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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Chan's the man

     January 19, 2010 -- The Buffalo Bills knew that one of their first orders of business for the 2010 season would be to hire a coach. Dick Jauron had lost his job in 2009, and Perry Fewell was picked as his interim successor.

     The usual speculation followed once the season had ended, and plenty of names came up. It's fair to say, though, that Chan Gailey was not one of those names.

     So it was with some degree of surprise that the Bills announced the hiring of Gailey. The veteran coach had only been a head coach in the NFL once, but he made the playoffs twice while leading the Dallas Cowboys.

     Bills general manager Buddy Nix talked to some of the "big names," such as Bill Cowher and Mike Shanahan. Still, Gailey didn't mind being something of a "second choice."

     "Shoot, you look at the history of the Buffalo Bills, and I've come in that stadium enough times to know about the fans of the Bills Nation," Gailey told The News' Mark Gaughan. "Who wouldn't want to come here? Maybe some guys have personal reasons, they don't want to be here. Great. I'm glad, because I get to come here."

     The Bills struggled at times during Gailey's first two years on the job, but he seemed to received little blame for those problems from the fan base.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Gone, for a while

   January 18, 1971 -- The University at Buffalo had been playing football since the 19th century when coach Bob Deming was in Houston for an NCAA convention. It's rare that a coach takes a hit, but Deming was blind-sided by the news that UB was getting out of the football business.

   Dr. Robert Ketter, the UB president, made the announcement. While some had heard talk that the program was in some financial trouble, few expected the university to drop the sport completely.

   The difficult part was the timing. There was no discussion, no warning, no chance to try to raise money to save the sport. Coaches … including future NFL offensive line coach Jim McNally … were recruiting when they found out they were out of work.

   The Bulls had gone through a 2-9 year in 1970 after winning six games the year before. Still, the state university system had dropped grants-in-aid for athletes.

   Meanwhile, UB never could fill Rotary Field, a facility that held fewer than 14,000. The largest crowd there was 11,466 for Boston University in 1963.

   The sport came back in 1977 in Division III. It moved to Division I-AA in 1993, and the Bulls eventually returned to full Division I-A status in 1999.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Back again

   January 17, 1993 -- For a long while, it looked like the Bills would never make it to the Super Bowl. Then for a time, it looked like they'd never stop. They bought a ticket for their another Super Bowl with a 29-10 win over the Dolphins.

   This was a difficult path. The Bills had to win three games this time, and two of them were on the road. But Buffalo started packing for Pasadena after a 29-10 win over the Miami Dolphins at Joe Robbie Stadium.

   The Bills thus became the second team in NFL history to reach three straight Super Bowls. They also were the fourth team to make it as wild-card entry to the playoffs.

   "I've never been prouder in all the years I've coached than to be associated with the men on this team," head coach Marv Levy told Vic Carucci of The News. "It's been a long road and a hard road. There was a headline (in The Buffalo News) prior to the Houston (wild-card) playoff game that read, "Bills Begin Longest Road Today.' I've used that this entire postseason."

   Buffalo broke the game open with 20 straight points in the second quarter. Kenneth Davis and Thurman Thomas had touchdowns, while Steve Christie kicked five field goals. The Dolphins were held to 33 yards rushing.

--- Budd Bailey 

Bandits notebook: An interesting twist

There has been plenty of talk about all of the extra talent floating around the National Lacrosse League as free agents. Here's an example of what we might be seeing this season.

The Toronto Rock lost Blaine Manning to a broken collarbone during Saturday's loss to the Bandits in Buffalo. Manning will be out for at least six to eight weeks, perhaps more depending on if he can work out in the meantime.

Where did the Rock go for help? The Buffalo roster.

Toronto has signed Brenden Thenhaus to a contract; Thenhaus was on the Bandits' practice squad. Buffalo has 24 hours to match the contract offer from the Rock, and then move him on to the active roster. If the Bandits don't do that, Thenhaus will be awarded to Toronto.

Thenhaus had 17 goals and 18 assists for 35 points last season for Buffalo. We'll see how the Bandits decide to play it.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Bills finally add Flutie

   January 16, 1998 -- In 1985, the Buffalo Bills had the first overall draft pick. Fans back then wanted the Bills to take a relatively small-in-stature college quarterback by the name of Doug Flutie who had captivated the country in the fall of 1984. In fact, buttons that urged the Bills to take Flutie were printed up.

   Flutie signed with the United States Football League, but the Bills hadn't made him a primary target anyway. They were more interested in a large, quick defensive end named Bruce Smith, and took him. Smith worked out pretty well.

   Fast forward to 1998. The Flutie Fans finally saw the Bills get their man when he signed as a free agent after a successful career in the Canadian Football League. However, Flutie, who did see some time in the NFL after the USFL folded, wanted one more shot at success in the big leagues.

   "I want to thank (team owner) Ralph Wilson and the Buffalo Bills organization for giving me the opportunity to compete for a quarterback position with the Bills," Flutie said.

   Flutie was scheduled to battle Todd Collins and Alex Van Pelt for the starting quarterback job. Then Rob Johnson was acquired from Jacksonville in a trade, and the drama involving those two would go on for quite a while.

   Flutie spent three seasons in Buffalo, and he played until the age of 43.  

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Remembering Pat

   January 15, 1986 -- Football fans who attend a game at Ralph Wilson Stadium probably recognize many of the names on the team's Wall of Fame. The least well-known might be Pat McGroder. There might not be a Buffalo Bills without Pat McGroder.

   Back in the late 1950's, Wilson was interested in bringing an American Football League franchise to Buffalo. In order to do that, he had to talk to McGroder, who was serving as the city's sports coordinator.

   The two men worked out a deal for what would become known as War Memorial Stadium. Not only that, but they got along so well that Wilson offered McGroder an executive position with the team. McGroder had a variety of jobs for the team over the years, and he reportedly did it for $1 per year.

   Media members who covered the team in the early 1980's remember the time that McGroder gave a passioned and emotional speech to them defending Wilson's work with the team. McGroder even did a little contract negotiating near the end of his tenure.

   McGroder died on this date in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a short illness at the age of 81. His death came shortly after his name went up on the Wall.

--- Budd Bailey

Bandits blog -- Live from the First Niagara Center

6:56 p.m. -- We're back.

It's a new season for the Buffalo Bandits, as they start the 2012 campaign tonight in the First Niagara Center. (Wonder how long it will take me to call it HSBC Arena, or Marine Midland Arena, or the Aud.) The Bandits take on the Toronto Rock in the opener.

This game represents something of an opportunity for the Bandits. Toronto has already lost its first game, a defeat at home to Calgary last week. If Buffalo wins tonight, it would take a game and one-half lead over the Rock, and the season would only be a few hours old from a Bandits' standpoint. You couldn't ask for much better of a start.

The scratches for the game have been announced, and there was one surprise. Tom Montour won't be in the lineup. Montour is quite a weapon in the transition game, so it's easy to wonder if anything is going on there. Frank Resetarits and Roger Vyse are the other scratches. I would suspect that coach Darris Kilgour will go through several forwards during the course of the early part of the season, as he looks for a good combination. That would include players like Brenden Thenhaus and Kyle Clancy, who currently are not on the active roster.

Mike Thompson is slated to be the starting goalie tonight. It's our first look this evening at new Bandits like Jeff Cornwall, Luke Wiles, Mat Giles, Kevin Buchanan, Jeremy Thompson, and Kyle Sweeney.

Toronto has lost goalie Bob Watson to retirement. Matt Roik will start in goal this evening.

7:24 p.m. -- First time I've heard bagpipes since May. Must be time for the opening faceoff. There is a bit of a buzz in the building; I'm told that's in contrast to recent Sabre games. Looks like we'll have 16,000 or so here for the game.

7:45 p.m. -- We're off to a fast start. The Rock scored the first goal of the game, and could have been up by a few had it not been for some friendly goal posts. Buffalo answered with a couple of goals, including one by Steve Priolo -- the first of his NLL career. If you had him in a goal-scoring pool, you are the surprise winner. There's 8:33 left in the first quarter.

8:00 p.m. -- Toronto scored two goals within nine seconds to retake the lead, 3-2. Then Chad Culp responded on a delayed penalty to tie things up again at 3-3 after the end of the first quarter. Hasn't much to choose between the teams so far.

8:11 a.m. -- It didn't take long for John Tavares to score his first goal of the season. He tied the game at 4-4 after Garrett Billings had given the Rock the lead earlier in the second quarter. There are about nine minutes left in the half. It's been an entertaining game to date. Can't say either side has had much of a problem getting the ball over the halfcourt line so far.

8:21 p.m. -- Toronto finally scored twice in a row to take a two-goal lead at 6-4. Dan Carey and Glen Bryan, a couple of unexpected sources, got the goals. Bryan took off on a long missed shot and turned it into a two-on-one. He waited for the right moment and beat goalie Mike Thompson.

We've seen quite a lot of Jimmy Purves tonight. He's a transition player who has only one previous NLL game to his credit.

8:28 p.m. -- Great goal by Kevin Buchanan cuts the Toronto lead to 6-5. Time to go on radio for my traditional opening-game, halftime interview.

8:52 p.m. -- Tracey Kelusky and Mark Steenhuis have put Buffalo back up, 7-6. The Bandits have come out hitting so far in the second half.

9:00 p.m. -- It's nine o'clock on a Saturday, and the back-and-forth nature of the game continues. Toronto scored two goals within 12 seconds to tie the game, and Buffalo answered with two goals within 11 seconds to back up, 10-8. Wow.

9:08 p.m. -- Toronto's Blaine Manning suffered a broken collarbone earlier in the game. He's out indefinitely. That's a huge loss for the Rock this season. He had 75 points in 2011. We're 10-8, Buffalo, after three quarters.

9:27 p.m. -- Buffalo is on a 5-0 run that has broken the game open, as the Bandits lead 13-8. Buffalo has a hat trick from Luke Wiles.

9:41 p.m. -- Bandits in charge, 14-10, with 35 seconds left.

9:43 p.m. -- And that's the way it ends up. Nice win by the Bandits, with lots of heroes. Off to the locker room.

11:34 p.m. -- The Bandits were quite happy after the game, as you might expect. Taking a game and a-half lead over Toronto already is a good way to start the season. Darris Kilgour threw most of the credit to goalie Mike Thompson.

 "I thought he played one of the best games I've ever seen him play as a Bandit," he said. "Without him it would have been a completely different game."

Rochester and Philadelphia had a rough game tonight, and the Knighthawks came away with a 22-12 win. So much for wondering if Rochester would have enough offense. First place will be on the line when the Knighthawks and Bandits meet next week.

Good night.

--- Budd Bailey

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: New sheriff in town

     January 14, 2004 -- When Gregg Williams didn't work out as the Bills coach, the team's front office looked elsewhere around the league for a replacement. They came up with Mike Mularkey.

      The start of his two-year tenure began on this date, when he was picked as the 13th head coach of the team.

     The idea was for Mularkey to fix an offense, which was one of the worst in the league in 2003. It was near the bottom in both points and yards.

     He said his philospohy was simple: "Try to control the football. I like to think your offense can be your best defense if you can keep your defense off the field."

     Mularkey was an NFL tight end for nine seasons and had been a coach in the NFL for 10 years. He had directed the Steelers' offense in 2001-03, and worked with quarterbacks Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.

     The idea was to revive quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had his problems during a 6-10 season in 2003. But that was more than Mularkey could handle, and he eventually resigned his position. Mularkey has worked as an offensive coordinator since then.

--- Budd Bailey

Post Time: Friday the 13th quick hits

It’s still too early to start a Derby list and the trail hasn’t started to heat up just yet, so we’ll share some random thoughts as we head into a relatively quiet weekend on the racing calendar.

 -- The newly named NBC Sports Network (the network formerly known as Versus) seems to be taking the lead as the hockey and horse racing channel. After televising the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan last year, the network will pick up two Derby prep races in March. The Vinery Spiral Stakes (Mar. 24) and the Florida Derby (Mar. 31) will be televised on consecutive weekends.  Sister station CNBC will televise the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and the Arkansas Derby on April 14.

-- If you are a newbie to racing and are intimidated by the vast amounts of information and are unsure what to do once you arrive at the window, the Hello Race Fans site is for you. Devoted to educate the new fan and take the intimidation out of the picture, this website guides the newcomer to racing and teaches him/her how to wager, handicap and get the most out of a day at the races.

--A new group of racing bloggers, including yours truly, has formed and launched just before the Breeders Cup called Turf. It is made up of approximately 20 horse racing blogs that have joined together to promote racing. The group is made up blogs that specialize in a number of different categories including international racing (bloggers from Canada, France, Japan and Hong Kong are included), pedigree specialists, historians and handicappers. One Turf member is one of the best handicappers in the blogosphere, The Turk, who hails from right here in Western New York.

--Good luck to Clarence resident Kurt S. Preisigke, who has his ticket stamped for the $2 million National Handicapping Contest (NHC) to be held at Treasure Island in Las Vegas on Jan. 27 and 28. He is one of nearly 500 handicappers that qualified during the past year for a shot at the $1M first prize.

--ESPN reporter Jeannine Edwards was named the host of Monday evening’s Eclipse Awards at the Beverly Hills Wilshire. She is one of the bright spots on the screen and has covered racing since 1995. I’m looking forward to seeing how she does as the emcee of the annual thoroughbred awards show.

--The Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday in May, is only 112 days away. You can find the Wynn Las Vegas Future Book odds here.

--There’s a strong possibility that all three 2011 Triple Crown race winners could end up running at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11. Derby winner Animal Kingdom is possible to make his turf debut in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Both Preakness winner Shackleford and Ruler On Ice are slated to run in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, long the first big handicap dirt race on the calendar year in and year out.

--Buffalo Raceway opened its 70th racing season on Wednesday and will be running at the Hamburg oval Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through the length of the meet with weekday post time of 5 p.m. and 6:40 on Fridays and Saturdays. There will be Thursday night racing in April and May (5 p.m. post).

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at and tweets @EquiSpace.

This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Making more news

    January 13, 1968 -- January already had been quite a month at Niagara. Then Calvin Murphy added some more news to the list.

   After a loss to Villanova earlier in the month, some Niagara students displayed signs calling for the firing of head coach Jim Maloney. They got their way three days later when Maloney resigned, effective at the end of the season. Maloney charged athletic director Taps Gallagher with not helping his cause much when it came to recruiting and scheduling.

   Among the players to be upset about the news was Murphy, the greatest player in Purple Eagles' history. He scored 48 points to set a scoring record for Memorial Auditorium as Niagara defeated Canisius, 96-74.

   "We promised the coach we would win for him," Murphy said.

   By the way, Tony Masiello had 21 completely overshadowed points to lead the Golden Griffins that night.

--- Budd Bailey

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.