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The waiting game: The club rowing team continues to wait for SUNY decision on former Division I team equipment

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SUNY officials remain tight-lipped about whether they’ll allow UB’s club rowers to use tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment that formerly belonged to the Division I rowing team, which the university eliminated last year.

UB is looking to resolve the situation soon, with it entering its eighth month and the club’s fall season already over. The equipment continues to sit, unused, outside the club rowing team’s boathouse on Tonawanda Creek.

“The university does want the transfer of the equipment to take place,” said John Della Contrada, UB spokesperson. “It’s not a straightforward matter, but the university is taking the necessary steps to complete the process.”

Originally, the club was working with UB Athletics to transfer the equipment to itself or the Student Association. After the women’s rowing team was cut last year, some of the women rowers joined the men’s club team.

“Athletics began working with Student Life [in May] to begin the process of transferring the equipment,” said Associate Athletic Director Sharon Sanford. “We learned at the time that because SA is not a state entity, and is considered an auxiliary entity of the university, that the process was not as simple as we had hoped.”

SA has not been informed of the exact plan for the equipment, according to Student Association Attorney Joshua Korman. The equipment includes expensive women’s boats that the club rowing team has been unable to use. They have instead been renting boats that are often unsuitable for female rowers.

“It is important to note that SA sought continued access to the boats and equipment, not necessarily ownership of them… If the university had some other way for student rowing club participants to access the boats and equipment, SA remains open to any reasonable option,” Korman said.

The legal ramifications of the situation have caused it to drag on, according to Della Contrada.

In the spring, UB’s office of the vice president for finance and administration were consulted on the matter and are now involved in negotiations, according to Della Contrada. Athletics is no longer involved, and given that the equipment is state property, the department has no say in the matter, according to Associate Athletic Director for Broadcasting and Communications Daniel Enser.

“The university is in touch with SUNY on this matter,” Della Contrada said. “The university’s application to transfer the equipment to the rowing club is still under review by SUNY.”

On Friday, UB’s office of the vice president for finance and administration had a conference call with SUNY legal counsel. But the call didn’t result in an update or decision on the matter.

“The process is moving ahead, but there are legal regulations that need to be considered and addressed,” Della Contrada said.

SUNY would only provide a two-line statement on the situation in response to questions from The Spectrum.

“We are aware of the matter,” said SUNY Press Secretary Holly Liapis. “SUNY continues to work with University at Buffalo and provide support as options are being considered regarding the equipment.”

Liapis declined comment when asked if SUNY would commit to transferring the equipment to UB. Interviews with SA, athletics officials, the club team and representatives from the school made clear that no one knows what SUNY plans to do with the equipment.

If SUNY decides not to transfer the equipment over to SA or another UB entity, it does have other options.

“SUNY legal counsel would grant legal approval to transfer the equipment to another auxiliary group [possibly another SUNY school] or UB would begin a process where the equipment would first be offered to other state agencies for purchase,” Sanford said. “If no one claims the equipment, which is highly unlikely, UB could then apply for a waiver to transfer the equipment to SA.”

The club team still succeeds with the rented equipment it uses to accommodate the new female rowers on the team, despite the uncertainty of the situation. The fall season has been a success, with the women placing second at the Head of the Genesee Regatta in the varsity 4+ event.

Now that the fall season ended on Oct. 28, the team is hoping this matter can be resolved sooner rather than later. The spring season starts in March.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com


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