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The Cincinnati Bearcats are the NCAA athletic teams representing the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. The school's athletic teams are members of the American Athletic Conference (The American), which from 1979 to 2013 was known as the Big East Conference. Cincinnati is currently the only member of The American that is located in the Midwestern United States, all other members are in the Northeast or South.
The Bearcats were previously members of Conference USA, a conference of which they were a founding member. The creation of Conference USA was the result of a merger between the Great Midwest Conference (of which Cincinnati was a member) and the Metro Conference (whom Cincinnati had previously been a member) in 1995. Other collegiate athletic conferences which the school has belonged to includes the Missouri Valley Conference, 1957–1969; the Mid-American Conference, 1947–1952; the Buckeye Athletic Association, 1925–1935, and the Ohio Athletic Conference, 1910–1924.The Bearcat became the UC mascot on October 31, 1914 in a football game against the UK Wildcats. The key players in the birth of the Bearcat were a star UC player named Baehr, a creative cheerleader, and a talented cartoonist. During the second half of that hard-fought football game, UC cheerleader Norman "Pat" Lyon, building on the efforts of fullback Leonard K. "Teddy" Baehr, created the chant: "They may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side."
Current version of the The Bearcat.
The crowd took up the cry: "Come on, Baehr-cat!" Cincinnati prevailed, 14–7, and the victory was memorialized in a cartoon published on the front page of the student newspaper, the weekly University News, on November 3. The cartoon, by John "Paddy" Reece, depicted a bedraggled Kentucky Wildcat being chased by a creature labeled “Cincinnati Bear Cat".
The name stuck, but not immediately. Following Teddy Baehr's graduation in 1916, the name dropped out of use, at least in print, for a few years. On November 15, 1919, Cincinnati played at Tennessee. Cincinnati Enquirer writer Jack Ryder's dispatch on the game was the first time that the major media called UC's teams "Bearcats." From then on, the university's teams were regularly called Bearcats.