Marty First…President Ono Next?

Santo Ono wants to be like Marty Brennaman.

No, the University of Cincinnati’s Interim President isn’t looking to work baseball play-by-play into his busy schedule, but like the Reds’ Hall of Fame broadcaster, Dr. Ono is willing to have his head shaved if the Bearcats win 10 consecutive games.

“That is for both football and basketball,” Ono told me at halftime of the UC/Virginia Tech game.  “I hope that I lose my hair.  You look pretty good, and if they win 10 games, I’ll do it at midfield or in front of the student section.  I’ll do whatever I can to encourage the team and the coaches to play at their utmost abilities.  It’s not a big deal for me to lose my hair – I think the students love it, and I love the students.  Whatever gets them excited I’m happy to do.”

(Click here to see Dr. Ono pledge to shave his head in the locker room after the dramatic victory over Virginia Tech)

If you’re among the thousands of people that follow Dr. Ono on Twitter (@PrezOno), you are well aware of his passion for Bearcat athletics.  In our halftime interview last Saturday, I asked UC’s Interim President for his view on the role that athletics play in the mission of the university.

“I think it’s incredibly important,” said Ono.  “I went to college at the University of Chicago and most recently I was at a D-III school – Emory University – and they’re fantastic universities just as the University of Cincinnati is.  But there’s nothing like D-I sports to bring a whole community together.  We have 14 outstanding colleges at UC and they have a lot of different identities, but what galvanizes the community and links us to the 250,000 alumni around the globe is Bearcat sports.  I’m slightly enthusiastic about it.  I’m a big fan and I think I’ve tweeted about 11,000 times and have about 19,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook and I think that’s really, really important.  It’s one of my primary jobs:  To connect to the community and show how enthusiastic I am about what’s going on at the University.  Not only sports, but the tremendous research that’s going on and the art, architecture, and music that are all part of Representing the C.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Ono took part in a practice of sorts with the football team and caught some passes from Munchie Legaux (click here to watch).  Last Saturday, I asked him to share some thoughts on his relationship with head coach Butch Jones and the job that he is doing.

“Butch Jones, I think, is one of the best football coaches in America,” said Ono.  “We really are privileged in athletics right now at UC to have a great athletic director, a great team of coaches, and great head coaches across all of the different sports, but Butch Jones and Mick Cronin, I think, are anchors to our program.  They are people with integrity and they are people that are really committed to Cincinnati.  I love them and I view them as brothers and partners in Bearcat Nation.  We have something really special here.  (Coach Jones) is really important to the University and he and I really cheerlead and back each other.  I was in the locker room before the Bearcats came out and he said to the team, ‘Do you have my back?’  I think that everybody knows that I have his back.”

He has his coach’s back, but if the Bearcats win their next seven games (the three wins to end last season don’t count), Dr. Ono won’t have his hair.

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