The University at Buffalo football program has struggled immensely, leading some to wonder whether a conference change is imminent.
It’s become increasingly clear over the past couple of years that New York’s college football teams simply aren’t on par with those of other states.
While the Empire State has never been known for its gridiron programs, it’s telling that Syracuse University, which has long prided itself on being “New York’s College Team,” hasn’t qualified for a Bowl game since 2013.
While the Orange have had their struggles, so have the two other Division I-FBS programs: Army and Buffalo. While the former had a surprisingly successful campaign in 2016, the later was so bad that it actually fell to an FCS school.
For the University at Buffalo, that loss could have been the icing on the cake. The school recently announced that it will be cutting four of its twenty sports programs — men’s baseball, men’s soccer, men’s swimming and diving, and women’s rowing.
Although UB President Satish K. Tripathi said in a statement that “The University at Buffalo is committed to Division I athletics and remaining competitive in the Mid-American Conference,” it’s possible, according to some, that that won’t be the case.
So here’s the question: Is a conference move imminent?
John Furgele, a guest writer at UB Bull Run, speculates that that could be the case. He argues that with Valpo leaving the Horizon League, the door is wide open for Buffalo to join — and perhaps even drop to the FCS for football. (The Horizon League doesn’t sponsor football, making it optional to be an FBS program.)
Writes Furgele, “The Horizon League has a nice metro market feel with teams in Detroit, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Cleveland State, Cincinnati (Northern Kentucky), Oakland (Pontiac-Detroit), Illinois-Chicago, Youngstown State and Wright State (Dayton). Buffalo could thrive there.”
More importantly, he asserts, changing conferences would bolster UB’s other programs (less funding for football would equal more money for other sports) while allowing the school to develop a football team that could actually be competitive.
Although the MAC has developed a number of top NFL prospects (i.e. Khalil Mack and Corey Davis) over the past couple of years, it’s still considered to be on the lighter side of competition. Despite this, the Bulls’ program has struggled to stay afloat.
There’s a very compelling reason why Buffalo wouldn’t switch conferences, though: the Horizon League wouldn’t provide any financial incentives that the MAC doesn’t.
There’s another problem: Buffalo has really never committed to bolstering their football program. While they’ve had a great opportunity to deliver hope to a region devoid of any, they’ve failed, mostly because they haven’t delivered the resources necessary to do so.
For that reason, even switching to the FCS likely wouldn’t make much of a difference. When resources aren’t being provided, the results aren’t going to be pretty, regardless of the level.
It’s a bit of a stretch to think that just because Buffalo switches conferences, they’ll enjoy domination — or even success. So until they’re ready to bolster their program, or have the opportunity to switch to a better basketball conference like the Atlantic-10 (see: UMass), things are going to stay the way they are.
Special thanks to UB Bull Run’s Robby Johnson and Tim Riordan for their continued help.