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A student-athlete’s response in light of recent events involving UB Athletics

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Robby Johnson

It’s been an incredibly tough year for UB Athletics and its fans. When the University decided to reduce its intercollegiate athletic teams by four this Spring, we felt a lot of the anger and sadness that UB’s student athletes felt.

This year we elected to give a voice that not only celebrates the accomplishments of each team and athlete, but to let voices of concern be heard. It’s a difficult side for us to portray, especially when we completely understand that UB Athletics wants to succeed as a department and wants their athletes to succeed.

An added piece of unfortunate news came to light yesterday that UB terminated employment of Nate Harvey, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for Olympic Sports. Harvey was loved by the student athletes and frustration was expressed throughout social media because of the decision.

Because we are all for expressing voices of concern, below is an article written by a UB student athlete in light of Harvey’s firing:

Every incoming freshman is always excited to be part of a Division I college athletics program. Personally, I was so happy to have a shot at being a part of it. Nowadays, not so much. I’m currently a junior at UB and I’ve seen quite a few interesting things in my years here, like three new logos. I guess I’ll beat a dead horse and start with the fact that UB athletics cut four teams this year. Don’t worry. I’m sure this article won’t evoke a response from the UB administration as they’re still trying to figure out where they lost the 2 million dollars.

It was awful to see 120 athletes lose their sport, but mine survived and at the time I thought that it was a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. Administration has only told us to believe in one thing, which is that we don’t matter. You can win MACC’s every year and have the highest team GPA, but if you don’t fall in the budget, sorry we’re going to have to let you go. No worries though, we will give you all a release. However, we’d really like to wait till all scholarships at other schools are gone. Also I’m sure UB would like to really thank the sports — Men’s Soccer, Women’s Rowing, Men’s Baseball and Men’s Swimming and Diving — for their contributions. In true UB fashion they did a grand job by cancelling the final banquet. Probably trying to find that 2 million dollar deficit.

We’ve waited long enough to have more of an answer then, “There were many factors that went into our decision to cut the four programs.” Next time just say we said so and maybe give us more time to process than 30 minutes before the press release. Decisions like these didn’t happen overnight, but let’s continue to talk past that and continue to see how UB athletics managed to make things worse.

If you know anything about college athletics you know that training is a huge aspect. If you know anything about training you know that Nate Harvey knows how to get it done. Here’s a quick run down of why this man matters, pulled straight from UB Athletics page:

“During his eight years at UB, he coached their first ever national champion (shot put), four-team conference champions (one back-to-back), eight of the school’s twelve total All-Americans, 18 Olympic Trial qualifiers, over 50 individual conference champions, 16 individual national qualifiers, and over 75 individual regional qualifiers in various Olympic Sports.”

This is just what he’s done on paper. It’s hard to even express how many renovations that the weight room has gone through and not through contractors, but personally done by Nate. Nate Harvey believes in what he does. He’s one of the few that truly believes in athletes. So a man whose been fully invested in UB and not just using it as stepping stone, but rather building the program, knows what he’s talking about. He cares about his athletes and deserves the title of one of the best things UB athletics had.

Nate Harvey was asked to leave after he confronted administration about a job posting in strength and conditioning. He heard about the posting due to excessive amount of texts and emails he received from people who were excited about an opportunity to work with him. That job posting was his job. Ironic. I’d love to add my uncensored opinion, but grab a student athlete from any sport you’d like and ask them theirs. I’m sure our choice words would line up. So why was Nate Harvey let go? Politics.

Some coaches were not happy with their season so clearly the fault lies in a man who’s been here a lot longer with undeniable results. I shouldn’t single out coaches because here at UB we’re a family and we “look out for each other,” but that ship has sailed. The volleyball coach has been grasping at anything and everything to justify her season. Her team did not train under Nate’s training. She was having her own coaching staff come in to the weight room. So why did her opinion count? Coach Jack, love her, but questionable judgment this season. The basketball team just came off a championship title and Coach Jack chose not to use Nate Harvey as the strength coach this past year.

Nate is a tool at the coaches’ disposal so if he’s not being used correctly whose fault is that? If coaches would like a different approach to their athletes, that’s their call, but since when do they get to call the shots for the other 14 teams? Administration doesn’t pay the price for these actions though. Athletes do. Nate Harvey does. Nate Harvey’s family does. If this doesn’t alert you to the lack of a winning culture, don’t worry it doesn’t end there.

Being an athlete that’s not on the basketball or football team at UB is a demoralizing experience. I’m not taking anything away from basketball or football. Zero problems with their athletes. Wait. That’s a lie. I have a problem when they roll in late to study hours and tutors are asking them if they would like a snack while spoon-feeding them answers. When they’re being obnoxious and loud, yet given three or four chances before getting kicked out I have a problem. When I’m told there might not be a tutor for myself and I see what’s happening around me I have a problem. The best is when they receive summer aid preferences because they can’t keep their grades up. I realize that this isn’t all of football and basketball, but you don’t see any other sport that acts in that manner.

But don’t they bring in all the money? Sure. Does UB have a baseball field where they could bring in a crowd? Nope. Remember when the track was built solely for track and they hosted those huge big time meets that brought in lots of money? The point is every athlete works hard regardless of sport, but please don’t hit us with the “Who brings in the money?” line when the money available is being allocated to basketball and football. Football does not bring in enough revenue to have eight different uniforms or for the coach to take his players to hotels in downtown Buffalo for home games.

None of us are asking you to cut sports, not even football. But, we’d like for you to re-evaluate the UB Athletics funds for what is necessary to win and what is wasting money. UB’s only national championship was shot putter Jon Jones. Coach Garnham has way too many accolades to go over, but UB loves to highlight how many MAC shot put titles the school has. He coaches on $17,000 a year. You could make more money at McDonald’s. Meanwhile the turf has changed eight times (due to logos) in the past two years so who knows, maybe some reflection can help you find that 2 million.

When I came to UB I thought I would make an impact. I truly believed UB was on the rise and we were going to be the underdogs that prevailed. It’s hard to rise up when your own administration kicks you down. I used to be proud to rep UB. Even though I’m an athlete, I used to buy UB gear. Now I only wear my gear when absolutely necessary. If you’re a prospect that’s thinking about coming to UB, please beware that the Power Five are trying to lower the requirement needed. Currently we have 16 teams, which is the minimum requirement. If the number gets lowered there’s no telling which teams will make the cut.

The article above does not necessarily reflect the opinions or thoughts of Bull Run, SB Nation, Vox Media.