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UB Football 101

When you hear sports commentators talk about College Football tradition you rarely hear anyone mention Buffalo. Despite having a relatively low profile Buffalo has a lengthy football history. Recent fans, among which I would probably qualify, usually don't know the full scope of UB's history. So in the run up to kickoff I will be doing a series of 14 post about the history of the program you'll be a Bull Run certified UB fan ;)

Section Three: There was more than one great depression in the 1930's

Cliff Notes:
  • UB teams renamed the Bulls in 1931 to differentiate between UB and Buffalo professional teams
  • Bill Prichard who was an assistant to Biffy Lee was the first to coach "The Bulls" and lasted just one season
  • UB played, and was defeated by the Notre Dame "B" team in 1931
  • Cornell football alum Jim Wilson led UB for two years in the 30's, in his first two games against Ivy league teams UB lost by a combined 138-0.
  • Coach Bibber would join UB from CMU and leave to take over the Athletics department at UConn
  • In 1935, Under Coach Bibber Robert Rich, founder of Rich Foods (and owner of the AAA Bision's), would be one of the UB captains.

Year Record
1931 2-6
1932 1-5-1
1933 2-3-2
1934 2-4-1
1935 2-6

The Whole Story:

While the world was stuck in the worst of the great depressions UB would find itself in it's own perpetual rut. Coach Biffy Lee's last season (1930) was the beginning of a five year span of terrible football at UB. Buffalo would not have a winning season from 1930 until 1936. Some of this was due to a more intense schedule pushed by Coach Lee which after a very successful 1929 campaign.

It was during this time that UB renamed its athletic teams. During the 20's the Buffalo was home to several professional teams who used the name 'Bisions' (Professional Football, Basketball, Baseball).  UB Athletics, in hopes of making itself distinctive from the Professional teams in the area renamed all of its sports teams to their current moniker, the Bulls.

Football members of the UB Athletics Hall of fame 1931-1935:
  • Robert E. Rich ’35
  • Alexander P. Aversano ’35-36
The man tasked with launching UB Bulls football was Bill Prichard. During the 1920's Prichard played for Penn State and manged a brief career as a professional kicker. The Penn State Alum played one year for the Providence Steam Roller's (1927) and a single season for the New York Yankees (1928) where he played with football legend Red Grange.

Prichard had been brought in with several others to coach under Coach Biffy Lee, apparently because while Lee Knew Knute Ronkne he was, according to UB legend Jim Ailinger, no Knute Rockne:
"Biff Lee, who later coached the University of Buffalo, he was Rockne's roommate when he was at Notre Dame. All he knew about football was just watching Rockne play. When he came, he went to the authorities at the University of Buffalo and said "I was Rockne's roommate at Notre Dame and I would like to coach the team." Well, he didn't know a damn thing about football. So he hired five of us who had experience. Bill Pritchard came from Penn State, Les Knapp and myself came from UB, another fella went to Notre Dame, and he hired five of us to coach the team. He was just a sidekick coach and he had a good imagination. He was a pretty smart guy. He coached the team, but we did the coaching of the players." -- Dr. Jim Ailinger
Coach Pritchard would have only a one season tenure at Buffalo, his two and six season would be the only year that he would serve as a head coach. Aside from wins of Hobart and Alfred Pritchards Bulls would be drubbed in just about every game they played, including an embarrassing 33-6 loss to the Notre Dame "B" team.

After the departure of Coach Pritchard the team was taken over by Jim Wilson (Pictured right). This would be the first of two coaching stints for the Cornell Alum and letter-man (1919). His first game as UB's head coach would be played against his former team, the Big Red beat the Bull by a score of 72-0, his second game would be against another ivy league team Harvard who also crushed the Bulls (66-0).

Pritchard would scrape together only one win in his first season, a 6-0 victory over Hobart. He would also manage to tie Alfred. While the other losses he suffered that year were not nearly as embarrassing as the Ivy league losses they were all very convincing. With a much softer schedule in 1933 Pritchard would manage a more respectable record of 2-3-2 but UB would change coaches the following year (Coach Pritchard would again briefly become head coach during the 50's).

In 1934 UB football would be taken over by Central Michigan head coach George Van Bibber, who was both the football coach and Athletic Director at UB.  Bibbler would eventually end up at the University of Connecticut where he was the Wrestling coach and the Athletic Director.

The promise of Coach Bibbler was that he had managed some success at Central Michigan, where he went 12-9-2 during his three year tenure, but he could not achieve any real success at Buffalo. In his two seasons he would win just four games, dropping ten and managing a single tie.  In nine of his 15 games his teams would fail to put a single point on the board, and more than half the time he was unable to keep opponents below 20. Though it was an offer from UConn (where he would serve until 1950) and not his lack of production that led to his departure from the team after the 1935 season.

Side Note: If seeing the name Robert Rich (1913-2006) made you wonder, yes the once UB captain (1935) went on to become one of the richest people in the world. While at UB Rich had already started his first business business (Jones-Rich Milk Company) with money he had borrowed from his father. Rich later invented the first non-dairy whipped topping made from soybeans that could be frozen. After fighting off industry lawsuits from competitors his food processing empire has become a household name. At the time of his death in 2006, he was one of the wealthiest people in the world and Rich products was one of the largest family owned business in the united states.

UB Football Games 1915-1930

 Coach Bill Pritchard 2-6-0 (.250)

1931 (2-6-0)
0 Carnegie Tech 25 , 0 Dartmouth 61, 20 at Alfred 13, 2 at Hamilton 6, 0 Clarkson 13, 7 Rochester 14, 6 Notre Dame B 33, 29 at Hobart 6

Coach Jim Wilson 3-8-3 (.273)

1932 (1-5-1)
0 Cornell 72, 0 at Harvard 66, 6 Alfred 6, 0 at Clarkson 41, 7 Rochester 12, 0 Western Reserve 11, 6 Hobart 0

1933 (2-3-2)
0 Niagara 28, 0 Hamilton 15, 12 Alfred 12, 0 Clarkson 20, 19 Adrian 14, 0 Hobart 0, 7 W. Reserve 6

George Van Bibber 4-10-1 (.409)

1934 (2-4-1)
0 Niagara 27, 0 Hamilton 0, 0 Western Reserve 33, 14 at Alfred 0, 8 Toledo 0, 0 at Clarkson 27, 13 Hobart 19

1935 (2-6-0)
0 Baldwin-Wallace 55, 0 Hamilton 20, 0 Western Reserve 61, 7 Alfred 0, 0 Wayne State 14, 0 Clarkson 32, 13 Hobart 12, 6 Toledo 19