Former UB Athletic Director Danny White introduced at UCF
White to help with UB’s transition, major donor reacts
Danny White spent the past three and a half years building the UB Athletics program and hoping to see it eventually become “big-time.”
If his plans come to fruition, he won’t be around to see them. Rather, he’ll be working on a similar goal at the University of Central Florida.
“I’ve always been more attracted to the prospect of building something,” White said. “There’s no limit to what we can build [at UCF].”
White was officially introduced as vice president and director of athletics of UCF Athletics Thursday. White is expected to assume his full responsibilities with the Knights at some point in January and will still be vaguely involved with UB for the next six weeks to help Buffalo transition through its leadership change.
White thanked Buffalo and said the program will continue with sustainable success in the future.
“I’m proud of the work we did at Buffalo with a lot of staff, donors, student-athletes and coaches,” White said. “We made a lot of progress there and I’m confident that will continue there. The same potential there is what made [UCF] attractive.”
UCF President John Hitt called White a “rising star” in college athletics. He was one of three finalists that were considered for the job and it was reported White was the frontrunner during the entire interview process.
Hitt said White’s qualities of determination and integrity are what prompted the program to make the decision.
“Danny is very talented. In the brief time I’ve met him, he’s determined, he’s energetic and he understands that success starts with winning integrity and stresses the role of student-athletes thriving in the classroom,” Hitt said.
It was always clear White was in contention for bigger and better jobs after the success of UB Athletics during his tenure. Last year alone, the program had three teams win Mid-American Conference Championships, including the men’s basketball team’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
But the differences between UB’s athletic program and UCF’s are substantial. The Knights have a larger athletic budget with a higher student enrollment. UCF plays in a competitive American Athletic Conference, which is not in the Power Five but considered a step above the MAC. The UCF job also posed White with an intriguing opportunity: find a new football coach.
Longtime UCF head football coach George O’Leary resigned as both coach and interim athletic director last month.
It’s a daunting task to replace a coach. And at Buffalo, he did that a lot.
While at Buffalo, White fired eight coaches, including former head football coach Jeff Quinn and 14-year head men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon, and had to hire 12 head coaches during his three-and-a-half year tenure.
“At UB, we walked into a situation where there was a lot of sports with coaches that have been there for a long time,” White said. “We didn’t have a lot of competitive success.”
But what made him attractive to other schools were his coaching replacements.
White replaced Witherspoon with NCAA legend Bobby Hurley and then replaced Quinn with Division-III coaching legend Lance Leipold.
But his departure possibly leaves UB Athletics with an identity crisis. In 2013, White implemented the New York Bulls Initiative, an attempt emphasis UB’s standing in New York in its athletics. He rebranded the program with a new logo that highlights “New York” rather than “Buffalo.”
The logo can now be seen everywhere, from Twitter to the basketball court in Alumni Arena.
But the switch has drawn backlash over the years to essentially eliminate “Buffalo” from the rebranding. Despite skeptics, the initiative thrived for one of White’s finest attributes – getting donations – which allowed for the construction of luxury seating at UB Stadium now dubbed the Edward J. Gicewicz Club.
Whether or not UB Athletics continues to use the moniker once a new AD is in place, UB alumnus and donor Tunney Murchie doesn’t think a name and a logo should be a main concern.
“That’s a very small issue – the name. I think it’s coaching,” Murchie said. “I think it is games and serious competition, recruitment, getting the right players here. I think that’s the issue. And in order for that to happen, alumni, like myself … I feel it’s up to us to make things happen. We’re a state school. There are certain road blocks and brick walls.”
Murchie donated a total of $4 million during the past few years to UB Athletics, which was under White’s guidance at the time. He said he wanted to contribute money to the program because he saw the sustainable potential the program had, even if White left Buffalo.
Murchie maintained a close relationship with White, even up until the AD’s departure earlier this week. He wanted to reach out to White to confirm the news he was leaving, but by then, mainstream media had already confirmed the decision. Murchie wasn’t expecting White to stay for longer than five years, but feels privileged to have had him working for his Alma Mater.
“The fortunate thing about this whole scenario was he left some pretty good building blocks,” Murchie said. “I’ve heard a lot of mishmash around UB should be reassessing their direction. That’s a bunch of bologna.”
Buffalo’s immediate direction is to find a new athletic director. The school has yet to name an interim AD.
It is also unclear whether or not White’s future plans he left on the table would go into fruition. Currently, Buffalo is the only team in the MAC to not have an athletic field house. White often spoke of gathering donations for such a facility and that he was confident it would happen soon.
Even if White may not be around to see his projects finished, people like Murchie are content with the “building blocks” that White left at Buffalo. Murchie said UB is in a good position moving forward and said he wants a new athletic director with similar traits to White.
“Dedication, passion. Passion and dedication to making the program the best it could be,” Murchie said. “You’ve got to live there if you want this program to grow … It’s a never-ending battle of what it takes to be successful.”
Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.