Defensive end Connor Barwin raised the gold-topped trophy above his head, then walked through hundreds of Cincinnati fans who got on their tiptoes and reached as high as they could, hoping to touch the keepsake with their fingertips.
There has never been a day quite like this in Cincinnati.
The 16th-ranked Bearcats beat Syracuse 30-10 Saturday, then gathered in the end zone amid tightly-packed fans to hoist the trophy that represents their first Big East title during their fourth season in the league.
"We got smacked around our first year in the Big East," said receiver Mardy Gilyard, munching on an orange he plucked from the artificial turf. "I'm at a loss for words. It's just utter bliss."
The Bearcats (10-2, 6-1) are headed to a BCS bowl - likely the Orange or Sugar - for the first time in their history. They clinched the spot when West Virginia lost at Pitt on Friday, taking most of the drama out of the last home game.
Still, they made a little history. The Bearcats tied the school record with their 10th win, the second consecutive season they've reached the mark. Cincinnati has a game left in Hawaii before heading to its bowl.
The Orange (3-9, 1-6) are headed for an offseason of change, starting at the top.
Syracuse went 10-47 in Coach Greg Robinson's four seasons, including 3-25 in the Big East. He was fired on Nov. 16, effective at the end of the season, and the Orange responded by rallying in the fourth quarter to beat Notre Dame 24-23 in South Bend last week.