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Sully's Mailbag: A great week in sports, unless you're UB

Could you ask for a better sports week?

From Sunday to Sunday, we have: The start of the Major League Baseball season; the NCAA hoop title games; the Bills' first OTAs; the Bisons' home opener; the Masters; the Cavs' big win in Boston; the women's world hockey championships; UFC 210 at KeyBank Center; and the finish of the NHL regular season.

Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, UB dropped four sports to save $2 million. One of the more spirited pastimes in recent days is the big-time football apologists insisting that dropping to a lesser conference would actually cost the university more money.

Yeah, and aliens from outer space have been secretly tapping my phone. On to this week's Mailbag:

bnowak@gmail.com asks: What do you make of the Sabres players selecting Ryan O'Reilly MVP over Jack Eichel as reports surface in the Canadian media that Eichel is not getting along with Sam Reinhart and other young players?

Sully: First of all, I wouldn't put any stock in rumors of a rift. Mike Harrington assures me it's fake news, an attempt to stir up controversy. This is the first I've heard of any tension between Eichel and the young guys on the Sabres.

There's more likelihood of a split between the kids and the older players on the team, who might have reason to feel the young guys weren't mature enough to handle playoff expectations. O'Reilly straddles the two groups, so his MVP vote looks like a compromise choice. He certainly didn't play like an MVP the last two months.

It's not as if Eichel was a clear choice. He missed 21 games. The team's record was only marginally better with him. He's an enormous talent, but maybe it's better not to glorify a 20-year-old whose team was a massive disappointment. Let him win first.

I would have voted for goalie Robin Lehner. He was a disaster in shootouts, but he had a solid year with a wretched defense in front of him. Lehner faced a constant shelling and kept the Sabres in several games when they could have been blown out.

Really, after this bummer of a season, does it really matter who gets team MVP?

* * *

Rick McGuire asks: During the 17-year playoff drought, the Bills have failed to hire good coaches or assemble playoff-caliber teams. Of the four GMs in that span, who deserves most of the blame ... Tom Donahoe, Marv Levy, Buddy Nix or Doug Whaley?

Sully: Great question, though you forgot Russ Brandon. I should make you director of mailbag operations. You're teeing me up for another round of pin the tail on Doug Whaley. But as sports owners say when they fire people, I'm going in a different direction.

I think Donahoe did the most damage. People talk about his time as if it were the good old days, but it was his rush to improve the team and sell hope with the public that set in motion a clown car of dysfunction that continues to this day.

Trading a first-rounder for Drew Bledsoe was a huge blunder. Bledsoe had one nice six-week run in Buffalo. But he was in steep decline, as Donahoe soon realized and Bill Belichick knew all along. Gambler Tom compounded the gaffe by trading three picks (second and fifth in '04, first in '05) to move up for J.P. Losman at No. 22 overall in 2004.

But Donahoe was fired because of his tyrannical ways. He was Ralph Wilson's first team president. The experience soured Wilson on giving power to outsiders, which led Ralph to hire buddies Levy, Russ Brandon (you forgot him) and Nix -- as his next three GMs.

So in a way, Whaley is an extension of a bad idea that goes back to Donahoe, whose shadows still hangs over the franchise, more than a decade after his firing.

* * *

Steve Tripi asks: Who in your honest, least snarky opinion, makes the playoffs first, the Bills or the Sabres?

Sully: Here's some minor snark for you. One of my pet peeves is the phrase "in my honest opinion." Should I assume the other things you say are dishonest and insincere?

Anyway, it feels like I've had this question before. Some honest digging revealed that I was asked in October if the Bills or Sabres were the bigger playoff fraud this past season. At the time, I said the Sabres had a worse chance of making it.

But in my humble opinion,  I'll say the Sabres get there first. They were a major disappointment this year, but at least the trend is ticking slightly upward. The Bills are in a downward spiral and it won't get better simply because Sean McDermott met with the Super Bowl bunch and took the pool table and video games out of the locker room.

The Bills have won nine, eight and seven games the last three seasons. I see a trend. This season, I see six wins at best. The playoff drought is likely to reach 20 years and the Sabres should complete the heroic run to eighth by 2018-19.

* * *

S.A. Knight asks: I really like your Masters prediction. My question is, given that the Masters is the only golf major played on the same course every year, should the PGA consider doing the same with the PGA Championship?

Sully: Sure! Put it permanently at Oak Hill in Rochester, so I can drive down the I-90 and cover it every year.

Seriously, it's a fair question, but I don't see it. I like having the Masters be the only major that stays in one spot. Doing it with the PGA would detract from the Masters' aura. In general, I like the democratic practice of moving the majors around the country. It exposes golf fans to a lot of great golf courses.

Put the PGA in the same spot every year and we'd have fewer chances to utter such grand names as 'Baltusrol," "Whistling Straits," "Valhalla" and "Winged Foot."

Thanks on the Justin Rose pick. He was tied for the lead the last I looked. At some point, he'll realize that I jinxed him.

* * *

Tim Riordan asks: Do you realize that UB dropping to FCS would only mean 1.5 million in cost savings? So a net loss of six figures!

Sully: Those are your figures, pal. You can spin the math any way you like. The average FCS budget is about half of UB's $7.53 million. Albany, which beat the Bulls in Buffalo last season, spends $2.2 million. Am I supposed to believe that all those top academic institutions play FCS football even though they'd lose less money in the FBS?

I understand that UB would give up some of the FBS money, like MAC payouts and those noble paydays for getting crushed by pseud-professional programs. But I have to believe the university would manage to save money and keep more of the minor sports by dropping down.

While you're fiddling with the calculator, why don't you figure out how much they threw away on Danny White's rebranding crusades?

* * *

Evan Gibson asks: My friends call me Sully Jr. because I generally agree with your takes on the Bills and often retweet you on Twitter. Should I consider this a compliment?

Sully: When someone agrees with me most of the time, I tell them to consider professional help.

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