Cincinnati football is on a roll right now.
The recruiting class of 2022 is building at a strong rate, filled with select prospects who picked UC over Power 5 options. Over the weekend, they hosted one who would be the highest-ranked on the list should he jump on board in Mario Eugenio.
The Tampa (Fla.) Gaither pass rusher, who had 38 sacks to his name over the last few seasons for the Cowboys, was able to take in the town for an official visit. Alongside his parents and younger brothers, the family was all smiles in flying back to Florida Sunday.
"It was fun the whole time, we had a great time," Eugenio told Sports Illustrated. "I've been in contact with Cincinnati since the beginning of my junior year, so I already knew a lot about their culture, I just never seen it in real life."
Aside from consistent contact, even when the senior was committed to Michigan from July to October, the trip was also his first official visit based around a football weekend. It happened to overlap with the statement the program made over popular upset pick SMU.
"It was a different type of feeling," he said. "I don't really know how to put it into words, I was just shocked. If you think of a family, that's what was there. It was just a feeling I got.
"The city is beautiful, the atmosphere is great and the fans before the game were incredible. Everywhere I went, everybody knew my name. Like I didn't have to have my name tag with me. All the fans were like, 'Mario, just letting you know it's different around here.' Cincinnati is a different vibe."
Eugenio spent time with plenty of Bearcat coaches while in town, too. It of course included Fickell, who wasn't shy on addressing the rumors around his immediate coaching future.
"We spoke about it and he's not leaving," Eugenio said. "He's not planning on leaving. We were talking --my dad's the one who asked the question-- and he said he's not leaving. He's not planning on moving, money wasn't a factor to him. So he's staying in Cincinnati and help them stay a winning program.
"It meant a lot to me because I got to know that he's not just in it for the money. He cares about his players, he wants them to succeed after football -- it's not just about football. Cincinnati has a 100% graduation rate since he's been the coach, I don't even think Michigan was 100%."
The former Wolverine pledge also spent time with potential future position coaches before kick against the Mustangs.
"I learned about their culture and their bond," he said. "I went to a meeting with their D-line coach (Greg Scruggs), pregame, with the linemen and I saw a whole vibe in the room. Just the environment, how they treat each other and the brotherhood they have.
"I spoke football more with the DC (Mike Tressel) and Coach Scruggs. Me and Coach Scruggs Facetime often, so we talk about life, not just football."
Eugenio says the communication with Fickell's staff is the most frequent he has dealt with, despite holding more than 30 scholarship offers, dating back to 2020 when his recruitment originally picked up momentum.
The consistency, trajectory of the program and feel for it following the official visit has the Bearcats in strong position less than a month from the Early Signing Period opening on December 15.
"They're pretty high up in the race," Eugenio said. "After all these years, even when I was committed to Michigan, they showed me so much love. They always showed me and my family everything, they were never dishonest."
One of Florida's finest does not have a timetable for a final decision, and while other programs may eventually set a visit up, none are planned at this time.