SUNY flagship university athletic department spending, 2003-2011

The State University of New York

ub basketball court

The word "Buffalo" is there at the bottom.


So, apparently, the University at Buffalo is making a move toward some sort of claim on being the "State University of New York" via its athletics program. The new floor design for its basketball arena makes the intention pretty clear. [Buffalo News] [UB Sports]

As state university systems go, New York is unusual in that it doesn't have one (or two) huge main universities a la Ohio or Michigan or Pennsylvania. Instead, there are the "flagship" or "university center" campuses -- Buffalo, Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook -- which always seem to be formally or informally angling to get to the head of the line. Which arrangement -- huge central campus, or distributed system -- is better is an interesting question (and probably hard to answer).

Anyway, New York's system keeps any one school from claiming to be the New York State University (as at least one university officially claims to be in its state). Maybe that's not a big deal functionally, but from a marketing standpoint the tag seems like it could be valuable, especially out of state -- even if it's just for sports. (Syracuse University has been trying to stake a claim in that space for years.)

Now UB's taking a shot at it, though in a limited way. Zooming out a bit, it looks like another move in the ongoing competition by SUNY schools to differentiate and highlight themselves via sports. (Tangental fact: Combined athletics spending at the four flagship SUNY schools increased more than 52 percent between 2003 and 2011. Details here.) [NYT 2009]

Interestingly, all this is perhaps to the chagrin of some people in Buffalo, who feel like the move is a slight toward the city. Hey, if anything, it does away with the awkward "university at" phrase. [UB Bull Run/SB Nation]

NYSU: This sort of talk isn't new. About 10 years ago, according to the Buffalo News' Bob DiCesare, Tom Golisano reportedly offered UB "unspecified millions" if the school changed its name to New York State University.

Empire State University: There's already an Empire State College, which specializes in distant learning and "non-traditional" college classes. It has offices in Saratoga Springs. There is not an Empire State University -- at least, outside comic books.

image: UB Athletics


There's nothing more awkward than the acronym for my alma mater, the State University College at Oneonta: SUCO. Maybe that's why the college goes by SUNY Oneonta.

Well, Buffalo is pretty awesome. Sorry, Albany; you're no Buffalo.

Why can't each flagship school differentiate itself by its programs on a national scale? Everyone who knows SUNY has a cursory knowledge of which schools have stronger programs. I feel it would behoove the schools to stop competing over who has the better sports teams and instead focus their energy on the academic strengths. I say this knowing that sports are what put schools on the map and that's where money goes. But I also know that sports aren't what make a school.

$71M/year would provide free tuition to 11,020 students (at current rates), who would actually go to school to STUDY! That's the equivalent of approximately 3 times the total number of students enrolled at SUNY Purchase. In addition, professional sports teams would have to SPEND MONEY TRAINING THEIR OWN ATHLETES, from whom they derive colossal profits, instead of letting the public education system pay for it at an exhorbitant cost, if one combines competitive HS and College sports. In other words, a sham.

I always assumed the "University at Albany" thing was all about taking the word "state" out of the name and distinguishing the place from universities like Ohio State and Penn State that are known more for their athletics than for their academics... an effort that strikes me as trying just a bit too hard.

Why not do as California does and call the schools in the flagship system "University of [state], [city]"? Shortens the names, puts all the schools on an equal footing, and eliminates the word "state." And if certain schools are to be regarded as premier institutions, restrict that naming protocol to them and leave the rest as "State University of New York at [y]."

I am quite happy that SUNY schools currently do not devote that much money to their atheletic programs (especially compared to other public universities throughout the country). I recently read how New York is one of only about 10 states where a football or basketball coach is not by far the highest paid state employee. In many states, coaches at public universities bring in millions per year while spending on academics has been slashed in recent years and tuition costs have increased dramatically.
I have also noticed over the years that most public universities are far more expensive than SUNY (especially in schools with big name sports programs).

When I attended UAlbany, there were a number of out state students who went there because it was still cheaper for them to go there and pay out of state tuition then to pay in state tuition at a public university in their home state. I feel a key reason for this has to be because SUNY never devoted that much money towards athletics as opposed to other public university systems.

I also am happy that SUNY didn't have a major athletics program when I went there because I would have hated to subsidize (through my tuition/student activity fee dollars) a program I had no interest in being involved in. It also doesn't help that college athletics are based upon the concept that they should not have to pay "student athletes" but make tons of money off of them in exchange for the slight chance that some of them will make it big on a professional sports team. Despite this, many public universities somehow manage only to break even or lose money on their athletic program spending which in turn means that all students have to subsidize the program through higher tuition and fees.

On the other hand, I understand that many people think it is worth it to have a major athletic program for the increased publicity. However, I would much rather have a school that is much more focused on academics as opposed to improving their sports team, winning championships, creating new sports facilities, etc. I would not be too happy if I went to a school where a perfectly capable school president who cared deeply about academic risked getting fired just because their sports teams didn't win enough championships.

I always felt that UAlbany/the SUNY system did a much better job of focusing on academics as opposed to sports compared to other public universities and I feel it would be a serious issue in the long-run if they changed course and still wanted to keep tuition costs low and maintain a good quality education overall.

The name of the school is State University of New York at Buffalo, short form UB and University at Buffo. Nothing weird about that logo to me.

State University of New York and New York State University are two totally different things. One exists and one doesn't.

Lastly, the four large universities are called University Centers, not flagships!

I'm a SUNY stickler.

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