Finally firing Quinn: the right play

Coach's ineptitude prompted his removal by AD White


It took only a three-game win streak in 2012 for Athletic Director Danny White to grant head football coach Jeff Quinn a contract extension through 2017. The decision seemed premature to many, as this three-game span in 2012 resulted in 33 percent of Quinn’s wins in his three seasons at Buffalo.

Just 21 games – less than two full seasons – into Quinn’s new contract, White realized the mistake of his 2012 decision. And this time around, it’s a move that deserves wholehearted support.

After experiencing not just a loss, but a 37-27 humiliation against Eastern Michigan Saturday, the Bulls are saying farewell to Quinn and ushering in a new era, ideally one that is finally as “big time” as White would like.

The current state of the team, with its 3-4 record and rapidly fading bowl aspirations, cannot become the norm if UB is to continue its pursuit of a reputation as a serious sports school.

The Bulls’ 8-5 record last season needs to become the standard, even the bare minimum – not the exception to the rule, or an anomaly among two, three and four win seasons.

Although the eight-win season was unprecedented at UB, it could still be argued as a disappointment. After all, the Bulls had seven All-Mid-American Conference players – six of whom went on to receive NFL tryouts. Not to mention Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver, arguably the two best players in program history – whom Quinn did not recruit. It’s hard to imagine a roster better equip for a conference championship at UB coming anytime soon.

A new standard of success and increasingly high expectations require a top-tier coach who can produce results. That doesn’t mean the coach needs to be a huge name, as Quinn’s predecessor, Turner Gill, proved.

White took a chance extending Quinn, and the move backfired – the nullification of the head coach’s contract will cost UB at least the remaining balance of Quinn’s current $250,000 base salary. If Quinn doesn’t end up working elsewhere, he’ll receive decreasing payouts for the remainder of his contract – up to $525,000, according to his contract.

White’s strategy in designing this contract was shrewd, as the prospect of paying the full payout is unlikely – Quinn will probably end up working again, like fired men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon, who is now working at Alabama as an assistant coach.

Even if UB has to pay the full $525,000, White’s arrangement of a decreasing payout – rather than paying Quinn’s base salary through 2017, which would have been more typical compared to other college contracts – shows the athletic director at least had some foresight, though the move was still foolish.

The athletic program was not splurging on Quinn – his annual salary was low compared to the deals major college coaches receive.

Clearly, White wanted Quinn to be his guy – the coach who would take UB’s football program to the next level, to bowl games and championships and beyond. But after the team’s loss to Eastern Michigan, and through seven games this year, it’s painfully apparent that Quinn can’t do that.

The football team’s non-schedule this year revolved around the team’s potential – it was designed to put the Bulls in a position where they could keep the excitement level up surrounding UB football. Even though only one of the Bulls’ two games against FCS programs would count toward the necessary six wins to play in a bowl game, White figured these would be two easy victories for his young, inexperienced team. But a 38-28 fourth-quarter victory over FCS Duquesne in Week One certainly wasn’t what White expected.

The Bulls’ only nonconference road game was against Army – whereas in year’s past, the Bulls have accepted payouts of nearly a million dollars to lose to national ranked programs. The team returned home to an ESPN game against Baylor and was the third largest attended game in UB Stadium history.

It was White’s hope that an easier non-conference schedule would aid the team in making a bowl game appearance in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. But that’s no longer realistic. This year’s team cannot replicate the success of last year’s team, and Quinn will – rightfully – not have another year to attempt to do so..

Instead, the team will experience the rest of the season in flux, during what is sure to be a long and extensive search for a new head coach. Knowing White, and given his previous selections of well-known coaches like Bobby Hurley and Trena Peel, the new football coach will most likely bring name-recognition and experience to the field – and ideally, a new attitude.

Quinn was a far cry from a players’ coach. As detailed in The Spectrum’s feature on the head coach’s inconsistent disciplinary techniques, Quinn’s coaching methods were a poor fit for the team. The program was better suited to former coach Gill’s coaching style. Gill recruited better players – Mack, Oliver, Alex Neutz, Drew Willy, James Starks, Naaman Roosevelt – and maintained a positive team environment.

The players, without the support of their coach, had begun to rely on each other, including a saying – “We all we got, we all we need.” It’s a show of not just solidarity but subtle rebellion, as the players unite in their displeasure with the current coaching situation.

“We all we got” isn’t an invention of the Bulls. The saying, adopted from rap lyrics, is shared by the Seattle Seahawks, who recite the motto not just before games, but after victories – with their coaches celebrating alongside them.

The Bulls should be a united front – against their opponents, not their coaches. The team deserves a leader who players can trust.

We applaud White for admitting his 2012 mistake and hope he makes a wiser coaching selection this time.