(WBEN/AP) Could the University at Buffalo turn itself in to the nations next big athletic brand?
UB Athletic Director Danny White thinks that could be the case. It's part of the reason he is introducing a new logo for the athletic department that prominently features the name "New York," instead of Buffalo.
"Some of the most powerful athletic and academic brands in public higher education are ones that brand themselves with the state" White said. The University at Buffalo is the flagship school in the state's system, and already has "New York" in its official name. White thinks that emphasizing that could help turn the school in to a nationally recognized brand, much like Connecticut or Tennessee.
"You'll see our new mark in various ways, we don't know exactly how we're going to use it," said White. "Obviously the word 'New York' is in that mark in a prominent way, just as it is in the University Seal. You can't walk in our student union without looking down at the floor and seeing 'The State University of New York, Buffalo,' that's the official name of our institution and something we're proud of."
In addition to the new logo, a map of the state can be seen on the newly repainted basketball court at Alumni Arena.
"We think there's unprecedented potential here," White said. "The state of New York should have a big time college athletics brand, and we're so excited about the opportunity to bring it here to Wester New York."
"New York state's one of the most powerful state's in the country. And we don't see any reasons why we should run away from our position in the state," White said. "So when we think about, 'Can we turn this into America's next big-time college athletics brand?" I think that there's a possibility that we can."
Don't laugh. White's serious about rebranding a program that has struggled competing in the Mid-American Conference, let alone made much of a dent in the national landscape since making the jump to the Division I-A level in 1999.
In the one year since taking over, the 33-year-old White, and son of Duke AD Kevin White, has begun unveiling the new vision.
New York is spelled out in large capital letters on the breast of the new Nike-designed Bulls collared shirt White wears. And it's a theme most prominently featured on the recently repainted Alumni Arena basketball court, on which a map of the entire state is spread across center court.
White doesn't intend to lose the name Buffalo, and doesn't consider the emphasis of New York as a knock against the city.
"It's certainly not a negative on Knoxville to have the Tennessee Volunteers, or Ann Arbor to have the Michigan Wolverines," he said. "I think it's only good for the city of Buffalo, for western New York and for our institution if we establish more of a national brand and get more nationally relevant as an athletic department."
White, of course, acknowledges a long road ahead transforming a program that's lacked resources, success or much of an identity.
Turner Gill didn't realize Buffalo even had a football program before he was hired as coach in 2006.
Buffalo's teams have combined to win a total of seven regular-season or postseason titles. That includes the Gill-coached Bulls winning the MAC title in 2008 and finishing with an 8-6 record — the team's only winning finish since 1996, when Buffalo was a Division I-AA program.
Lack of success aside, White noted the school has several advantages that have gone relatively untapped.
With an enrollment approaching 30,000, Buffalo is the flagship school in the state's system. More important, it's one of 62 members of the Association of American Universities, a collection of schools that includes Harvard, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.
It's not lost on White that in the breakup of the Big East Conference, Rutgers — an AAU member — found a landing spot with the Big Ten, while a higher-profile sports institution such as Connecticut was overlooked.
That should give Buffalo an edge.
"Our institutional profile is what gives us so much upside," White said. "You can't describe the potential of this place without describing who we are as New York's leading public university, an AAU institution, and what that means for us in terms of college athletics. That's what our new mark is all about."
Linking Buffalo to New York is not a new idea. One football media guide in the 1960s emphasized the state on its front cover, and added the note, "Formerly UB," on its inside cover.
Some 10 years ago, Rochester billionaire and former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano offered to make a multimillion donation to the school on condition it changed its name to New York State.
Golisano supports White's vision, said Larry Quinn, who served as the Sabres managing partner under Golisano.
"Tom's a big fan of what Danny's doing," Quinn said, noting that White has picked up where his predecessor Warde Manuel left off. "I think he's got great young energy. Warde started it. And I have a lot of confidence Danny will finish it. They're a great one-two punch."
That punch is going to need money, White acknowledged. The first priority is building a field house so Buffalo's outdoor sports teams can avoid the wintery elements.
White has already begun transforming Buffalo's coaching staff. His most high-profile addition was hiring former college and NBA star Bobby Hurley to take over the men's basketball program. That move, in itself, raised the school's reputation.
White stresses he hired Hurley because of his background and ability, not simply because of his name.
And yet, he's not complaining about the buzz Hurley created.
"It was nice. I think it helps our relevance," White said. "I think we have a compelling vision, a compelling story, and we'll see where it takes us."
This is the University at Buffalo not University at New York. Locals don't like to be considered being part of NY state and much rather be associated with Buffalo. Don't like the new NY marketing plan. Maybe try in in NY city.
This is the State University of New York and it should be branded that way all the time. You go outside this area and all Buffalo is known for is Blizzards and cold. New York is known all around the world. Ask an international student why they are here and they will tell you 'I thought I was going to NYC' That is the way we are listed internationally and Buffalonians need to get out of the stone age and let people who actually understand how marketing works deal with the brand decisions. If Alums complain they can keep there UB and I can use the New York State name to help distinguish my degree like I have been doing for years.
Send out an email and ask your friends in other states if they would rather go to the State University of New York or the University at Buffalo and you will see why including Buffalo as our brand is dumb.