By Bob DiCesare
Some 10 years ago Rochester businessman Tom Golisano offered the University at Buffalo football program unspecified millions if the school agreed to changed its name to New York State University. The offer, quite obviously, wasn't accepted. But a similar rebranding has momentum within the UB athletic department and could come to the fore during the upcoming football season.
Sources say that athletic director Danny White is agressively pursuing a rebranding of the department with the emphasis changing from Buffalo to New York. I'm told the iniative, as least as of now, stops short of a full-fledged name change but will accentuate the New York ties to leverage UB's status as the state system's flagship university. The project has been referred to from within the department as the "New York Bulls" initiative.
The final product, if implemented, could make waves within the region. It's difficult to emphasize "New York" without de-emphasizing "Buffalo." At the same time, if such a shift were to take hold it could broaden awareness of the institution. One coach told me of using a recruiting pitch that goes: UB is to New York as, say, Ohio State is to Ohio. Over the long haul, a rebranding could potentially provide UB (or whatever it's called) a broadened yet clarified identity.
Does Golisano have anything to do with this initiative? I'm not certain. But I do know that White, since his arrival, has met with Larry Quinn, Golisano's right-hand man during his Buffalo Sabres ownership years. And suddenly it seems there's more money floating around the athletic department given the buyout owed departed basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon and the creation of a new position in athletic administration.
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The announcement that UB will play its Nov. 29 "Black Friday" football game against Bowling Green at Ralph Wilson Stadium raised some eyebrows. The season finale always has been a tough sell -- even during the championship season -- with the crowd typically 5,000 or so. So why is UB moving the game to a venue more than double the size of UB Stadium? Because the opportunity was there and it's a perk for the players to play in an NFL Stadium.
If UB wins the MAC East it's conceiveable NFL prospects such as Khalil Mack, Bo Oliver and Alex Neutz will play their final three games in NFL stadiums. The MAC title game is played at Ford Field in Detroit, as is the Little Ceasar's Bowl to which the MAC has a tie-in.