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An Open Letter To Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz

To Mark Poloncarz UB '89

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The 70's were a pivotal time in college football where costs rose but revenues were still restricted. In 1984 college football successfully sued the NCAA opening up the college football TV marketplace which resulted in an explosion of revenue for college football. The 80's were the perfect time to establish college football and take advantage of the increasing revenue streams. However when you were still a toddler, your hometown college team stopped playing football. When you were about 10, the Bulls returned to the gridiron at the Division 3 level.

You could have spent your childhood Saturdays cheering on the Division 1 Bulls in a state of the art domed stadium, unfortunately 15 million dollars of State money was sent to Onondaga County in 1978 to help build the Carrier Dome. The people of Buffalo had to watch as the county half their size and the school that didn't join the SUNY system was rewarded with a beautiful state of the art 27 million dollar domed stadium. (The State money would have been equivalent to 54 million in 2014 dollars) For comparison, in 1973, Ralph Wilson Stadium and in 1980 West Virginia's Mountaineer field were each constructed for 22 million dollars, (115 and 62 million dollars in 2014 money respectively).

As a high school student, you saw the city band together behind the Buffalo Bills as they won their first playoff game in 16 years in 1981. Over the next two decades the Buffalo Bills made 11 playoff appearances while they captured the heart of Buffalo. You then went to UB, which in your first season played in a 4,000 seat stadium in Amherst while the Orange played in the 50,000 seat Dome. The Division 3 Bulls had some exciting seasons during your time at UB, including the 9-2 season in 1986, all while pushing towards the goal to returning to the game's highest level.

However, without a competitive facility, UB's climb to the highest level would be a struggle. The Carrier Dome was built at the perfect time. The dividends from the Carrier Dome were being paid on the field, in 1985 the Orange enjoyed three straight winning seasons for the first time since the 60's. The Orange would post winning seasons for 14 consecutive years starting in 1987. The Orange's football success peaked at a time when money for football on TV grew precipitously. Thanks to the well timed and generous gift from the State, Syracuse would be well positioned to profit from football up to their inclusion in the ACC in 2013.

You graduated from Buffalo in 1989, and shortly after Buffalo was granted money to build a division 1 stadium. That's when the problems began.

Twenty-three Million dollars was spent to build UB stadium in 1993. While generous, it was far from suitable for a Division-1 football team, and in no way competed with the decade older Carrier Dome. The 23 million dollar payment was 10 million less than Syracuse received in 1978 adjusted for inflation. As college football revenue increased, stadiums were being renovated to improve the fan experience and attract recruits. In 2002 the Carrier Dome's age began to hurt Syracuse Football, but it was still a more attractive venue than UB Stadium. Your alma mater began Division 1 play in 1999, but UB never had a chance to really compete.

This week, your counterpart in Onondaga County almost secured 200 million dollars for her county's privately owned University's athletic department. The Syracuse Orange wanted State help to obtain the half-billion dollars needed to build a state of the art retractable dome that would reintroduce the Orange to big time football and for all intents and purposes destroy the progress of UB Football.

Through serendipity, UB now has a chance to compete. A chance to right the wrongs of 1978 and 1993. There is 200 million dollars in the State budget waiting for a home, but does UB deserve it? I think so.

Since 2007, the Syracuse Orange are 37-50 with 3 Bowl wins and the Buffalo Bulls are 35-52 with a conference championship and two bowl appearances. Syracuse fans will be quick to point out that Buffalo plays a lower level of football, and I agree with them. However both teams have performed similarly on the level they play. The 200 million dollars for a stadium would help Buffalo equalize the playing field between SU and UB.

UB had done amazing things with their small market games against Ohio schools, playing on random nights in the cold of a Buffalo November. This year UB averaged 22,738 fans per contest, only 15,000 less than Syracuse averaged despite the lack of climate control in the winter and the lack of marquee matchups like Clemson.

Despite the absence of an indoor practice field, UB was able to recruit their best running back to date from Miami, Florida, a plethora of players from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and California, and the Bulls will be national news for months as they recruited and developed a top-10 NFL draft prospect from Central Florida.

The Buffalo Bulls have embodied the spirit of the people of Buffalo by doing a lot with a little, I can only imagine what the Bulls could do with the proper facilities. 200 million dollars would allow Buffalo to build a new UB Stadium and if built near UB's South Campus in Buffalo, it would bring major football back to the city of Buffalo for the first time in 40 years. The new stadium would be great for UB, the University heights neighborhood, the city of Buffalo and for all of New York State.

Syracuse will move on and renovate the Carrier Dome and undoubtedly remain a force in Lacrosse, Basketball and they will most likely once again be consistently good in football. But they do not need the State's help for that. UB has committed to improving their play, and they are re-branding to serve as a representative for the SUNY system and the entire State. Buffalo needs the State's help to get to the next level.

I implore you to do what you can to bring the 200 million in funding that was set aside for Syracuse University to The State University of New York at Buffalo.


Conrad Mostiller UB '07

Timothy Riordan UB '00