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The University at Buffalo stood by Jim Hofher when it hired him four years ago. It's a stance that will go unchanged even after a season that was disappointing in many respects.

But Hofher and UB's Interim Athletics Director, Bill Maher, will continue discussions about extending Hofher's contract, which runs through the 2005 season.

The length of the deal will be determined, and it could be completed within the next two weeks, Maher said Tuesday.

"I'm not satisfied at all with the win-loss record, and I know that Jim Hofher and the men on our football team are not," Maher said. "That said, it's not the only measure of a football program. Jim Hofher is the right man to lead our program in this point in time and I'm confident in his ability to continue to lead our program forward."

Hofher's contract status is critical to the program's immediate future in terms of recruiting. Rival coaches often use a coach's lame-duck status against him and players are urged not to attend a school where a coach could potentially be fired.

"The fact that we're talking is a whole lot better than if we're not," Hofher said. "I'm very confident from where I sit that in my dealings with Bill Maher and all others in the UB administration that we will get this accomplished the way it's supposed to be accomplished."

Said Maher: "For the growth of our program and our ability to recruit student-athletes, . . . that's what we're focused on. We have to ensure the continuation of student-athletes."

Hofher joked that he asked Maher for a lifetime contract, to which Maher replied, "only if I have the right to declare you dead."

Lifeless would be an apt description of the Bulls' offense this season and the primary cause of UB's 2-9 finish overall and 2-6 mark in the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls concluded their season with a 29-0 loss at Connecticut on Saturday in which the offense gained a total of 96 yards.

Hofher, 7-39 in four seasons, has made modifications on both sides of the ball the last two offseasons. Two years ago, he shifted the offense to more of an option attack with mixed results. Last year, he junked the traditional 4-3 defense for a 4-2-5 and the Bulls nearly doubled their sack total (28) from a year earlier. Hofher will again use this offseason to study the offense.

"We have to, as coaches, continue to examine are we asking our guys to do the right things schematically?" Hofher said. "Are we giving the players the best chance? That's all part of the chess match in coaching."