Louisville, Cincinnati renew Keg of Nails rivalry at Fenway
BOSTON (AP) — Scott Satterfield could be on either sideline for Saturday’s Fenway Bowl.
He chose neither.
The ex-Louisville coach who was hired by Cincinnati this month will watch his new team play his old one in the first-ever college bowl game at Fenway Park. Satterfield said he will be out recruiting and building his coaching staff for when he takes over the Bearcats — after the game.
“I told both teams that I am removing myself from the bowl game. I won’t be there, not going to be in that situation,” he said this month when he was introduced as the new Bearcats coach. “I am staying away from that.”
Finishing the season for him at Louisville (7-5) will be Deion Branch, a Cardinals alum who was the Super Bowl MVP for the 2004 New England Patriots. Cincinnati’s interim will be Kerry Coombs, the Bearcats (9-3) cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator.
“It’s a weird game,” Coombs said. “You’ve got two coaches who weren’t the head coaches. And it’s certainly different and unique. But our kids have handled this transition in a fantastic manner.”
Branch was Louisville’s director of player development before being tabbed as the interim for the bowl game just two weeks ago.
“This is an unusual predicament to be in,” he said. “But our guys have embraced the moment. They’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities.”
Satterfield replaces Luke Fickell, who left Cincinnati to coach Wisconsin. Former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm will take over the Cardinals after the bowl game.
“It’s a wild ride,” Louisville linebacker Momo Sanogo said. “But, to be honest, that’s how college football is now.”
The schools are 100 miles apart along the Ohio River and had a rivalry as independents and members of Conference USA, the Big East and the American Athletic Conference before the Cardinals joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
So, for the first time since then, they will play for the Keg of Nails, first awarded in 1929 because the winner was deemed to be “tough as nails.”
“I’m a legacy kid,” said Bearcats linebacker Wil Huber, whose father, Daryl, was a Cincinnati tight end in the 1980s, when the Louisville rivalry was still popping. “So it was something that I watched growing up ... something that’s been ingrained in me and my family since I’ve been born.”
It’s the first time the schools will meet in the postseason. The winner will also get a brand new Fenway Bowl trophy, shaped like a ballpark with the shape of the football field sketched out in the middle. A piece of wood from a Fenway seat provides the backing for the game’s nameplate, and crushed stones from the warning track are enclosed in a casing along the base.
The Fenway Bowl was originally announced in 2019, with the first game to be played in December of 2020. But the inaugural game was canceled due to the pandemic. The next year, the matchup of Virginia and SMU was all set before a COVID outbreak among the Cavaliers scuttled the game three days before kickoff.
Bowl director Brett Miller welcomed reporters on Friday to the “inaugural media day for the inaugural Fenway Bowl.”
“Can’t wait to stop saying that,” he said. “It’s no secret it’s been a pretty challenging road to get us to this point.”
As part of their trip to Boston, the teams visited Fenway Park on Thursday and had a chance to mix in a little baseball.
Players got a tour of the ballpark, including a chance to go inside the Green Monster, where some players added their names to the decades of graffiti. They also had a chance to toss a baseball around the field, and some players took batting practice in the cage under the stands.
The field is laid out from the third-base line to right field. Because of the lack of space, both teams will stand on the same sideline.
“I love baseball. I’m an Atlanta Braves fan, that’s the team I grew up with, and I grew up playing baseball,” said Louisville guard Caleb Chandler, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 297 pounds.
“I was one of the biggest dudes on a baseball field, and so I got the nickname ‘Big Papi,’” he said. “I was acting like a kid yesterday in Fenway. It was really awesome.”
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2