A ceramic buffalo celebrates members of a team who put friendship before fame

Porcelain Bull

By Rebecca Rudell | Photograph by Douglas Levere

The 1958 Tangerine Bowl between Buffalo and Florida State. It’s been called the greatest game never played. A book was written about it. A documentary made. And an unknown artist created this ceramic buffalo—signed by 30 team members—to commemorate it.

Though formed in 1894, UB’s football team didn’t taste true success until the 1958 season, when they went 8-1, scored the Lambert Cup and got invited to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando. UB in a televised game in front of the entire country: It was a dream come true. Until it wasn’t.

Because of a clause in the stadium’s lease that prohibited interracial games, Bowl officials alerted UB that the team’s two African-American players—starting halfback Willie Evans (EdB ’60) and reserve defensive end Mike Wilson (BS ’59)—wouldn’t be able to take the field. The coach decided to let the team vote on whether or not to go.

It was the 1950s; the vote could have gone either way. But when officials began passing out ballots, cries of “We don’t need to vote!” and “We’re not going!” filled the room. It was unanimous—if they couldn’t play as a team, they wouldn’t play at all.

Porcelain Bull

A symbull of pride

The ceramic buffalo was a gift from the ’58 team to Chancellor Clifford Furnas. Measuring about 5.5 inches high and a foot long, it has the words “UB Bulls—1958—Won, 8, Lost, 1—Lambert Cup Winners” written across the back. The team’s signatures are scattered from nose to tail. Furnas’ wife, Sparkle, donated the buffalo to UB after Furnas’ death in 1969. It is now housed in the University Archives.

The team that keeps on giving

The 1958 Lambert Cup Team Football Legacy Scholarship, established in 2009 by members of the ’58 team, is awarded yearly to a student with high academic and athletic achievement who epitomizes the same ideals as the ’58 Bulls—loyalty, dedication and teamwork.

Full circle

During the 2008-09 season—the ’58 team’s 50th anniversary—the mayor of Orange County invited the team to Orlando to be honored at halftime during a Bulls game. Team players were also asked to attend UB’s homecoming, where Evans tossed the game coin. Coincidentally, the ’08 Bulls became the second team to earn a spot in a Bowl game, sparring against the UConn Huskies at the International Bowl in Toronto.