Change at top is time for UB to
adjust its goals
By Bucky Gleason
Danny White is headed for Central
Florida, off and running for a
bigger job with a much bigger
budget, just as you expected when he
was named athletic director at the
University at Buffalo. It was
obvious from the day he was hired in
2012 that he wasn’t long for Western
Nobody should begrudge White for
leaving. He had no allegiance to the
region. For the past year, with jobs
opening and rumors flying about his
candidacy, questions surrounded
where he would land and when. He was
considered an up-and-coming
administrator, someone on the fast
track in college athletics.
His departure was inevitable, sooner
White did a good job when it came to
rousing alumni, raising money and
improving facilities. He implemented
creative marketing strategies
designed to generate interest in his
programs. He made numerous coaching
changes that many considered
upgrades. Overall, UB was
competitive in 3˝ years under his
He also had his flaws. He came off
spoiled and immature, particularly
when he didn’t get his way. He
handed Jeff Quinn a contract
extension and fired him. He bought
out contracts on several coaches. He
wasted your money on the ridiculous
New York Bulls Initiative and
completely mishandled Bobby Hurley.
Now he’s gone.
Let me be clear: His exit wasn’t
some great loss. UB now has an
opportunity to step back and
reassess its future with a clean
slate. University officials,
beginning with President Satish
Tripathi, should take a long, hard
look at the athletics program before
deciding precisely how to proceed.
It would be nice if top
administrators stopped fantasizing
about grandiose plans, stopped
kidding themselves about football,
stopped banging their collective
head against the wall and started
accepting reality. Their mission
should not be growing football but
intelligently retooling the entire
UB doesn’t need another athletic
director who views the job as a
jumping off point toward something
better. That’s fine for good, young
coaches who stick around for a few
years, build good teams and are
rewarded for their work. That’s the
way mid-sized Division I programs
Buffalo should have dozens of
candidates who understand college
athletics. The greater challenge is
landing someone who intimately
understands Buffalo, N.Y. UB needs
an injection of common sense,
someone who knows the university’s
strengths, is bold enough to make
unpopular decisions and strong
enough to endure scrutiny.
The moment Terry and Kim Pegula
purchased the Bills and ensured
their future in Buffalo was the
moment UB officials needed to take a
second look at their football
program and, therefore, their place
in the Mid-American Conference. It’s
the only school in the conference
that shares the same region with an
Plain and simple, it doesn’t work.
This is nothing against UB football
coach Lance Leipold, who made a
smooth transition from Division III
to Division I under trying
circumstances. White hired the right
guy to coach the Bulls. The greater
problem is off the field. UB has
been unable to generate necessary
support from the community to
justify the expense.
Sad but true, most people in Buffalo
don’t care about UB football. For
many other MAC schools, it’s the
only game in town. Here, it’s only
The lack of interest likely will
worsen with Joe Licata graduating.
If you’re not familiar with Licata,
that’s part of the problem. For the
last four years, the former
Williamsville South star and
charismatic quarterback was a
marketing jewel for UB. Even with
him, the program failed to move the
Anyone who has attended a home game
would attest to inflated attendance
figures based on tickets sold, not
bodies inside a charmless stadium.
It’s a shame, too, because UB is a
competitive team in an entertaining
league. The conference is dotted
with terrific players who will land
in the NFL.
Not enough fans in Buffalo give a
hoot. They’re concerned with the
Buffalo Bills, not the Buffalo
Bulls. They care about the Miami
Dolphins, not the Miami RedHawks.
That’s not a criticism, folks.
That’s a fact.
UB needs to face the facts, resist
the urge to spend good money after
bad and embrace FCS football. It
means joining the likes of Albany
and Stony Brook in what formerly was
known as Division I-AA. They made a
honest effort while trying to sell
the Mid-American Conference, but
it’s not the right fit.
It’s not a knock on UB’s coaches or
athletes or their competitiveness in
any sport, men or women. They’re not
the problem. Their current
conference, which requires all
members to have a football team, is
the problem. At UB, football rules
at the expense of other sports that
could be better.
In 2013, according to federal
documents, UB spent about $6.7
million on its football program,
near the average for MAC schools,
while Albany spent $3.5 million and
Stony Brook $4.3 million. The
savings in football could, and
should, be redirected toward
upgrading programs that are better
suited for the region.
UB has great potential in two major
sports that are in line with the
university’s location: basketball
and hockey. White understood the
possibilities in basketball. He
didn’t have a clue about the passion
for hockey. Western New York is a
natural resource for hockey. UB
could compete on a national level in
Last season, when UB had a dominant
team in the MAC and was headed
toward its first berth in the NCAAs,
previously muted basketball fans
surfaced from the underground with
reasons to cheer. Alumni Arena,
ideal for good Division I
basketball, came alive like never
before during UB’s run under Hurley.
In fact, the Bulls had more bodies
in the seats for basketball than
they did for some football games
last season. If high-ranking
officials believe MAC football will
lead UB to a power conference and
create excitement required to
survive in the Big 10, for example,
Really, what’s the point?
Canisius and Niagara haven’t
generated nearly the interest both
did 20 years ago for games at
Memorial Auditorium. They have a
difficult time selling out small
gyms when they play one another. St.
Bonaventure plays in a great venue
in an outstanding conference, the
Atlantic 10, but you don’t see
convoys from Buffalo to Olean.
UB could play big-time basketball,
or at least better basketball, if it
joined a tougher conference that
earned multiple NCAA bids. The A-10
would provide a geographic rival in
St. Bonaventure. A-10 teams have
beaten ranked teams 23 times in the
last two-plus seasons. George
Washington knocked off No. 6
Virginia earlier this week.
Fourteen colleges belong to the
A-10, including six that have FCS
football programs in the Colonial AA
and UMass, which competes in the MAC
in football. UB currently offers
nine sports each to men and women.
It can find conferences for
wrestling, which could actually
improve the program, and football.
The A-10 offers all nine women’s
sports UB offers. It looks like a
The Big East would be great for
basketball. With private schools
making up the entire conference, UB
might not be great for the Big East.
Butler, Georgetown and Villanova are
among teams that play Big East
basketball and lower-level football.
Last year, Providence won a national
championship in hockey.
For UB, it’s a stretch along with
the American Athletic Conference
that includes White’s new
destination, Central Florida.
What to do?
Administrators can either change
their thinking or continue spending
your money while swimming in
circles. When they start scouring
the country for candidates, they
should keep in mind that White’s
replacement could be under their
The university should start by
calling Williamsville native and
Daemen College athletic director
Bridget Niland to see if she’s
interested. She was a track star at
UB, earned her bachelor’s, master’s
and law degrees at the university,
worked for the NCAA and is currently
working on her doctorate at UB.
Another possibility is Mike Mudd,
the former Sweet Home hockey and
baseball standout who played college
hockey at St. Lawrence and spent 12
years as an executive for the San
Jose Sharks’ minor-league
operations. He’s currently athletic
director at Division III Worcester
State in Massachusetts.
If neither works, certainly there
are qualified administrators out
there who view 716 as a state of
mind, not an area code or stepping
stone. They need someone who cares
about the region and will stick
around. The last person on their
list should be someone selling the
notion that college football drives
It doesn’t work that way in BUFFALO.
It never did.