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Jersey Week Look Back : The Buffalo “New York” Black Sheep

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Buffalo v Ohio State Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

editors note: I had been working on this two weeks ago but unfortunately homeschooling kids sucks up a lot of time.

In case you missed the memo it is “Jersey Week” at SB Nation. Sites around the league are taking time to look at their favorite, or most interesting team jerseys of all time.

Jerseys and team uniforms are such an important part of life as a sports fan. I grew up with the “new look” red helmets of the Buffalo Bills, my older siblings with the white, and now my kids with the white.

UB themselves have had a ton of change over the years in logos an uniforms but the most compelling change came as a literal last minute addition to their uniforms under the tenure of Danny White.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the “New York Patch”, let me set the stage.

Buffalo had been a division one FBS school for about 15 years when Danny White decided to capitalize on a few key facts

  • There is no “New York State University” in the way you have in other states
  • Buffalo as the largest Public University in the State, and the highest performing Athletic department in the state system is as close as NY got.

The idea was to not so much “rebrand” Buffalo but to sell Buffalo as the defacto “State University” when it came to athletics. It was very similar to what Syracuse tried to do with one big difference.

We are actually a state university, not a private school.

Love it or hate it, and there were good people in both camps, it was bold. For years UB had been building up the infrastructure to compete in Division one. The work put in by Warde Manuel had turned UB from a near total joke into a respectable Mid American Conference Program.

They won a football title, went to a bowl, and were competitive every year in basketball. But in our PR game it felt like UB was playing defense. And Danny White aimed to change that, he was going to push hard to put UB on a bigger map.

But in the rush to get there the football teams uniforms were tagged with a patch that said “New York” at the 11th hour. The hastily sewn on patch looked awful, and the message behind it was lost on some of Buffalo’s local sports reporters.

Some of those reporters made the next couple years of their careers trashing white over it, and the spill over hurt the entire local perception of what White was trying to accomplish.

The “New York” patch became a punching bag. You could not have a conversation about the entire movement without someone focusing in on the patch. In the end the branding portions of the NYBI program had to be kicked to the curb.

While wearing “The Patch” UB sports had some of their best ever seasons, but looking back on highlights it always reminds me that something as simple as a poor logo implementation can divide a fan community.