clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UB Athletics Has Many Positive Accomplishments in the Area of Race

New, comments

Negative recruiters should find an easier target than this Athletics Department, and this history.

Even before Robby's post, there has been a buzz about negative recruiting and how some schools have tried to paint UB in a negative light to recruits. Oddly enough they have decided to point at racism in Buffalo as a key focus point for some of these efforts.

It's odd because while Buffalo, like all American cities, has some history of racism the city itself is no worse than Kalamazoo, Michigan or Athens, Ohio. It's even more odd because UB Athletics has a long and rich history of accomplishments in the areas of race.

Bemus Pierce

No school is perfect, mind you, but I would proudly put UB's record up against most any school.

I could go all the way back to 1899 and the hiring of Bemus Pierce, a Native American, as the Bulls second head coach. Pierce led the school to a perfect 6-0 record before leaving the next season to play for the Homestead Library & Athletic Club in Pittsburgh.

Or I could fast forward the DeLorean to 1958 and the now well-known story about the UB Bulls turning down a bowl invitation when they were told their two African American players could not participate. The program was 64 years old and it would be another 50 before the school got another bowl invite.

Those stories and several others from before UB's current era are ancient history. If you were a newborn baby when the Bulls turned down a bowl you're now 57 years old. and if you were around for Bemus Pierce then you're a centenarian.

Let's instead focus on the current Division I era of UB athletics, which started in 1993.

It was Nelson Townsend, an African American, who was given the post of UB Athletic Director during the "Run To Division I" program which elevated UB from Division II to the NCAA's top level. He was the first of now three African Americans to lead the program.

In the run up to Division I ball Sam Sanders, an alumnus of the 58 team who would not compete without their teammates, had to step down for health issues.

Townsend promoted UB offensive coordinator Jim Ward, a Buffalo Native who had been coaching recently at Howard and Norfolk. Ward coached UB for a single season at the DIII level and then was the teams leader as they headed into the DI era.

Ward coached for three seasons (two while UB was D1), while Townsend stayed on at UB until 1998, departing the post only when a heart attack forced him to step down. He would eventually get back into college sports by taking over Florida A&M and years later he would hire UB offensive coordinator and interim head coach Alex Wood.

In basketball, the following year, rocked by scandal and with an impending game versus North Carolina, UB hired Reggie Witherspoon as an interim coach. "Spoon" coached at ECC and had been a ball boy for Buffalo in his youth. He won the job and lasted 14 years, taking UB to the NIT and a couple of other basketball postseason tournaments.

Football at Buffalo was bad, especially bad, during their first several years of UB Athletics at the D-I. Many believed that the school was not taking football seriously. Enter Warde Manuel, hired on to help the school, who called out the university for not being serious about football. Later he was made the Director of Athletics, hired on Turner Gill and set up a very special era for UB.

With Gill, Manuel, and Witherspoon the Bulls two flagship teams and the leader of the department were all African American.

Gill won the MAC and took UB to their first bowl in 2008, fifty years after their declined invitation, Witherspoon took the Bulls to the CBI and CIT, and under Manuel UB won other championships in Tennis, Men's Swimming and Diving, and Women's Rowing.

Over the next several seasons Turner Gill left for Kansas and Warde Manuel was hired away by UConn.

Gill could not make things work at Kansas but Manuel did so well that he's now found himself at Michigan, his alma mater. In an era when there is a dearth of African Americans leading power programs UB had a huge role in Manuel's ascension to one of the highest posts in college sports.

The departure of Gill brought Jeff Quinn and then the departure of Warde Manuel brought Danny White.

White came in and cleaned house in a lot of sports, including Men's Basketball. When Bobby Hurley was hired it marked the first time since the short 1998 period between Townsend and Witherspoon that there was not an African American directing the department or leading one of the school's football or basketball team.

But the move was good for the school. Hurley took UB to its first outright MAC East title and the following year to its first NCAA tournament. The Bulls lost Hurley and soon after Danny White was hired away by UCF.

# Years %
AD 3 11 50%
FB 2 6 27%
MBB 1 14 63%

That brings us to today, and once again an African American is leading the Athletics Department. A man who was heavily lobbied for by the Buffalo Bulls fan base, including on this site.

UB has had leadership positions held by African Americans for 20 of the past 23 years. The only seasons in which one of the three highest profile posts were not occupied by an African American would be 1998, 2014, and 2015.

They have also been an incubator for African American assistant coaches who have moved up to head jobs. After a stint in FCS ball Alex Wood bounced around as a successful position coach with FBS teams from 2003 to 2010. Jeff Quinn brought him in to run the UB offense and now he is the head man at Florida A&M.

Turner Battle, one of UB's greatest basketball players, became a UB assistant coach in 2007. He has been working his way up the ladder for a few years and was an assistant on this season's UAB team. He may be moving along to Stanford with Jerod Haase as he continues to look more and more like a man who can take over a program in the future.

It's also worth noting that while the Bulls did not have an African American in one of the big three posts during the 2014-2015 era they did have Allen Greene, our current Director of Athletics. As the #2 man in the department he helped shape the direction of UB sports.

That the Bulls promoted him from within the department and put yet another Black AD in the college power pipeline is just another in a series of moves made by Buffalo which will improve the diversity of college sports.

The promotion of Greene means that UB Athletics has been led by African Americans for half of their 22-year Division I History. I'm not trying say UB is perfect. Every institution is run by people and as such every institution is imperfect. But I don't see a school in the MAC with a better record over the past 25 years than Buffalo and I'm pretty sure we would stack up well against anyone in any conference.

So negative recruiters might want to find a different approach when trying to attack Buffalo. Our values and they way they have been reflected in the faces of our leaders, speak for themselves.