locker room

Alnutt Is All In

New AD is bullish on UB Athletics’ future

Mark Alnutt

Mark Alnutt inside the Murchie Family Fieldhouse. Photo: Douglas Levere

By David J. Hill

It’s been a busy few months for Mark Alnutt, who became UB’s director of athletics in March after serving as deputy AD at the University of Memphis. At Buffalo spoke with Alnutt in June inside the Murchie Family Fieldhouse (which you can read more about here).

You’ve been on the job a few months now. How are things going?
Well, I’m in that discovery phase, having one-on-ones with all of our staff to get to know them a little better. We have 130 full-time staff members in Athletics. Their feedback will help me put together the goals for the department. Obviously, there are some areas we’re doing well in and some we want to improve. I’ve been receiving great input from our staff, while having the opportunity to engage with the community, meeting with our alumni and some of our donors and season ticket holders, and just getting to know more about the great community of Buffalo and Western New York.

What did you hear from alumni and community members on the Coaches’ Caravan tour over the spring and summer?
There’s a high level of anticipation for this school year. There’s so much pride from the past year given where men’s and women’s basketball finished. There’s excitement about football. And we were competitive in some of our other sports as well, so people are looking forward to this year.

One of your first major moves was extending women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s contract. How important was that?
It was very important. I was following her throughout her NCAA journey and flew from Memphis to Albany for the Sweet 16 to spend some time with her and the team. Seeing the energy she brought and her commitment to the program, I wanted to secure her for a long time to say thank you and to show her that we’re committed to what she’s doing.

Western New Yorkers love their Bills and Sabres. How can UB Athletics tap into that market?
We don’t want to be in competition with the Bills and Sabres. We want to provide that other family option, where maybe a family is going to do dinner and a movie on a Saturday—let’s get them over to UB instead, where they can have that same family atmosphere and hopefully create some memorable moments by attending a game. That’s what our niche is going to be, and we’re going to continue building upon that by being visible and having a presence in the community.

How big of a deal is the new Murchie Family Fieldhouse that’s being built?
This is a tremendous game-changer. It’s important to dispel the notion that this is a football-only facility. It’s a facility for athletics and recreation. Alumni Arena is busting at the seams and this gives us another opportunity to spread the wealth and have a facility where, when those winters come about and teams need to get a practice in, they don’t have to commute to another indoor facility somewhere else. This is something that benefits the entire Division of Athletics, which includes athletics and recreation.

How does increased exposure for revenue-generating sports such as football and men’s basketball help the rest of the department? What’s the relationship there?
The more success you have in your higher profile sports, the more opportunities there are for revenue and revenue-sharing with the MAC [Mid-American Conference]. It creates opportunities for that money to come back to the department and help supplement budgets for some of the other sports. It takes a commitment and an investment, but the return on that investment is pretty high. You look at what happened when Western Michigan played in a bowl game on New Year’s Day a few years ago—they were able to redirect that money throughout the entire athletic department.

What are some of UB Athletics’ strengths right now?
The Buffalo Bulls logo is becoming a very strong mark and will help us build our presence so that people know who we are and what we’re all about. Having a strong presence in the community is part of that. We have to be aggressive and get out there.

What’s Mark Alnutt like at home?
My family won’t be here until May [2019], but what you’ll see is that I’m a family guy who’s going to be at his kids’ events and activities, supporting them.