99 for 99 - #56 - UB's 800th Game, Moving ForWarde with the Turneround*

The Butterfly effect that made this happen is kinda baffling when you look back at 2004-2011. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

99 for 99 takes a look at the 99 biggest moments in UB Football history in anticipation of the 99th Season of UB Football which begins on September 1st, 2012. These moments are not in any order, however the top 10 moments have been saved for last.

November 24, 2007 - Buffalo 30, Kent State 23 -UB Wins 800th Game, Earns Share of MAC East Division Title

Buffalo walked into Dix Stadium to play the 800th game of UB football. At 4-7, the Bulls finally showed they belonged in the MAC and Turner Gill showed he was one of the best young coaches in the nation. Nebraska, his alma mater, had a job opening, perhaps this would be the final game of the Turner Gill era?

But before we get there, we have to go back to where it all began...

August 29, 2005 - Warde Manuel Hired as UB's Athletic Director

The University at Buffalo had four candidates for the athletic director job: Tom Burman, Athletic Director at Portland State (Now AD at Wyoming); Warde Manuel, Associate Athletic Director at Michigan (Now AD at UConn); Frank Pergolizzi, Athletics Director at Southeastern Louisiana (Now AD at West Virginia Institute of Technology); and Peter Pilling, Senior Associate Athletic Director at Brigham Young (now Associate Regional VP at IMG College).

The job seemed to be between Burman and Manuel. Burman had experience working in a small budget environment. He ran an efficient program at Portland State, increasing income while reducing losses. Manuel's big draw was his football experience, playing for Bo Schembechler, and helping oversee Michigan football.

Late in July, Manuel was selected as Athletic Director. He was the perfect fit, he started his career in academic affairs, which would help address UB's APR issues. Manuel also participated in Michigan's large-scale capital projects, and raised more than 19 million dollars for Michigan. But most of all Manuel knew football.

Manuel's would need that knowledge as his first two decisions as AD would be a make or break. First, would he fire Jim Hofher? Coach Hofher made the decision easy by losing the first 9 games of the season and barely scoring in the first four games (including the drought that spanned two seasons in which we played back to back games against UConn and were shutout in both...the suffering). When Manuel fired Hofher, his next big decision was to find the coach to take the Bulls to the next level.

December 16, 2005 - Turner Gill Becomes the 23rd Coach of the Buffalo Bulls

"Somebody has to do it, why can't it be me? Opportunity, that's all you can ask for in life." - Turner Gill

Upon entering FBS play, Buffalo went a few hours southeast and tapped an alum who was an assistant at Penn State, Craig Cirbus. When that didn't work, they looked down the 90 at a Cornell alum working at Syracuse, Jim Hofher. Manuel, knew he had to get away from the region and find a coach with a national following. Possible candidates included: Charlie Strong (now coach at Louisville), Randy Shannon (former coach of Miami), Dick Bumpas (D coordinator at TCU), Rod Smart (QB coach at Arizona), and Fred Jackson (Michigan Associate Head Coach)

As interviews came Andy Moeller (now OL coach Baltimore Ravens), Norries Wilson (former Columbia HC), Mike Dunbar (current OC at NIU) and George DeLeone (current OC at UConn) were evaluated, and all were coaches in college football with potential to improve Buffalo football.

Ultimately a man who had left college football was selected, but it was still the big hire Buffalo fans were looking for. Turner Gill was selected as coach of the Bulls after serving an administrative role with the Green Bay Packers. Gill, a Heisman candidate Quarterback at Nebraska turned longtime assistant coach at Nebraska, was the coach we never knew we could get. Buffalo was the challenge Gill had to accept, after being passed over by powerhouses Grambling State, New Mexico State and Sam Houston State.

Importantly, Buffalo became the only University with an African-American Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, and Head Basketball coach. While each man came to UB differently, (Warde as an unproven up and comer, Gill slightly past his prime and never given the opportunity before, and Witherspoon as the homegrown coach) the discussion of race permeated the Gill era. However in the short-term, like Texas Western Basketball, Buffalo was able to find talented men, with much to prove, and they took a department that had no business in Division-1 athletics, and showed that the department belonged and that it could excel.

Gill brought with him a staff of former Nebraska coaches and star players and intimate knowledge of Frank Solich, Gill's former boss at Nebraska, now the coach at rival Ohio University. Gill a man of faith, brought belief to Buffalo from day one, with his slogan: "U Believe"**. Every day the players ended practice with the mantra of U Believe in which each letter in "Believe" stood for something profound. B was "Believe in each other, and the things not yet seen". After 4 wins in 3 years, it was hard to believe in anything. But in only three years, those who did believe, would be rewarded.

November 24, 2007 - Buffalo 30, Kent State 23 -UB Wins 800th Game, Earns Share of MAC East Division Title

In 2007, Buffalo found their big play ability. In the final game of the year, they forgot how to do finish from within the 10. UB kicked field goals from the 4, and twice from the 6, finding themselves down 13-9 at the half. However they were ignited once again by the big play in the second half; this time Ernest Jackson sparked the team with a 41-yard reception from Drew Willy. After another surge from the Flashes, Kent was up four with ten minutes to go and they came within 6 yards of sealing the victory, but instead settled for a field goal and a seven point lead. Drew Willy hit Hamlin for a touchdown with five minutes left and Buffalo held on, (with a Labinot Hakanjin block of Kent's game winning field goal attempt) for overtime.

Getting the ball first in overtime, Buffalo went to work with a 13-yard pass to Jackson and a 9-yard pass to Hamlin setting up an easy touchdown plunge for Brandom Thermilus. Three plays later, Kent faced 4th and 9. Buffalo blitzed and Larry Hutchinson ended the season by sacking Kent's Anthony Magazu securing the 30-23 victory for the Bulls.

With the win, Buffalo earned a share of the MAC East division title. The Bulls went 4-2 in the MAC East and primed themselves to win the MAC East in 2008 with most of their starters returning. Gill was passed over for the Nebraska job in favor of Bo Pelini, and Gill returned to Buffalo for the 2008 season, where he would lead Buffalo to their first ever MAC Championship.

*Note: Both puns were from the UB Athletic Department during that crazy optimistic time of 2006.
Correction: I'm being told I came up with Turneround in 2006 after hearing ForWarde (which has been verified as from the Ath Dept.)... That said, nobody plays on words like the Buffalo Bulls communications department...hopefully they have some good ones for 2012.

**Of course, at Kansas he dropped the U and kept the mantra "Believe", that upset me in some weird watching your ex on facebook way, I wonder if he's still using it at Liberty.

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