If you're a longtime Bull Run reader you know the story with me and UB Athletics. If you are new to the site here is the under 10k foot view:
I started at UB in 1995 when the school was adjusting to Division I. There was still a loud cry from people whenever the University invested money in athletics. The culture of indifference which broke UB's golden era of the late 60's was alive and well in the mid 90's and unfortunately I was a part of it.
While on campus I tried to keep my interests diversified. In addition to my normal courseload I played horn in the UB symphonic band and that led me to pep band. I had no interest at that point in supporting athletics as such, I just did not want to lose my ability to play and these two one-credit courses seemed like something to do.
While I was a student I attended a couple of basketball games as a member of the pep band and if memory serves me right one or two football games. Later, when working for the US Corps of Engineers, another Buffalo alumnus took me out to a hoops game where some unknown local community college coach was going to be in his first game.
I was impressed with the level of play by Reggie Witherspoon's Bulls and by the student showing but still I felt no connection to my alma mater via athletics. To me, a kid from South Buffalo, you had to be at Notre Dame's level to move the needle.
Finally when I moved to Minnesota I was removed from the Bills and Sabres. Finding out how the Bills played was now as difficult as finding out how UB did. So when Turner Gill was hired I started following football. That led me to UBfan.com where I was content. I still post over there today.
Between the 2008 and 2009 seasons, before James Starks got hurt, I noticed no love for Buffalo in the national media. A defending conference champ who was returning their star running back, receiver, and a new higher-profile QB should have moved the needle a little.
So I started Bull Run and in the process of running the blog I learned something. Athletics serves two critical purposes on a college campus.
The most obvious is advertising. UB uses their air time on ESPN to promote the school and more people around the nation today realize there is a huge state school in New York.
The less obvious is "school spirit".
I know the whole "ra ra" thing seems dated but we need it on our campuses today more than ever. Kids on a campus divide into socioeconomic, religious, racial, and political lines. By the time my senior year came I *HATED* the people I lived with.
Because there was no school spirit at the time we had literally nothing in common and the pressures to self segregate in college are huge. If you can find one thing that you and another kid are interested in then you both find a way to humanize each other.
Look at the Bull Run Editorial Staff.
The college jock, the nerdy engineer, the business guy, and a humanities major from another school.
We are all four of us separated by years, interest, religion, outlook, politics, and geography. But we all connect as people and care for each other around sports. This one silly banal thing.
If we can use the Athletics department to connect imagine what you can do with the people on your floor.
Next year's freshman will get to see a banner hung. They will enter a college with a respectable athletics department that promotes games, has traditions, that packs the arena and has fun. And when the students are rocking Alumni Arena (note to Danny White: offer to rename it to Hurley Arena if Bobby stays) we get to enjoy it on TV half a country away.