The steel girders framing the Murchie Family Fieldhouse serve as the latest and most visible sign of the tremendous progress made by the University at Buffalo Athletics Department thanks, in large part, to the generosity of donors through philanthropic gifts.
The Blue and White Fund, as part of Boldly Buffalo – a university-wide comprehensive campaign, has raised over $18 million since 2013 toward its goal of $30 million by 2020. It is part of a commitment by UB Athletics to ensure its 385 student-athletes receive every opportunity to perform at the highest levels, in the classroom, in the community and in competition.
“This is a true testament of our generous supporters who firmly believe in our mission to provide a first-class collegiate experience for all of our student-athletes,” UB Director of Athletics Mark Alnutt said. “We’re extremely excited about the future of UB Athletics as we continue to provide the necessary resources to enhance our brand and visibility at the national level. We look forward to reaching and surpassing our goal by 2020.”
Signs of the progress are visible on and off the courts and fields of play. Since the campaign kicked off in 2013, UB teams have won nine Mid-American Conference Championships, including three of the last four MAC men’s basketball titles. The 2017-18 athletics campaign was arguably the finest in school history. In the fall, the football team earned bowl eligibility for just the third time in program history. The men’s basketball team won their third MAC Championship and upset Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The women’s basketball team won a school-record 29 games, earned the school’s first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16. Most recently, the women’s tennis team won the MAC title for the second straight year.
Facility upgrades have been at the forefront of the campaign. The Smolinski Family Sports Medicine Center opened in 2014 and provides student-athletes with a state-of-the-art facility to receive medical training and rehabilitation. The Murchie Family Football Center opened in 2016, providing ample modern meeting rooms and coaches offices. The men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as the wrestling and women’s soccer teams received substantial upgrades to their locker room spaces and now they rival the best in the conference.
The crown jewel of the facility projects is the Murchie Family Fieldhouse. Scheduled to open next spring, the 92,000-square-foot facility will house a full-sized football field, a sprint track, jumping pits and suspended softball hitting tunnels. It will benefit not only UB student-athletes, but the entire university community.
“While we have been seeing an increasing number of UB student-athletes make it to the next level, the vast majority that come to UB play out of love for their sport while working diligently to get their college degree,” Dr. Robert Smolinski said. “We’ve been blessed to have an amazing group of student-athletes that have represented UB and the Buffalo community with character and class while achieving athletic and academic success. They’re earned our support.”
Academics is always a priority and donations have gone toward improving academic spaces as well as broadening advising and tutorial services for student-athletes. The benefits have clearly paid off as UB student-athletes have surpassed a combined 3.0 overall grade point average over the past 12 consecutive semesters. In 2017, 20 student-athletes had perfect 4.0 GPAs; more than 150 were 3.5 or better.
“Supporting UB Athletic programs for Karen and me goes well beyond the access to quality, family-friendly sporting events right in our backyard,” said donor Dan Sperrazza, managing partner of the wealth management firm of HighTower LakeWater anda trustee on the UB Foundation board.. “When you meet the student-athletes and see their academic accomplishments, you gain an appreciation for how a world class, AAU public research university can secure championships the RIGHT way. Continuing UB’s ascent to national prominence takes resources that we and other like-minded supporters enthusiastically invest for the future.”
Athletics’ fundraising campaign is part of Boldly Buffalo: The Campaign for UB – the largest fundraising campaign ever by a SUNY school, and the largest in UB’s history. It will raise $650 million to transform student experiences, empower faculty research and discovery, and improve local and global communities. Since the university started counting gifts toward the campaign in 2013, it has already raised more than $451 million from alumni and donors eager to assist UB in securing its future.
Boldly Buffalo is a university-wide initiative, with 17 of UB’s schools, colleges and units declaring goals and fundraising priorities in areas where donors support is most critical to student success, faculty-led research and unique community impact programs. When successfully completed, the Boldly Buffalo campaign will create more scholarships and financial aid; will add resources for student experience programs like study abroad and internships; will renovate and create innovative new facilities where students learn, create, discover, and explore ideas; will bring more talented professors, researchers and teachers to campus; and will bring more of UB’s programming into the local communities, benefitting both area residents and students.
“These enhancements to our facilities infrastructure serve as tributes not only to the growth of our program but also the commitment to excellence shown by many of our generous supporters,” UB Deputy Director of Athletics Eric Gross said. “We’ve made great strides over the last five years because of the exemplary support shown by so many, but we’re just getting started. The Boldly Buffalo Campaign, and the resources we generate, will certainly serve as a critical catalyst for even greater things to come.”