by John Furgele
The Big Ten is an oxymoron—I think. They have 11 members, but they call themselves the Big Ten. They also used to go by “Big 10,” but now they prefer “Big Ten.” But, the Big Ten needs to do something, and that something is adding a 12th team, which would split the conference into two six team divisions and provide it with a conference championship game in football.
First, they need to find that 12th member. Most believe that the conference is saving the coveted 12th spot for Notre Dame, which would make for a natural fit. The Irish are close to Chicago, already play several Big Ten teams each year, and travel would be convenient. But, how long should the Big Ten wait, and will Notre Dame ever break down and join a football conference?
There is one school that shouldn’t wait for Notre Dame, or any other school for that matter. That school is the University at Buffalo, the Bulls, and they should apply to the Big Ten for membership and they should do it now, not later.
The Big Ten is made up of big schools: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Penn State and Northwestern. With the exception of Northwestern, a private school, all are land grant state universities that receive millions in state-aid each year. All have enrollements of 30,000 or over. Even “little” Northwestern boasts over 16,000 students, so the Big Ten really is big. With over 30,000 students, Buffalo is certainly big enough to fit in with their future Big Ten brothers.
Buffalo would be a tremendous fit. Geographically, it is close to most of the other schools. A flight from Buffalo to Detroit takes no more than 45 minutes and most of the schools are within a half-day’s bus ride. Like Ohio State, Buffalo is the largest public state university in New York. In New York, schools are named after the towns they are in and are part of the State University of New York, or SUNY. SUNY Buffalo is one of 64 state university campuses, but like Ohio State, it is the biggest university in the Empire State system.
Buffalo offers more intercollegiate sports than Northwestern and have been competitive in many of them. Buffalo is considered a small market by professional sports standards, but for college, Buffalo could become the next Columbus. Buffalo sports fans are passionate and will cheer hard for any uniform that says “BUFFALO” across the front of it. After beating previously unbeaten Ball State in the MAC Championship Game, the win drew plenty of media attention and took some of the heat off the baffling Buffalo Bills.
The Bulls would need some facility upgrades, and more seats to the current 29,000 seat UB Stadium is a must, but Buffalo can play games in the 73,000 seat Ralph Wilson Stadium while the on campus site is expanded. That would not be unusual as Miami and Pittsburgh also play games in NFL stadiums. Can you imagine the Ohio State Buckeyes running out of the tunnel at Wilson Stadium before 73,000 Bulls fans clad in blue and white? Or, the Indiana Hoosiers playing before 16,000 fans at HSBC Arena, the current home of the Buffalo Sabres, and a team that would love to have a tenant use the place 10-14 times per year?
Buffalo is a strong academic school that would not have to take a backseat to any of its Big Ten brethern when it comes to research and pumping out future leaders in industry, medicine, law and education. Buffalo is perhaps even overqualified than some of the universities in the conference already.
Membership in the Big Ten would lead to a larger endowment, more applications and more students than the already 30,000. Membership would create more professional jobs, construction jobs, administration jobs, maintenance jobs, secretarial jobs and so on. After graduating, many Buffalo grads would stay in Buffalo and work there, live there, raise families there and buy tickets to Buffalo football and basketball games there. The possibilities are truly endless.
It would also allow Buffalo to keep a coach like Turner Gill. Why would Gill leave Buffalo for say, Auburn, when he can make the $2 million salary that Big Ten Buffalo can offer?
Deep down, the Big Ten knows Buffalo is an outstanding fit for its 12th member. Despite what we read about New York’s population, only California and Texas have more people residing in it than New York State, but Texas has the University of Texas at Austin and California has UCLA (USC is private) as its signature sports state universities. New York needs a school to carry that flag and Buffalo has the profile, the people and the passion to be this school.
The University at Buffalo needs to call the Big Ten and schedule a time that to make the presentation that will ultimately lead to its inclusion into the conference. Don’t ask for a time, make a time and come out swinging. The Big Ten will be wondering why they didn’t bring in Buffalo sooner.