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Examining Spoon...

Is there still a Spoon in our future

As impassioned as UB fans have been about the close losses and play calling in football this past season nothing, and I mean nothing, is more likely to make two UB faithful come closer to exchanging blows than the state of UB Basketball. In a way last seasons football title, combined with mixed basketball results, have brought the issue to a head.

If you want to see what I am talking about all you have to do is check out for the weekly dust up between fans who want an immediate change and those, like myself, who support Witherspoon.

Anyone who has not long followed UB Basketball might not know the circumstanced behind the arrival of coach Reggie Witherspoon. In December of 1999 UB Coach Tom Cohane resigned when substantial allegations arose around his recruiting practices. In march of 2001 those violations would result in probation and penalties. So days before one of the biggest home games in UB history the university hired the then ECC head coach as UB's interim basketball coach. He took over a team that was just 5-24 the year before he arrived.

Reggie Witherspoon would lead the team to a surprisingly good performance (leading at the half) in what would become something of a UB tradition, playing elite teams close at home and always losing. Several months later Witherspoon would officially become UB's head coach.

Since then UB has had up's and down's under spoon but they have never won the MAC, went dancing, Beaten a ranked opponent, or made real noise in any post season tournament.

UB Under Spoon
Year Record
2000-2001 4-24^
2001-2002 12-16^
2002-2003 5-23^
2003-2004 17-12
2004-2005 22-9*
2006-2007 12-19
2007-2008 10-20
2008-2009 21-11*
Total 103-134
* Runner up in MAC Tournament^ University on Probation

The most damning thing that his detractors bring up is the lack of any MAC championship banners hanging in Alumni Arena. While there is a case to be made that a school like UB should have been able to win one at least one tournament this decade UB is one of eight MAC schools not to bring home the hardware.

The only schools who have won the conference since 2003 (the year UB went off probation) are WMU, Akron, Miami, and Ohio. Buffalo, Akron, Toledo and Kent have all lost championship games. six teams have not even sniffed the championship and few have been as successful as Buffalo on the whole.

Those who think it may be time for a change point out Buffalo is no longer the university that tripped into the Mid-American Conference because UB could not find a Division IA home and the MAC needed to balance out its divisions. The Bulls have had a dozen years to win a title on the court, nine and a half of those under Witherspoon.

While anyone would find the lack of championships disturbing it's hard to be dump on a coach who delivered 21 wins last season. UB is not, nor has it ever been a basketball power and a career record of .535 (post probation) is pretty respectable for a program that was sub 500 in the season leading up to Witherspoons arrival.

The question that UB fans, and the administration needs to ask is this; 'how much longer is merely being respectable an acceptable result for UB Basketball?'

Despite the leading or biased way in which the question might come across there are reasons to think the status quo is ok. Don't believe me? look at fellow SUNY school Binghamton! While it's possible to dance without completely surrendering the student part of "student athlete" Binghamton serves as a warning to those who put the title above all else.

I'll always be a supporter of athletics on campus as an enhancement of the university environment. Witherspoon has been above reproach in its behavior towards recruits. His players behavior on and off the courts has been similarly impressive. Because of the class, and twenty win seasons, I have to lean towards supporting Spoon. His contract runs out in 2012 and nobody has presented a compelling reason to fire a coach who gets you twenty wins a year and does so with players who you can be proud to call Bulls.