MAC attack: time for UB to look elsewhere

On February 5, 2013

The Mid-American Conference is not a good place to be, especially for Buffalo. Saturday night's men's basketball game against Western Michigan was the most recent reminder of that.

The officials in Saturday's game were whistle happy all night. Refs called borderline fouls on both teams, but it turned out the Bulls' physical defensive play hurt them the most.

In a vacuum, one shady officiating performance wouldn't be a big deal. I would be frustrated with the outcome, but it wouldn't generate the anger that Saturday night's game did.

The MAC hasn't been my favorite college conference for a while now because of issues like questionable officiating and poor scheduling that puts teams on the road for weeks at a time. But now, Buffalo's MAC membership is beginning to make even less sense.

While Buffalo may seem to align with other MAC schools at first glance (i.e. large public universities), as an institution, UB is head and shoulders above the other schools in the MAC.

Buffalo's ticket sales are an indicator that it is not comparable with its conference opponents. The 2011 football season had Buffalo football make $776,597. Eastern Michigan's entire athletic program made $385,053 from ticket sales, while Kent State's made $486,529.

A quick inquiry into data available online about other MAC schools' academic budgets reveals Buffalo's revenue nearly doubles the next-highest total of those budgets.

In the 2011-12 school year, Buffalo's revenue was $1 billion. Eastern Michigan's and Kent State's were $374.3 million and $618.2 million, respectively.

Despite Buffalo's lack of a national footprint, it is the crown jewel of the SUNY system. Other MAC schools are the second- and third-tier schools in their state.

The Ohio schools are overshadowed by Ohio State. Eastern, Central and Western Michigan are second fiddle to University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Ball State and Northern Illinois are stuck behind Indiana and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The biggest consequence of being little brothers to far-larger state schools is the limitations it places on growth. They will never outshine their larger brethren.

Buffalo has no big brother. Although it doesn't have the history of the premier large public schools in the country, there is no reason the administration shouldn't aspire to be like those schools.

Buffalo has been an FBS school for only 15 years, which is why it has made sense for the Bulls to be a MAC school. But with the exception of UMass, the other MAC schools have been in the conference longer than the Bulls have been playing D-IA football. Most of these schools will never leave the MAC because their funding has a ceiling. They won't advance because they can't.

Buffalo does not have that limitation.

The Bulls shouldn't plan on staying in the MAC for long; in fact, they should begin looking for a new home now.

While the conference landscape is still tumultuous, Buffalo should keep an eye on any opportunities that might afford it a better chance to advance.

Buffalo claims to be attempting to improve the university's image. But as long as Buffalo remains in the MAC, the second-tier state universities with which it shares a conference will burden its reputation.



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