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How much will UB benefit from football program's success?

   It wasn't so long ago that UB's football team was a punch-line.

   The team struggled to win one or two games a year, and regularly finished near - or at - the bottom of rankings of the nation's Division I college football programs.

   I have a firsthand knowledge of these dark years for the Bulls.

   I was a freshman member of the UB Pep Band in fall 1993, when UB Stadium opened and the team lost every home game. The crowds appeared to get smaller and the margin of defeat larger as the season wore on.

   What a difference 15 years make. UB under head coach Turner Gill in 2008 seemed to lead the nation in dramatic, come-from-behind victories.

   The Bulls won their first Mid-American Conference Championship this fall and will play in their first bowl game Saturday in Toronto.

   ESPN's SportsCenter, Sports Illustrated - heck, even David Letterman  - have all recognized UB's accomplishments.

   Now, as my colleague Jay Rey notes today, school officials are optimistic that this attention will lead to increased name-recognition, donations and applications.

   Anecdotally, several schools - notably Boston College and Gonzaga University - have seen a boost in freshman applications after a big moment on the gridiron or a deep run in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

   And researchers have quantified a modest boost in applications when a school wins a championship or finishes in the Top 20.

   UB isn't there - yet - but the school is generating a lot of buzz.

   So do you think the good feelings and publicity stemming from UB's exploits on the football field will have a real impact in the classroom?

   How much of a benefit will UB see from its football success? Will it help the school get closer to its ambitious UB 2020 program?

   And what do we have to do to make sure Gill never leaves UB?

  --- Stephen T. Watson

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