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Fans flock to Bulls watch parties

By MICHAEL ANDREI and MARCENE ROBINSON

Published March 18, 2016

“It’s good for the program anytime that we can get in front of the national stage and fight hard.”
Eugene Taylor, UB fan

Although it was the day to wear green, there also was plenty of UB blue in local taverns yesterday as Bulls fans turned out for watch parties from Amherst to New York City and from Washington, D.C. to downtown Buffalo to show their UB pride and support the men’s basketball team as it took on Miami in first-round NCAA tournament action.

At Santora’s Pizza Pub & Grill on Transit Road, UB fans began filing in well before tipoff. Paul Peck, former Bulls football broadcaster, served as emcee of the party, offering insight about the game and giving away prizes.

“This legitimizes who you are as a basketball program. Everything else is gravy,” Peck told the crowd. “When you are in the NCAA tournament, it also makes you legit in the eyes of your fans. And we have a lot of them who are excited to be here tonight.”

Some fans were quick to link the two reasons to celebrate yesterday.

“I love the energy! The Bulls on St. Patty’s Day! Who says blue and green don’t go together? said Bulls booster Leslie Bardak.

Added alum Bob Kraska: “It’s awesome. A Bulls/St. Patty’s day party! This couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Kevin Mason, ’06, was enjoying the Bulls’ repeat trip to the Big Dance. “It’s great to see them back in the NCAAs,” Mason said. “We went to Columbus for last year’s tournament appearance and had a ball.”

At 716 in downtown Buffalo, UB alums and fans flocked to what arguably is one of the best places in town to watch a sporting event. The space was filled with UB banners; some fans held #UBDancing posters and many also rang small blue cowbells.

“I’m not a UB alum, but I grew up in town and going to games when I was young,” said Michael Turski, a Bulls season ticket holder. “It’s great for the city, great for the area, to see people get into them and come to recognize it’s a good time and a good level of basketball in the (MAC) conference.

“People are coming to realize that now, and it’s good that this gives them the exposure to get people’s attention,” Turski said.

Gregg Gumbs, UB’s starting point guard in 1990, watched the game in his “shooting shirt.”

“We worship UB basketball,” said Gumbs, who brought his entire family to 716 for the game. “It’s been a great journey to this point. We’re on the map and it’s wonderful that (being in the tournament two years in a row) we’re probably now going to be more respected in the Division I community as not only a destination for top athletes, but we will compete when we get to this tournament.”

“And yes, it still fits,” he said of the shirt.

Despite the loss, fan Eugene Taylor believes the NCAA exposure was good for the team.

“It’s good for the program anytime that we can get in front of the national stage and fight hard,” Taylor said. “Losing by six points to a power conference, the loss always hurts but it’s good for the program with the men’s and women’s teams both getting in (the NCAA tournament) this year.”