There’s little doubt the University at Buffalo’s basketball teams are creating the biggest sports buzz around Western New York these days. It’s not exactly a difficult contest. With the Sabres doing a magnificent job of defining “failure to thrive”, there’s absolutely no competition for the hearts and souls of sports fans in WNY at this moment.
Thankfully, UB’s foray into the round-of-32 in the NCAA basketball tournament by BOTH men and women’s teams are giving us something to distract us from the innumerable ways the Sabres find to break our hearts these days.
If you made the mistake of adding me to your Twitter feed, then you already know I’m a proud UB alum who screams across your timeline every time they win a game. That’s because like many elder-alums, we remember the darker days of UB sports.
In fact, for those too young to remember, there’s a reason why older UB graduates are lukewarm about cheering for any accomplishments by Syracuse University teams. It still chaps my hide that the New York State legislature appropriated funds in the 1970s to build the Carrier Dome while we walked by our HALF CONDEMNED football stadium on the Main Street Campus on our way to classes every day. The burn is still real.
That stated, even the biggest UB homers like myself did a double take when this showed up on our timelines:
While there’s no doubt that Nate Oats and Felisha Legette-Jack are the talk of the town at the moment and rightfully so, they are only beginning to steer UB’s long legacy of losing sports teams into a different narrative.
Many of us who graced UB campuses decades ago remember the mantra we used whenever someone rubbed salt in the wounds of our sports despair. How many times did we find ourselves saying we are more concerned with excellence in academics than sports?
But truth be told, most of us said it with a green eyeball of envy directed toward all the other great universities around the country who enjoyed success at the D-1 level while we middled around in D-3 sports.
Fortunately, UB changed its philosophy in the early 1990s and the NYS legislature was finally embarrassed enough to start funding their flagship university sports programs for a change. It has been a long and difficult road to respectability, but UB is finally putting itself in the discussion.
No matter how far UB advances (or not) in the NCAA basketball tournament, both men and women’s teams are creating a new legacy for success. We have every reason to be very optimistic about the future of D-1 sports at UB.
However, it remains to be seen whether or not UB will be able to retain coaches like Oats and Jack long term. So far, so good but we all know too well what the bright lights and bigger paychecks can do to lure away top coaching talent.
Let’s see UB retain Oats and Jack long term like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim before we declare them to be bigger names in WNY than Jim Kelly. In the meantime, instead of making outlandish declarations, how about we enjoy the moment and hopefully watch UB’s teams advance further in the tournament today.
Win or lose, UB is definitely on the map and in the discussion. That alone should stoke fire and passion for UB sports in Western New York. Let’s let that be enough for now.
Editor’s babble: I’ve worn my UB gear with pride even when they were losers, so it’s a lot of fun when people actually recognize UB here in Wyoming. Here’s hoping current success leads to a changing legacy. If you can stand it, you can find me on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO. #UBhornsUP