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IT WASN'T as if University at Buffalo football was a virginal sport before Buddy Ryan showed up on campus.

The Bulls had won a Lambert Cup, beat good teams and compiled consecutive 8-1 seasons two years before the arrival of the man who returns to the area today as head coach of the streaking Philadelphia Eagles.

It was just that UB never experienced anyone like its new defensive coordinator before: An Oklahoma cowboy; a bible belt rustic; a coaching product of the Texas high schools, where football comes after Godliness but definitely before cleanliness.

In those days, Ryan used to read the bible at his desk each morning. In the afternoons you could hear him all over Rotary Field: "Stick 'im! . . . Stick 'im! . . . Stick 'im!"

"The guys used to play for Buddy's compliments," says Gerry Philbin, his most famous player from the UB days.

"He didn't give compliments very easily."

Joe Marcin, retired college football editor of the Sporting News, was the sports information director at UB then.

"I remember Buddy was involved in recruiting a talented running back once," says Marcin. "I went to dinner with the two of them. Ryan did a great sales job and the kid decided to enroll at Buffalo.

"As we were saying goodbye to him, Buddy whipped out an official-looking paper and had the kid sign it. The last thing Ryan told him was "remember now, this is a legally binding document."

"That was news to me, since we weren't associated with any group that required a letter of intent. Our recruits never signed anything.

"When the kid left, Buddy showed me the paper. Cannot distribute vertically It was a hotel laundry list. He just laughed and tore it up."

Jack Sharpe, the former Amherst supervisor, worked in the Bulls' athletic department then. He and Ryan remain friends.

He recalls UB traveling to Delaware for a big game in 1964. The Blue Hens had a history of pounding on the Bulls. Davey Nelson, the Delaware coach, was head of the NCAA's powerful rules committee. Nelson was not among the favorites of Dick Offenhamer, Ryan's boss.

"We were a pretty big team then and we dressed all in white," says Sharpe. "Buddy came up with the idea of psyching out Delaware before the game and 'Offy' agreed to it.

"As Delaware was going through its pregame warm-ups, our players trotted out of the dressing room single file. They ran down one sideline, across the end line, past the Delaware warm-up area, up the other sideline and across the other end line.

"They never looked one side or the other, just straight ahead, very disciplined.

"It was impressive. Even the Delaware players , Buddy was a 'genius' at UB and coaches stopped their pregame drills and watched.

"I think the game was over right there. We won, 37-0."

Philbin remembers another time Ryan had all the players wear cowboy hats to a road game at Gettysburg.

"He figured we were from Buffalo, we should wear cowboy hats," says Philbin, chuckling.

"The day of a road game, you'd always find a picture of the guy who was going to play opposite you in your locker stall, with some inflammatory quote he was supposed to have made about what he was going to do to you.

"We knew the quotes were usually phony, but it let us know that Buddy was thinking about each of us."

Ryan might have been an alien presence at UB, where football was respected but not revered, but he made a lot of friends there.

Once they coaxed him to dress in a tuxedo and attend opening night at the Studio Arena, a sight that any of his current players might not be able to imagine.

He played in the faculty golf league, where mind games were as much a part of the competition as they were on the football field.

"Sooner or later you could get to Buddy on the golf course and ruin his concentration," says Sharpe. "He wasn't as easy to rattle as Len Serfustini (the school's earnest basketball coach), but you could get to him."

Ryan was an ardent bridge player in those days. One of his partners and good friends was Ken Rice, a Bills' offensive lineman. Marcin was an occasional opponent.

"I read where Buddy is a coaching genius, now," says Marcin. "As a bridge player, he wasn't any genius.

"He was at his best when he was recruiting, though. We went after some players that Michigan State, Penn State and Notre Dame went after. Notre Dame or not, Ryan was brash as can be. He'd compete with anyone.

"I remember that we were after a good lineman from Newport, R.I., Ted Gibbons. Duffy Daugherty of Michigan State wanted him badly. Buddy sent Philbin, who also was from Rhode Island, to see him. UB got him and he turned out to be an outstanding player."

There were mixed feelings about Buddy at UB, just as there is wherever he works. When Offenhamer retired, Ryan wanted the Bulls' head job. But the late Jim Peelle, UB's athletic director, was not one of his admirers.

The job went to Doc Urich, a member of Ara Parseghian's Notre Dame staff. Ryan went to Vanderbilt for a year, then to Pacific for two more.

"Weeb Ewbank called me in to talk about Buddy one day in 1968," says Philbin. "We talked for hours.

"Weeb talked to Dick Offenhamer about him, and also to Bill Mazer (the ex-Buffalo sportscaster who once did play-by-play for Bulls games). When the '68 season began, Buddy was on our staff.

"I don't suppose he's changed much as a coach. He never cut anyone from the squad. The guys who weren't good enough he drove off.

"Anybody who couldn't stand being called 'a worm' every day just left. I'll bet he still coaches the same way with the Eagles."

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