It wasn't long ago when the University at Buffalo was considered the place to stage a Section VI championship event. But in the last five years, UB has gone from hosting finals in five sports to none.
Boys tennis moved from UB's courts to Lancaster after the 1999 tournament. Wrestling left for Kenmore West after the 1999-2000 finals. Girls volleyball moved from UB to Buffalo State after the 1998-1999 season. Boys swimming hasn't been at UB since 1997-1998. The Kensington Lions summer all-star football game held its last game at UB Football Stadium in 1999.
Add track and field to that list. The Section VI boys and girls track meet, originally scheduled for UB this weekend, was abruptly moved to JFK at midseason.
What happened? It depends on whom you ask.
"We can't afford to go there. That's the bottom line," Section VI girls track chairman John Montalbo said.
UB gave Section VI two options price-wise to host sectionals. The first price was $5,000 and included UB running the two-day meet with its own event staff. The other price was for $2,700 and included the section providing its own staff to manage the gate, provide cleanup and other volunteers. That was up from last year's price of $2,300.
Included in both prices is $1,100 for two university police officers. Contractually, UB is obligated to hire the officers because of crowd concerns and the amount of money being taken in at the gate and concession stands.
"They priced us right out of it," said Section VI boys chairman Dick Bartha. "Isn't one of UB's things is we're here for the community, to help the community and be part of the community, and then they're shutting us out."
Jay Friedman, who negotiated for UB with Section VI, tells a different story.
"When I met with the Section VI people I said, 'Give me a price you would feel comfortable with,' and I felt like we met that price," said Friedman, an assistant director in the Office of Special Events.
"We're talking about a world class venue. Take a look at what we charge and what you're getting, and it's a pretty good deal."
UB's track facilities are top-notch among Division I schools. The NCAA championships were held at UB in 1998 and the NCAA is considering the site for one of its regional meets in 2005.
Plenty of parking, a sheltered concourse, seating and other conveniences make UB an excellent place to showcase track at any level.
Montalbo said UB's coaches, in particular track coach Perry Jenkins, would love to have the sectionals at UB every year, but he said the university is putting its bottom line first.
"How do you put a price on exposure? That's something they haven't even considered," Montalbo said. "Having 1,000 athletes seeing UB, isn't it worth a dollar per athlete to have them in there? How do you get the caliber of athlete they want, if you don't open the place up and let people see it?"
JFK, a popular high school site for big meets, will host this year's sectionals starting on Friday. JFK's director of athletics, Loren Ratajczak, said he expects the section's only expense will be paying a custodian to work on Saturday.
JFK will make a few dollars on concessions. Section VI will have a little left over from gate receipts and the sale of T-shirts to pay for awards, officials, cover tent rental, gate workers, timing system, pins and numbers.
In hosting approximately 200 events per year, UB has a responsibility to maintain order and provide services while showcasing its facility in the best light.
Bob Maxwell is UB's facilities coordinator for the Division of Athletics. He said UB waived its rental fee to help ease the section costs, but there are still expenses. He said personnel charges, like the $1,100 for the university police, is the kicker.
Both Friedman and Maxwell recognize how hosting high school events benefit the university and its coaching staff, but there's a price of doing business.
"If we were to eat these expenses and say, 'C'mon in, we like these guys,' then we've given a special benefit away, and that puts our program in NCAA rules violation," Maxwell said. "We would love to have these events here. But we have to do it within the rules. For some sports it's beyond what they can afford."
Hoops tourney stays put
The New York State boys basketball championship will remain in Glens Falls for next three seasons starting in 2004-2005 season. Section VI boys chairman Jim Walker attended the May 16 state meeting in Gloversville and said the vote was 6-5 to return to Glens Falls.
Walker, along with chairmen from Sections V, III, IV and VIII, wanted to move the event to the more centrally-located Binghamton, but couldn't get the needed votes.
A farewell to Jack Yanno
It promises to be an emotional week for Clarence baseball coach Jack Yanno, who is retiring after 38 years in education. Clarence hosts Jamestown in a Class AA quarterfinal game today at 5 p.m.
Yanno has spent the last 20 years at Clarence and the previous 18 at Maryvale. He's moving to Florida after the school year, a better climate for his deteriorating knees. "I remember when my good friend Bob Barrows retired from Orchard Park and he said it breaks your heart. Now I know what he truly meant," said Yanno.