It's safe to say that Monday's dismissal of Jeff Quinn has spurred more interest and chatter in UB Football than has existed at any point since at least the Potato Bowl, and perhaps longer. Big news like this has drawn hundreds of points of view out of the woodwork on a subject that rarely compels them to do so.
I think in the usual run of business, where there's a paucity of people even talking about UB - us, the athletic department, the neglected broom closet of local media entities, maybe two dozen or so folks on Twitter of varying prominence and credibility - that scarcity of commentary hides just how varied the opinions out there are. Something like the New York Bulls Initiative or the dismissals of Reggie Witherspoon and Jeff Quinn lowers people's threshold to speak their mind. The mundane day to day doesn't. And it's apparent from this post of John's that we shouldn't trick ourselves into thinking fewer voices during the mundane periods means there's general agreement and fewer opinions and perceptions out there.
With so many people of, frankly, varying familiarity with the Buffalo Bulls, Jeff Quinn, and Danny White speaking up this week, there's an opportunity to take a snapshot of UB's perception. A short list:
#1 The most frequent Bull Run commenters: "The firing was overdue and is welcome"
Initial reactions on this site among the most frequent commenters were positive. The Twitterati were more sedate about the news, at least initially, and since more voices have joined in the tenor of conversation here has changed. But there's a portion of Bulls fans, especially Bulls fans who keep up on everything around the program, who are happy with this move.
#2 Scott Wilson et al: "Quinn grew the program"
In that intersection of prominence and credibility, Scott Wilson enjoys a pretty good seat for this week. He's tight with Brad Riter of Trending Buffalo and talks about UB frequently while also being enough of a Buffalo voice in general that non-UB fans are going to see what he has to say. Wilson is firmly in the anti-Turner Gill, pro-Quinn, Quinn-built-something-from-nothing camp:
IMO: anyone who thinks UB Football hasn't grown as a program in the last 5 yrs either doesn't know where it was, or hasn't seen where it is— Scott Wilson (@ScottWilsonBUF) October 14, 2014
Note that there's a difference, though they overlap, between those who are fighting the vilification of Quinn, and those who have an issue with the man behind the decisions.
#3 Buffalo Sports Fans Who Aren't Daily Followers of UB and Some More Ardent Bulls Fans, Including Anti-NYBIers and Anti-Danny Whites: More of the same questionable decision making from the top
The state of the football program and the product on the field does not intersect with NYBI, unless you bring in the school record attendance and increased donations and business support for the school as a result of the Initiative, but for so many out there, especially those who don't follow the school but get updates filtered through Twitter, the Buffalo News, and 6:00 PM newscasts, everything Danny White does is tinged with the NYBI lurking in the background, and the Quinn news is another in a trend of strange decisions.
To these people, 8-5 and a bowl bid is the largest data point. People remember wins and don't remember defensive issues masked by a Top 5 pick and a host of All-MAC talent succeeding in spite of the scheme, and they don't know that the issues have been violently unmasked in this 3-4 season. They see three wins and don't realize how weak those three teams are.
#3A Same group as #3: Danny White just loves firing people.
Nobody has forgotten about Reggie, and for those who only follow UB news when it filters past the Bills/Sabres hegemony, the second biggest characteristic of Danny White is the spate of coaching turnover in his time at UB - the White Death. For this opinion, there is nothing more damning than, heaven forbid, firing coaches who aren't meeting the athletic department's standard.
What's lost to this opinion, because it's born out of only infrequent familiarity with UB, is that White's hires have across the board improved their teams since taking over. Stu Riddle's men's soccer team is loaded with young talent and starting to put it together, Reed Sunahara has volleyball on track to reach the MAC tournament with essentially the same group that faded down the stretch last year, Sean Burke's women's soccer team is flying high, and Felisha Legette-Jack has an absolutely loaded group of returners this year. Oh, and Trena Peel stepped in and immediately got softball to the MAC Championship game.
Really, the only White hires that haven't clearly, without a doubt, made instant improvements are John Stutzman, who is working to rebuild Wrestling after a few years of bad recruiting, and Bobby Hurley, who was successful but will now with the departure of Javon McCrea be able to put his stamp on the team.
Is it bad to fire people who don't sniff the top echelons of the MAC when the people you hire do better? Danny White's boss doesn't think so. The AD's job is so tenuous that his contract extension to 2019 is just over a month old.
#4 Other MAC Fans: Buffalo is delusional and thinks higher of itself than its ceiling allows
I like the MAC. I like its condensed footprint and that UB now competes favorably in most sports. There are, however, significant institutional differences between UB and its rivals: Buffalo is bigger and richer than everyone else, is a better school than all but one or two, and is the lone MAC school to enjoy a place in the highest tier of its state's university system.
Most MAC fans will not listen to those facts, and view the NYBI and the ongoing attempts to grow the athletic department as little more than hubris. They are another group who see four years of increasing win totals culminating in 8-5 and a bowl bid, and are confused by White's decision on Quinn, because who is Buffalo going to get that's any better?
Add in the suddenly noticeable voices of the next group, and you've ticked off MAC fans even more.
#5 Anyone Unfamiliar With The Development Of UB Athletics Since 1970: Any attempts to improve and grow are pointless if Buffalo isn't in a power conference OR All attempts to improve and grow are futile, haven't you learned anything, Buffalo's best fit is down a step, in an FCS conference.
I could have split the 'move up' and 'move down' groups into #5 and #6, but they're really one and the same: those who don't believe Buffalo's current situation is anything but negative. I can understand having higher aspirations; Danny White sure does, but the only explanation I can understand for thinking there's nothing UB can do to grow as long as they're in the MAC is that that thought comes only from a mind that has little-to-no familiarity with how significant it is that UB is finally competitive conference-wide and regionally in all sports, and nationally in several.
The department was really hurt by the accelerated move back to D1 before the resources were there to support it. It's taken a long time to build those resources up, but it's been shown possible. Why would it suddenly not be reasonable for things to improve unless UB moves up?
For those looking to move down, UB will just never be able to compete at this level in the public perception arena, so good job, good effort, but let's go sit in our rightful place.To this I say: The 2009 International Bowl remains one of the top-20 Buffalo sports events of all time in terms of local Nielsen ratings. Western New York has shown it will support UB when there's something there. If fans don't get excited by the history with Miami and Akron, fine, but trying to get people exciting about FCS opponents will be orders of magnitude more difficult.
Furthermore, to move down would be to completely negate the last 30 years of vision and hard work from University Presidents and Athletic Directors to build athletics literally up from a smoking crater. To my eyes advocates of downward movement to FCS are either completely ignorant to this history or have a serious axe to grind with 30 years of administrators.
EDIT: #5A Recruiting Truthers: Quinn's downfall was recruiting, and Buffalo will never be able to recruit well
I didn't include the recruiting narrative in the first draft of this post, but given Bucky Gleason's piece today, which I think was largely good, I'm realizing that though there's little disagreement that Quinn hasn't burned up the recruiting trail, there is concern about how strongly any UB coach can expect to recruit.
Had I remembered this at the time of writing, It would have been its own category, but now that I have to wedge it in, I ike making it a part of #5, because the belief that there's a ceiling to UB's recruiting appeal is related to the impressions in #5 of UB's identity.
Gleason argues that Buffalo will always have a tough time getting talent given their mix of academic standards and a low appeal from the football side of things. I think the academic standards are more lax at Buffalo and all schools with 'high standards' than anyone would like to believe. And UB, as good as it is, isn't Vanderbilt, Boston College, or Northwestern, schools Turner Gill fought with for recruits.
As for the general concern of recruiting in Buffalo, I have one name and one word: PJ Fleck, Kalamazoo.
#6 Buffalo News Commenters: UB doesn't have a football team lulz
Don't go look. It's not worth your health.
Key editorial point: Short of the TBN commenters and the 'move-down advocates', I don't think any of these groups are necessarily wrong. I have reasons to disagree with each point of view, but I can understand how people got there.