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The work is hard — but worth it — for athletics staff

Brian Wolff, left, talks with CBS announcer Evan Washburn right before tipoff of Thursday's NCAA tournament game. Photo: Rachel Stern

By RACHEL STERN

Published March 17, 2016

“It’s just me and my townhouse. I can’t even keep fish alive.”
Brian Wolff, associate director
Athletic Communications

PROVIDENCE — Brian Wolff had a pet fish once.

But the poor thing floated to the top of the bowl in a matter of days. Let’s just say Wolff’s schedule doesn’t exactly lend itself to pets. Or family. Or hobbies. You get the idea.

“It’s just me and my townhouse. I can’t even keep fish alive,” he said. “I tried that once. My schedule doesn’t lend itself to that. But I love my job and all the work is worth it. Even when it gets crazy.”

Wolff is UB’s associate director of athletic communications. His main responsibilities are men’s basketball, football, volleyball, softball and women’s tennis.

He handles everything from media inquiries, to writing recaps and feature stories, keeping statistics, crisis management and everything in between.

“I love college athletics because it is never the same thing every day,” says Wolff, a Long Island native who graduated from UB in 2005. “The student athletes are great and we have a lot of great things going on and it’s our job to tell their stories. If you work for the Bills, you are just doing football, but here it is something different every day. ”

As a UB undergrad, Wolff was always a major sports fan, but said he was never good enough to play. Looking for ways to get involved after his freshman year, he sent an email to the athletic communications department asking if he could help out. They happily accepted.

Next thing he knew, he had a press pass in hand and was working his first football game as a sophomore. Wolff has been going ever since. And going and going and going.

“Brian is a stand out sixth man for the athletics department,” says Boone Enser, associate athletic director for broadcasting and communication. “He gives every ounce of energy he has to his work and he really lives and breathes every score, turnover, loss and win. Brian is great at what he does and he is an asset to the university that he loves. He bleeds blue and white.”

The net comes down and the work begins

The buzzer had barely sounded when the activity on Wolff’s phone started to pick up.

The Bulls had just won the MAC championship. The team was celebrating on the court. It was around 9:40 p.m. The media requests were piling up.

“By 10:05 I had an email from SportsCenter,” Wolff says. “And then my phone just kept going. It really hasn’t stopped since. In total, I have received around 400 emails since we won Saturday night.”

Wolff is basically attached to his phone, constantly monitoring email and sifting through the requests, deciding which ones to do and which to turn down.

So far, the team has appeared on ESPN twice, in USA Today and on FoxSports.com.

After the team won the MAC championship Saturday night, Wolff estimates he got about three hours of sleep. He was up early Sunday morning working on media inquiries, an NCAA tournament team guide and then the Selection Show later that evening.

“I was just praying we would play Friday because that would give me 24 more hours to get work done,” he says. “When Thursday popped up, I just knew the work I had and I knew I had 24 less hours to get it done.”

After the Selection Show ended around 7:30 p.m., Wolff headed to the office to work on the team guide until around 1 a.m.

Then it was back to the office Monday morning around 8 a.m. He organized a media day, finished his tournament guide, headed to FedEx to send it to Providence and then headed back to the office to finish up game recaps for the softball team — one of his other responsibilities — which is playing 11 games this week.

“It’s challenging, but if you don’t want to win and work at events like this, then what’s the point of doing what we do,” Wolff says. “I’m just like the players and the coaches; I want us to win at everything we do.”

On to Providence

Wolff is trying to scarf down a sandwich, but every bite is interrupted by a bing.

It’s Wednesday, the day before the Bulls take on Miami in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and media members are about 15 minutes from filing into a ballroom at the team hotel.

Wolff spent all morning at the arena at meetings and is trying to sneak in a quick lunch. But that phone of his won’t stop.

Then, just like that, he’s off. One thing about Wolff, he walks quickly, usually a blur of blue.

The next moment — his sandwich sits on the table, half eaten — he is back in the ballroom leading in members of the team.

Wolff says the easiest day is game day.

“I’ve worked a thousand games and when the game starts, I still do the same thing, no matter if it’s the first game of the year or the tournament.”

The little things

The key, says Enser, is doing all the little things.

For example, Wolff picked up coach Oats’ special tea when he lost his voice after the MAC championship game.

For Enser, the behind-the-scenes work is all about the details as well. ESPN was in Providence interviewing Nate and Crystal Oats. Everything went well.

Then Enser got a call around 10:45 p.m.

“It was ESPN and they were asking for video of Crystal or the family at a game this season,” he says. “I immediately scrambled and called Andy Quinn, our producer/director, who was en route to Columbus with the women’s team. He called athletics editor Alex Odachowski, who was still in the edit room on campus.”

Odachowski came up with the clip and sent it to ESPN. Enser’s day ended with a message from ESPN saying, “Tremendous!”

Then there are all the other sports going on at UB, says Jon Fuller, assistant athletic director for communications.

In between media sessions in Providence, Fuller is tracking the three wrestlers UB has participating at nationals this week.

“It’s nonstop,” he says. “But it’s great exposure for the university and all of our athletics programs, so it is really a good problem to have.”

Oh, and then there is spring football. That is slated to start on Tuesday, Fuller says. So any down time he has in Providence is spent on wrestling and preparing for football.

Right on cue, Wolff whips around the corner, phone in hand. He is off to write game recaps for softball.