Cincinnati adds Western Carolina to 2026 football schedule

By Kevin Kelley -

The Cincinnati Bearcats have added the Western Carolina Catamounts to their 2026 football schedule, has learned.

A copy of the football game contract with the University of Cincinnati was obtained from Western Carolina University via a state public records request. The contract was executed on Nov. 24, 2023.

Cincinnati will host Western Carolina at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2026. The Bearcats will pay the Catamounts a $475,000 guarantee for the game, according to the copy of the contract.

The 2026 Cincinnati-Western Carolina contest will mark only the second meeting between the two schools on the gridiron. In their first matchup in 2005, the Bearcats slipped by the Catamounts in a defensive struggle at home, 7-3.

Western Carolina University, located in Cullowhee, N.C., competes in the Southern Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Catamounts are currently led by head coach Kerwin Bell, who has a 17-16 overall record in his three seasons at the helm.

With the addition of Western Carolina, Cincinnati now has all three opponents set for its 2026 non-conference schedule. The Bearcats are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 5 at home against the Boston College Eagles of the ACC.

One week after hosting Western Carolina, the Bearcats are set to face the in-state rival Miami RedHawks of the MAC at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sept. 19.

The Big 12 has already released its conference matchups for the 2026 season. Cincinnati is scheduled to host Colorado, Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Utah and travel to Arizona, BYU, Houston, Iowa State, and West Virginia.

Western Carolina now has four future games scheduled against power conference members of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The Catamounts will visit NC State in 2024, Wake Forest in 2025, Cincinnati in 2026, and Georgia in 2031.

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