UB getting to nationals has got me thinking.
The dream for many UB fans is a return of Buffalo Hockey to the NCAA. It feels like twice in the past decade or so the dominoes were all lined up for the Bulls but the department was missing that one big push. The money is not forthcoming any time soon so there is little institutional support for the idea. Unless a few things happen.
If UB hockey club is to accomplish their stated goal of bringing the school back to Division One then they can't wait around for Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and a UB Alumni, to get off his duff and pull a Pegula.
Jacobs is involved with UB athletics and certainly gives more than his fair share; his Delaware North company is a big part of the NYBI advisory board. Because of his involvement I cant say his unwillingness to donate for UB Hockey makes him apathetic or stingy. Jacobs is just putting his money where he thinks it will do UB the most good.
In the same manner Danny White, at least in words, would love UB to have hockey. He has seen in his time at Buffalo just how much puck play is a part of our culture. Like Jacobs he sees a problem with opportunity cost. All the time and effort put into UB Hockey has to be taken from somewhere else and if it only produces a team which is the caliber of the Golden Griffins or Purple Eagles, is it worth it?
Both of these men and other big donors need to be nudged until an avalanche of support pours out similar to what was seen at Penn State and Arizona State -- the last two ACHA schools to start or restart an NCAA program.
Both schools have been tremendously successful in the ACHA. Penn State won 5 ACHA Championships including four straight from 1999 to 2003. Arizona State won last season and is ranked #1 going into this year's tournament. They have been the most successful on the ice and the most consistently successful in the stands.
Like all ACHA programs neither the Nittany Lions nor Sun Devils got funding from their school's athletics department. They did not become successful ACHA programs because of Big10 or PAC12 TV deals. They did it because the student body and alumni at those schools willed it to happen.
They willed it with donations, student fees, and most of all they willed it by getting to the rinks for their team's games.
Yes, we need an avalanche of money and support from some old rich guys and our young Athletic Director but every avalanche begins with the movement of a single snowflake. No matter how well UB's hockey team does if the students and alumni do not show sufficient interest nobody will be moved to invest more heavily.
It will take millions to get UB Hockey to the NCAA level but a few bucks here or there from every day fans will better demonstrate that interest then a few tweets talking about how UB hockey is a "no brainer".
This is a chance for folks who really want Danny White to take hockey seriously to put your 5-10$ where your mouth is.
Of course to get interest up the boys in Blue have to hold up their end.
Making nationals is nice but it has to be the beginning of something not the end. Niagara dominates the NECHL and they are only ranked #15. Despite going undefeated in league play 2 out of the last three seasons the Purps are a borderline team nationally. UB is getting there but they need to start having multiple back-to-back top 10 seasons. It's easier to do that if you get large crowds at the Northtown center for every game.
So who has to step up for UB to keep growing their programs?
I dislike "chicken and the egg" office politics. I don't like it when a person says they cant make the world better until some other person tees up the ball for them. When talking about making UB Athletics "the next big time brand" or bringing UB Hockey back to the NCAA I often hear those kinds of arguments.
People will say "When the Facilities are in place *THEN* we can be successful" or "When the teams start winning than the fans will show up and we will be successful". Finally there is always the "When the fans show up the money comes in and the team starts winning".
So where is all of this going?
More and more I realize that all roads lead to Rome. All we can do as individuals is walk our own road.
If you are the super rich alumnus and you want UB's athletics to get the attention that the institution should command then you need to open you pocket book. Regardless of how the team is playing or if the students are showing interest. You can build that field house or start that Hockey program.
If you are the student and you want to get the most out of your college experience and want more attention paid to your future alma mater then you need to get out of the dorms and go to games. Every game you can regardless of how poor the team might play or how bad the site lines at UB Stadium can be.
Akron has to pay students to go to hoops games and they are still struggling to get 800 kids*. Buffalo Hockey should do better than that next season. After all even though UB Hockey is not part of the Athletics department, it's hockey. In Buffalo. Hockey. In Buffalo.
*The Zips are saying they figure this is a favorable option to T-shirts, but we all love T-shirts.
If you're the athlete all you can do is play your heart out, look back at guys like Lee Jones, Khalil Mack, or the '58 Bulls to realize you are part of a great, albeit unknown tradition. Today's students may not be what we want and practicing sprints in Alumni rather than a field house stinks. But what you do on the field today sets up the program for tomorrow. Play hard, get good grades, and bring honor to the school.
If you are the casual Buffalo sports fan realize that you have Division One football in your backyard. The pregame environment has gotten very fun and the prices are family friendly. If you want to have the next Syracuse quality basketball program in your own backyard you should start supporting the Bulls today.
If any one of these things begins to happen then others will follow. Don't wait for the other guy to play his part, just worry about yours.