UB's profile in the MAC has never been higher. With five conference titles in the past two years there is never a better time to be a UB fan.
It's not magic that made this happen, it's money. UB's spending on Athletics is near the top of the conference, something which was not the standard a decade ago.
Credit Warde Manuel with starting the culture change by daring UB to support football or stop pretending. Credit Danny White, who sold more tickets, brought in more donations, and got more revenue than many thought he could under the New York Bulls Initiative.
I expect Allen Greene will continue the work of his two predecessors. While UB may have dropped NYBI for "New York's Public Powerhouse," the action under the hood will be about the same. Some big donors have already hinted that the branding change will not douse their enthusiasm.
The much anticipated 2014-2015 athletic budget database dropped over on USAToday earlier this morning and it's quite telling:
Buffalo's revenues are fourth in the conference behind Miami, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan.
Miami's and Western Michigan's revenues are partially a result of their NCAA Division I hockey teams (in opposition to UB's club teams) which pushes expenses up a bit but does offer other forms of compensation.
Off the top of my head I believe EMU supports more sports than most MAC schools and outside of football they perform pretty well. (ed. note: EMU is the only MAC school to sponsor more sports than Buffalo, and it's only a difference of one: UB has Men's Tennis and EMU has Women's Golf and Gymnastics)
Western Michigan's department got a bump in school support from about twenty to twenty-five million dollars, propelling them to tops in conference spending.
On the flip side Bowling Green, Ball State, and Kent are all towards the bottom of the conference. This of course has not stopped the Falcons from fielding one of the more formidable football teams in the conference.
Whether Bowling Green can maintain their football program with their current level of spending, or if they can rescue hoops and other sports remains to be seen. Especially considering that, like Miami and WMU, the Falcons also have a D1 hockey team.
The Trend for Buffalo
|YEAR||TICKET SALES||Donations||RIGHTS / LICENSING||STUDENT FEES||SCHOOL FUNDS||OTHER||TOTAL REVENUES|
What about the AAC and the A10?
The number which jumps off the page is the 2055% rise in donations between 2005 and 2015. There was a great jump under Manuel who flirted with a million back in 2010, but it exploded under White who was up over a million during two of his years at UB. I'm sure part of that is the restructuring of ticket prices to include a donation. And yet, the revenue from explicitly ticket sales has also been strongly up recently.
Everyone knows the nine-figure departmental revenues seen by 24 schools is not a realistic goal for any mid-major. Only two schools from the PAC12 and ACC make that list, no way does anyone else.
But in the scope of high majors how does UB sit?
For the Bulls to catch up to the American Athletic Conference the school would need to bump revenues by about 33%. That would get the school into Houston territory.
Some of that might come from the higher bowl payout and NCAA hoops tournament units payout. The rest would have to come out of the pockets of alumni and fans.
Houston took in 6.4 million dollars in donations last year, UB brought in just over a million. The other area where Houston is making a lot more is ticket sales where UB is dwarfed by the Cougars by a factor of four to one.
UB Moving in the Right Direction
The athletic department has done a fantastic job in getting more money into the school. More money means better facilities, bigger recruiting budgets, and an easier time finding the right coaches and staff to compete for championships.
This next couple seasons will be a critical time for the department. They have, at the behest of the University, aligned themselves with the school at large under one unified brand.
The people who have been crowing for several years that they would support the Bulls "if not for the 'New York' thing" have a chance to be true to their word. While I was sad to see the New York brand go away my support will not waver, so I welcome the victors in the 'label wars'. Lets all grab a beer (or soda/pop for the kids) and enjoy Buffalo Bulls sports.