If first impressions are worth anything, the University at Buffalo will be a good host for the 1998 NCAA Men's and Women's Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Dee Todd, assistant commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Carl Daniels, the NCAA's assistant director of Division I championships, visited UB's Amherst campus last week on behalf of the NCAA committee of 13 coaches and administrators who awarded the 1998 meet to Buffalo four years ago.
After touring UB Stadium, the adjoining athletic facilities and meeting with school officials, Todd and Daniels feel the committee made the right choice.
"They've got a lot to work with here," Todd said. "Everything has been very well thought out and they have been the most prepared (host) I've seen in terms of having all the pieces together. They have been to a lot of meets and done a lot of homework. I think they are going to do a great job."
The oldest of the NCAA's championships, the outdoor meet was first held in Chicago in 1921. It hasn't been in the Northeast since the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia served as host in 1976.
It is also one of the major events on the American track and field calendar each year, topped only by the United States Championships. More than 700 athletes, many of the world-class variety, are expected for the four-day event, which begins June 3.
So why would the NCAA give its oldest and in some ways biggest sporting event to Buffalo? Unlike the last three hosts -- Indiana University, Oregon and Tennessee -- UB is not a major track and field power. And judging by all the empty seats at basketball and football games, this city doesn't fully embrace amateur athletics.
Todd and Daniels admitted the committee was apprehensive when the decision-making process began four years ago. The 1993 World University Games were hardly a rousing success here, although it never does well on American soil.
But UB managed to convince the NCAA it was ready for this challenge. Todd said the school's enthusiasm made a big impression, as did the active participation by athletic director Nelson Townsend.
"We usually don't get a lot of interest in the sport from the highest ranking athletic officials," she said. "But the fact that the athletic director would come and personally be involved with the presentation was very impressive."
There has been a lot of talk in recent years that track and field is on the wane in this country, particularly during non-Olympic years. Some point to the sport's premier national event, the U.S. Championships, which failed to sell out the 12,500-seat stadium in Indianapolis last June even though it was the qualifier for the World Championships in August.
However, the 1994 NCAA meet set attendance records at Idaho State in Boise, which is less of a track and field hotbed than Buffalo.
No one expects a packed house at UB Stadium. The meet will draw from Western New York's small but active track community and some of the athletes will be accompanied by family and friends.
But it will be the casual fans and curiosity seekers who may hold the key to success at the ticket booth.
"It is rare that you can see a competition of this caliber in your own back yard," said Todd, delivering her own sales pitch. "A lot of these athletes are Olympic caliber and will be representing the United States and other countries in the next Olympics. I don't know of anyone who has ever been to a meet that didn't enjoy it. For those who attend, I guarantee they will not be disappointed."
MAC getting national respect
The current Sagarin Football Ratings are further evidence that UB is making a bold move by joining the Mid-American Conference in 1999. The ratings for all Division I teams (A and AA) are determined by feeding records, opponents' strength and other data into a computer.
The results show four MAC teams in the top 50. Three of them -- Toledo (22nd), Ohio University (25th) and Miami-Ohio (30th) -- rated ahead of higher profile programs such as Syracuse, Notre Dame and Miami, Fla.
To put it in greater perspective, Toledo, No. 24 in the Associated Press Poll, has a power rating (82.12) that is just eight points lower than Penn State. The Nittany Lions are No. 2 in both national polls, but are rated 11th by Sagarin.
The highest-rated Division I-AA school is top-ranked Villanova (No. 44), which hosts the Bulls on Nov. 15. UB is rated No. 192 out of 233.
Did you know . . .
In the 55-0 loss at Connecticut two weeks ago, UB became the first football team in NCAA Division I history to run 100 offensive plays and not score a touchdown.
The Bulls' 115 plays also set a I-AA record, breaking the 113 plays by Villanova in a 1989 game against UConn. The big difference is it took Nova six overtime periods, while UB did it in regulation. The Division I-A mark is 112 by Montana in 1952.
Buffalo State's 59-52 five-overtime win over Mercyhurst last year helped spark an NCAA rule change this season. Starting with the third overtime, teams must try a two-point conversion after a touchdown.
Concerns about players' safety led to the change. The other alternative is eliminate overtime altogether, but most coaches are opposed to going back to the old days when games ended in deadlocks.
"Ties are to be worn," said Bengals coach Jerry Boyes.
Adinolfi climbs rushing charts
Canisius' workhorse tailback Nick Adinolfi (West Seneca West) is closing in on sixth place on the school's career rushing list. The 6-foot, 200-pound junior has 1,700 yards, 19 behind Jay Peterson.
Adinolfi has been Canisius' main source of offense this season. His 789 combined yardage (703 rushing) represents more than half of the Griffs' season total.
Around & About
Niagara's Simon Sly was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference soccer player of the week. Sly scored seven goals as the Purple Eagles won four of their last five games. . . . Canisius quarterback Bryan Roland (St. Joe's) was named MAAC football rookie of the week for the third time in four games. The Griffs are 2-1 in Roland's three starts. . . . Buffalo State's Mike Zappia (West Seneca West) leads Upstate New York and is fourth in the nation among Division III schools in punting with a 42.4-yard average.