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Alums find ways to dance with Bulls

By RACHEL STERN

Published March 18, 2015

“I have to choose my daughter over the Bulls, but trust me, it’s a very difficult choice.”
Richard Lynch, UB alumnus

Richard Lynch is a self-described ‘sports fanatic’ and as a UB graduate, few things are as important to him as the Bulls.

Lynch, who received both his undergraduate degree in 1979 and his dental degree in 1983 from UB, has been a Bulls basketball season ticket-holder for 22 seasons. And for the past 26 years, he and a group of about 35 high school and college friends have traveled to Las Vegas for the first week of the NCAA Tournament.

High up on his bucket list, Lynch said, was to place a bet on the Bulls in the tournament while in Las Vegas. He made this a goal before UB was a Division-I program.

So after all these years, Lynch should be packing his bags and heading to Vegas, ready to slash an item off his bucket list, right?

Wrong.

Instead, Lynch is headed with his wife and son to London early Friday morning to see his 19-year-old daughter, an Irish dancer, perform in Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance.”

“Believe me, if it was up to me we would be going to see my daughter in May or June and I would be on my way to see my Bulls in Vegas,” Lynch told the UB Reporter. “I have to choose my daughter over the Bulls, but trust me, it’s a very difficult choice.  Believe me, it is tough.”

But being in London won’t stop Lynch from watching UB play in the tournament for the first time in school history.

He’s packing a laptop and HDMI cable and plans on streaming the game on his computer and hooking the computer up to a television.

“I told my wife, it will be 6:20 London time, don’t plan a thing for me or my son, we will be watching the Bulls, it’s important,” said Lynch, whose son is also a UB grad. “We will try like heck to get that game, no matter what.”

While things have not gone Lynch’s way — he missed the MAC tournament to attend a funeral — a large contingent of UB alumni will venture to Columbus to root on the Bulls. And most have hotel reservations through Sunday.

Other alumni who cannot make the trip are finding alternative ways to cheer on the Bulls from afar. Some will attend watch parties with fellow alumni, others will follow on their phones and some — like Lynch — are being forced to get creative, all in an effort to take in history.

John Dunbar, an adjunct instructor at UB and former Bulls football player who graduated in the early 1980s, will be in Columbus on Friday. He and his wife, Terri, also a UB graduate, will drive with their nephew, who is a current UB student.

For the Dunbars, getting to Friday’s game will be much easier than the MAC Championship.

John arrived in Uganda on Feb. 27 to work with a project  called Business on the Front Lines and was scheduled to arrive back in Buffalo on March 13 — the day of the MAC semifinals. He texted with his wife back home to see how UB was faring.

“He kept saying, ‘if they win, we are going to the championship’ and I am thinking he is crazy,” Terri said. “Sure enough, his flight got in late Friday and he jumped in the car Saturday morning. The whole trip he was running on adrenaline. He said ‘if they win and I am on my couch I will never forgive myself.’ We wanted to be a part of it.”

The Dunbars are heading to Columbus Thursday afternoon and have hotel reservations through Sunday “to be optimistic,” John said. They are giving up “Phantom of the Opera” tickets at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Friday night, but are thrilled to be going to Columbus because they know a lot of fellow alumni who were unable to get tickets.

Carol Greiner, too, will be in the crowd on Friday with her son, daughter and two grandsons. The wife of former UB President Bill Greiner wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Her husband was instrumental in bringing UB to the Division-I level, so to see the team make history is special for Carol.

“It was just the perfect time to see them accomplish that,” said Carol, who had at least 25 messages from friends congratulating her when she returned from the MAC championship game Cleveland. “I am so thrilled for them,” she said of the team members

Matt Cohen, a member of UB’s Young Alumni Advisory Council, graduated from the university in 2008 with a business degree. While on campus, he always kept a close eye on the Bulls basketball squad by covering men’s and women’s basketball games for the student radio station.

After graduation, he moved back to his hometown of Queens, making it a bit difficult to follow the team.

But after watching UB give No. 1 Kentucky a tough game back in November, Cohen started going to bars all over New York City to try and catch UB whenever a game was on television.

“That game against Kentucky really brought my hopes up,” he said. “I knew we could be fantastic. From there on out, I would say I have caught about 80 percent of the games this year, whether on TV or the Internet. It has been some ride.”

A ride that has seen attendance at watch parties increase, Cohen said. He helps the New York City chapter of the Alumni Association organize these get-togethers and he said the MAC semifinal game last Friday drew about 80 alumni.

Right after that game ended, Cohen hopped on a midnight bus from New York City to Buffalo, arriving at 8:45 a.m. Then he drove with some friends to Cleveland to see the MAC championship game Saturday night.

He won’t be in Columbus this Friday because of a wedding — his girlfriend would “kill him” if he missed it — but his phone is queued up and ready to go.