In the early `90s, UB's athletic programs moved up to
Division I after decades in Division III. Five years ago, the Bulls made another quick jump to the competitive Mid-American Conference, home to powerhouses like Marshall and Kent State. Despite huge levels of promotion (particularly for football), the teams have failed to inspire much of a following on campus. The hapless football team is so pathetic they are often ranked near the bottom of ESPN's "Bottom 10." Over 20,000 students usually come out for the home opener, but interest trails off as the losses mount. Some students genuinely hate the football team, and professors complain about it every day. They say the huge amounts of money that are invested in the program (each of the 100 players on the squad gets a full scholarship) could be better invested in academics.
But in the spring of 2004, the basketball team went on a tear and UB got a taste of the potential of big-time sports. Toward the end of the season, thousands of blue-clad "Mighty Maniacs" crowded like sweaty sardines in the large student section, cheering and chanting loudly for the entire game. The fans even rushed the court after a stunning home victory against Kent State (a top 30 team) and a first-round playoff win against Northern Illinois. The other sports teams have had mixed success-wrestling and women's soccer are both strong in their conferences, while tennis and baseball are weak. UB fields top-notch club teams, and many students also join intramural sports leagues which are generally taken more seriously at UB than at other schools.