In the mid-1950's UB decided to give football the old college try. UB finished the decade with back-to-back 8-1 seasons, a bowl invite and a Lambert Cup. In the 1960's, UB moved into College Football's top division, and held their own, winning 52 games in the decade. After mastering the transition to big time football, the 1970's would be UB's time to surge to the top. In the 1980's football focused president Steven Sample would push UB to the very top of College Football before doing the same for the USC Trojans in the early 2000's.
Oh wait, that last part did not happen. Ambition and budgetary issues led Buffalo to join the SUNY system in 1962. By 1970 unrest, budget issues and the lack of autonomy brought on by SUNY caused UB to cancel their Football program.
Losing the program when we did (and bringing it back when we did) was the worst possible timing. In the 14 years before losing the team, UB Football was thirty games over .500, with only 1 losing season. UB recruited the best freshman class in school history, and the Frosh Football team went undefeated in 1970. The team had future games scheduled with the top schools in the East, and Coach Offenhamer's dream of an annual series with Syracuse seemed likely to occur.
Between World War II and the end of the UB Football program, 6 coaches, Bob Deming, Doc Urich, Dick Offenhamer, Fritz Febel, Frank Clair and Jim Peele, led UB to a 124-94-7 record over the course of 25 years. UB enjoyed three 8 win seasons, five 7+ win seasons, ten 6+ win seasons, and sixteen 5+ win seasons. To put that in perspective it took 35 years for UB to surpass the win total of the 3rd era, UB is 136-261-1 since returning to football.
Despite a quarter century of success and the ascension to the highest level of the game, attendance suffered. The growing unrest on campus, the unpopularity of UB to Buffalonians, increased crime in the city of Buffalo and suburanization were all factors in the lack of attendance. For one reason or another, UB was winning but attendance was dropping.
The window was closing fast. As UB faced turmoil, lack of leadership and a loss of support from students and the community, they also faced a budget issue. An unintended consequence of joining SUNY was losing autonomy on tuition. SUNY demanded that UB no longer offer athletic aid. The Basketball program survived at a minor level, Varsity Hockey survived for another decade thanks to foreign student tuition waivers for Canadian Hockey athletes. Football meanwhile would have to get major contributions, or drop back down to a lower level where they could compete without scholarships or tuition waivers.
If winning solves everything, the team did nothing to help the situation in 1970. The Bulls played a very modern-day MAC schedule, with modern-day MAC results, opening with two losses at home against Ball State and Toledo and a third loss at Kent State before finally getting a win over UMass. After a fourth home loss against Villanova, UB would finish the season with 5 of 6 games on the road.
While the Bulls were out of town, the city was free to fully embrace the Sabres and the Braves at the Memorial Auditorium. On October 14, 1970 the expanded Aud hosted the inaugural home game for the Buffalo Braves, who defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-92. The next day marked the inaugural home game for the Buffalo Sabres who tied the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-1.
The 1-6 Bulls returned to Buffalo for the final time to face Holy Cross in a regionally televised ABC game, a first for UB. The Bulls finally helped their cause with a win, but student activism marred what should have been a defining moment.
On Haloween day 1970, Buffalo shared the ABC stage with South Carolina at Georgia and Nebraska at Colorado. After the UB game, ABC showed Berekely against USC. UB's win was overshadowed by the halftime show titled "Give Peace a Chance." After the Kent State shootings, the NCAA met with ABC and the companies agreed not to show student activism, because even before they were making real money, the NCAA was all about money, not students or education.
A month later, a bad season ended finally, with a lopsided loss to UB's former coach Doc Urich at NIU. Urich was the hand picked leader for UB's golden era of the 1960's, but he abandoned the program after realizing it was at risk of being shut down.
Despite the bad season, the talented freshman team would join the varsity team in 1971, and they would be a competitive team again. Two months into the off season and without warning, on January 18, 1971, the UB Football program was dropped by the University.
UB started five sophomores in 1970, and had plenty of talent coming up. Bob Barlette, UB Freshman running back transferred to Syracuse, where he was considered the fasted player on the Orangemen. UB Freshman QB Dave Yount went to Richmond, John Lyth went to Alleghany College. Gary Streicher went to the University of Miami (FL). The "Baby Bulls" defeated the Frosh teams at both Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Had UB played well in 1971, 72 and 73, maybe Governor Hugh Carey travels to Buffalo and builds a domed stadium in Western New York instead of the Carrier Dome he built in Onondaga. Maybe UB joins the Big East, or the Big Ten. Maybe Bill Dando is carried off the field as 1984 champions instead of Joe Paterno. We'll never know.
UB is still slowly trying to regain the momentum they lost in 1970. The Bills are still slowly seeking to return to the playoffs, never closer than Week 17 2004. But which was worse, vote below.
Up Next: Buffalo is in the land of the free, but it ain't the home of the Brave.