clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

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 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 posts about the history of the program you'll be a Bull Run certified UB fan ;)

Section Six: Between the giants (1948-1954)

Year Coach Record
1948 Frank Clair 6-1-1
1949 Frank Clair 6-3
1950 Jim Wilson 5-3
1951 Jim Wilson 4-4
1952 Frtiz Febel 1-7
1953 Frtiz Febel 1-5-1
1954 Frtiz Febel 2-7

After Jim Peele stepped down as the head football Coach the work he had done, and some quality coaching hires would help maintain the strength of the program for several years, but even eventually the program would again fall on hard times.

Frank Clair was Jim Peele's handpicked successor at Buffalo. Clair played his college Ball at Ohio Sate, lettering three times between 1938 and 1940. In 1939 he was one of the keys in the Buckeyes victory over defending Big10 Champion Minnesota, that game propelled OSU to their first Big10 Championship in more than a decade. After his senior season (1940) Clair was selected to play in the Blue Grey All Star Football Classic.

Clair got a shot After college with the Washington Redskins in 1941, but after just one season (2 receptions, 12 yards) he was released.  Several years after his NFL Career Clair went into coaching. Hist first job was in 1946 when he became an an assistant coach to Sid Gilman (Miami of Ohio), the following year he took a job on the staff at Purdue in 1947.

So with just two years of coaching experience Clair took over at UB. UB knew nothing but success under Coach Clair who's two season stint produced a record of 12-4-1. His tenure moved UB to five consecutive winning seasons, aside from Jim Wilson extending that streak to six seasons UB has never had that many winning seasons.

UB's financial situation, and the success of Frank Clair led the Toronto Argonauts to lure the Clair away from UB to the CFL where he would win five Grey cups over the next two decades as a coach (Two with the Toronto Argonauts and three with the Ottawa Rough Riders).

After coaching he served for nine years as the general manager, helping the Rough Riders to win two more cups. The rough riders released Clair in 1978 and have not  won a Grey Cup since.

Clair's proficiency for developing talent earned him the nickname 'The Professor'. The Current stadium for Ottawa was renamed 'Frank Clair Stadium' in 1993.

When Clair left for Toronto he also took with him Bob Leipler (pictured left). The UB lineman  would play several seasons in the CFL. After professional football career Liepler would return to Buffalo took up professional wrestling. Leipler wrestled under the name "Duke Hoffman" until 1976.

Football members of the UB Athletics Hall of fame under Coaches Febel, Wilson, and Clair
  • Edmond J. Gicewicz ’52
  • Donald E. Holland ’52
  • Carl A. Markey ’52
  • Leslie Molnar ’52
  • William Rudick ’49
  • Louis D. Corriere ’49
  • Leeland N. Jones, Jr. ’48
  • Jules Licata ’50
  • Alton A. Massey ’50
  • Serofino J. Grottanelli ’50

After Clair bolted for the CFL James Wilson, who coached in the 1930's would again take the helm of the team. After his early (1930's) career in Buffalo had ended Wilson landed at Canisius where he piled up a record of 28-15-4 over the course of  six seasons. Wilson's success at Canisius led the Golden Griffins to their first, and only Bowl Bid (Great Lakes Bowl in 1948).

Wilson began his second stint at UB by extending the Bulls streak of winning seasons to six games, the longest such streak in UB History.

Streaking through UB History

1942* 6 1997 11
1956 4 1919 10
1897 3 1987 9
1967 3 1930 6
1970@ 4
1894 3
1937 3
1952 3

* - 1942 Streak interrupted by WW2
@ - 1970 Streak interrupted by the cessation of the football program (1970-1977)

Coach Wilson would follow up his first season with a 4-4 mark that would be his last as a football coach.

With cutbacks in the athletics budget the UB football program would struggle for several years. Coach Wilson was followed up by Fritz Febel.

Febel was a Purdue product and an NFL alumni (one year as a guard with the Bears in 1935). He had served as an assistant at the university from 1936-1942 and after coaching had landed as an assistant Professor of Health, Fitness, and Physical Education at the UB.

During the 50's all varsity coaches at Buffalo also had to be full time faculty members, and choosing Fable's enabled the university to both keep to that policy without stressing an already tight athletics budget.

Though his Bulls never managed a winning season Febel was one of three UB coaches to leave their mark on Western New York football for decades to come.
"I was lucky to work with Jim Peele and Fritz Febel and with Frank Clair, who introduced a system of coaching that was widely used by the many players who became high school coaches in Western New York-he inspired us." -- Charles E. Dingboom UB Football Alumni and Riverside High School Football Coach.
Febel's squads were vastly outmatched as he posted a three year mark of 4-19-1, making him one of the more unsuccessful coaches in the programs history. During his three year tenure he only bested three teams St. Lawrence (twice), Ohio Northern, Rensselaer.

Starting in 1955 the university would have a leadership change that would usher in one of the best era's of UB football ever. Febel would leave the team but new Chancellor Clifford Furnas and Athletic director Jim Peele would take a struggling program to new heights in the coming years.

UB Games under Clair, Wilson, and Febel

Frank Clair 12-4-1 (.735)

1948 (6-1-1)
0 at Colgate 25, 39 Hobart 0, 39 at Rensselaer 21, 8 Alfred 0, 41 at Wash. & Jeff. 14, 48 at Louisville 13, 13 Niagara 13, 47 Bucknell 13

1949 (6-3-0)
0 at Colgate 32, 26 Niagara 7, 26 Rensselaer 2, 32 at Alfred 6, 7 St. Lawrence 13, 7 Bucknell 21, 26 Wash. & Jeff. 0, 39 at Rhode Island 7, 20 at Ohio 7

Jim Wilson 9-6-0 (.600)

1950 (5-3-0)
13 at Cortland 0, 19 at Louisville 48, 13 Niagara 27, 13 Alfred 0, 52 Brooklyn 6, 33 Rhode Island 12, 14 Ohio 22, 34 at Rensselaer 14

1951 (4-4-0)
26 Cortland 0, 13 Colgate 47, 0 Ohio Wesleyan 21, 13 at Alfred 6, 32 at Bucknell 62, 20 Connecticut 6, 7 at Miami (OH) 27, 33 Rensselaer 20

Fritz Febel 4-19-1 (.188)

1952 (1-7-0)
13 at Cortland 33, 7 at Connecticut 47, 0 Colgate 13, 7 Lehigh 26, 0 Bucknell 22, 13 at W. Reserve 35, 7 Alfred 19, 12 St. Lawrence 6

1953 (1-5-1)
6 at Bucknell 35, 12 Cortland 12, 0 at Lehigh 27, 6 Western Reserve 26, 0 Findlay 34, 0 at Alfred 47, 20 Ohio Northern 0

1954 (2-7-0)
6 at Cortland 20, 6 Brockport 19, 0 at Hobart 45, 0 Lafayette 26, 7 at W. Reserve 35, 0 Alfred 25, 13 St. Lawrence 6, 20 Brandeis 52, 20 at Rensselaer 19