virginia this weekend the Bearcats would really be hosting the game.
He can't say that, of course. That would destroy the company line.
So instead he talked around the issue on Monday during the Big East's weekly coaches' teleconference.
Jones and the No. 23 Bearcats (7-1, 3-0 Big East) hosts struggling West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) at noon Saturday in Cincinnati. The game won't be played at UC's cozy on-campus Nippert Stadium, though, but rather in expansive Paul Brown Stadium, the downtown home of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Home-field advantage? Well, sure. The game will be played about three miles down the road from Nippert and some 300 from Morgantown. Whatever fans the game manages to attract to the 11-year-old, 65,535-seat venue will be predominantly for the home team.
Still, one can't help but think that Jones would just as soon play this one in 35,000-seat Nippert Stadium, which has been around in one form or another since 1902.
Again, though, Jones delicately talks around the subject.
"I think the thing the thing that's been lost as we've gone on this season is that we haven't played a home game in Nippert Stadium since Sept. 22 against N.C. State," Jones said Monday. "What we've asked of this football team and the leadership that we've been provided, I can't say enough about everyone associated with our football program right now.''
Translation: Yes, we've played pretty well so far, and we've done it despite being kicked out of our own home.
It's not that Cincinnati hasn't played home games. Three of the first four games of the season were at Nippert and the Bearcats won all three against Austin Peay, Akron and North Carolina State.
But as far as UC's program has come in recent years, including back-to-back Big East championships in 2008 and 2009 (including a 12-0 regular season in 2009), what holds the school back as much as anything is its stadium. It is one of the oldest and smallest in FBS football and can't really be expanded because it is smack dab in the middle of campus.
So in an effort to enhance the program's image, two games this season were moved downtown. The Bearcats beat Louisville at Paul Brown Stadium on Oct. 15, 25-16, in front of an announced crowd of 40,971.
By contrast, the three games at Nippert early this season drew an average of just over 25,000. Even the nationally televised game against North Carolina State, a 44-14 win, was played in front of 6,000 empty seats.