Solving the Quinn conundrum

By AARON MANSFIELD
On November 21, 2012

  • In a survey conducted by The Spectrum, students reported they've had sex all over campus -- including libraries like Lockwood, pictured above. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
  • Twitter responds to Jeff Quinn's contract extension through the 2017 season

I don't understand why everyone is up in arms. It makes perfect sense.

On Wednesday afternoon, UB Athletics announced head football coach Jeff Quinn and Athletic Director Danny White have agreed in principle to a contract extension through the 2017 season. Fans are befuddled, but I am not.

Allow me to explain. Ever since preseason this year, it seems everyone has asked: "How long can Jeff Quinn possibly keep his job?" I'd always respond: "If he wins four games this year, he has at least one more season." UB is 4-7 this season. Picture it on a graph: Quinn has won two, three and four games, respectively, in his three years at the University at Buffalo.

I know the Bulls had won eight (2008) and five (2009) games the two years before the Quinn era, but there must be patience during the adjustment period. He needed to reset the Bulls to a two-win team to build them up to this year's four-win team.

Besides, why wouldn't you want to keep a guy around who has won three straight games? As the press release announcing Quinn's new contract stated, "The Bulls have rallied in November."

They have rallied indeed. The Bulls have shown vast improvement in the Mid-American Conference in squeaking out three wins by an average of six points over teams that are a combined 9-25 (6-16 MAC). Buffalo's one road win in that stretch came over UMass, a first-year Division IA program that is 1-10, after Quinn put together what had to be a masterful halftime speech to bring his team back from a 13-0 halftime deficit.

Interestingly, one of the teams UB has beaten in its three-game win streak, Western Michigan, terminated the contract of head coach Bill Cubit this past weekend. Cubit was 51-47 (.520) in his eight years at WMU. Quinn is 9-26 (.257) since he took over as head coach in 2010.

But this move is not about long-term history; it is about what Quinn has done for the team lately. This contract extension is the right move. A three-game win streak is an anomaly in Western New York, and it can be attributed to the head coach. Some don't understand.

"It's hasty," said Ben Tsujimoto, who covers the Bulls year-round for Buffalo.com. "A lot of the stats don't trend in UB's favor - the overall record the last three years, the inability to win close games - and it's tough to see this three-game win streak as a cure-all for Quinn's and UB's previous problems."

Tsujimoto has advocated for giving the coach one more season before determining his fate, blatantly oblivious to the aforementioned graph that supports UB's decision to lock the coach up for the next five years. Why wait until Quinn wins five games next year and wants more money?

"Aside from last year's win over Ohio, when has UB beaten a quality opponent?" Tsujimoto said, ignoring UB's 35-7 win over FCS school Stony Brook last year. "White is taking a serious risk, a leap of faith."

A leap of faith? Hardly. Quinn is an offensive mastermind (Did you see his offense when he was the coordinator at Cincinnati? That was all Quinn, not head coach Brian Kelly, whose Notre Dame team is now No. 1 in the nation) who has been forced to push through a major setback since week nine. 

The Bulls had sprinted to a 1-7 start under junior quarterback Alex Zordich, the supreme weapon in UB's quarterback arsenal. So Quinn had to go to the man a few impatient people had been waiting to see - redshirt freshman Joe Licata - to lead the team under center.

Licata holds the New York State high school passing record for touchdowns in a career. Some say he's an accurate QB with a head on his shoulders and a cannon for an arm. In fact, a large part of uneducated Bulls faithful was mystified when Licata wasn't the starter from day one this year. 

There was a common theme in press conferences through the Bulls' rough start to the season. Quinn had to be tired of answering one question: "What about Joe Licata?"

Why would people who have no idea how to coach a football team ask that question of a man who knows what he's doing? The people who asked about Licata are the same ones crediting the Bulls' recent win streak to the redshirt freshman, but they don't know what they're talking about. If Licata was good from the start of the season, Quinn would have obviously had him in.

Licata needed to develop from the sidelines, not in an in-game situation.

After all, the redshirt freshman wasn't even sniffing the field because Zordich was dominating. In games against Division IA opponents, Zordich had thrown five touchdowns in seven games - an average of .71 touchdowns per game.

Why mess with Zordich's hot hand just to give Licata, who clearly wasn't ready, a chance? Quinn knew better. "Alex Zordich is our quarterback," he would automatically retort, restoring faith in his emerging junior quarterback. 

Additionally, Quinn had ulterior motives - there was a commonly held belief around UB Stadium that Collin Michael, a lanky freshman who is redshirting this year, would take over as quarterback next season.

And yes, after Licata's three-game streak, that theory is still prevalent around football headquarters. Quinn knows not to put all his eggs in one basket, so he won't list Licata as the starter. The depth chart reads: "Starting quarterback - Alex Zordich OR Joe Licata." He won't commit to Licata as the quarterback of the future, and why should he? He knows better than fans; he has won four games this year.

In three undefeated starts, Licata has thrown for a measly 638 yards and five touchdowns. Did I mention he has tossed two interceptions? You can't give the ball away like that and expect to keep winning games.

Thankfully, Quinn has saved Licata's dreadful performance by developing Michael in practice and training sophomore kicker Patrick Clarke to convert on all eight of his extra-point attempts these past three games. Eight for eight. Forget Licata - where's the love for Clarke?

Though the Bulls aren't bowl eligible, a four-win season is tremendous. And for that reason, Quinn will be around until 2017.

Does it make sense now?

 

Email: aaron.mansfield@ubspectrum.com


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