by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page

One of Buffalo’s best sports stories of 2018 got a lot better on Tuesday, when UB signed women’s basketball head coach Felisha Legette-Jack to a new five year contract.

Beyond the significance of making Jack one of the highest paid women’s coaches in the Mid-American Conference, it was the symbolism of keeping her, and her desire to stay, that sent a clear message to Bulls fans and the entire WNY sports community.

The new contracts given to Legette-Jack, and men’s coach Nate Oats in March, have moved Alumni Arena beyond the stepping stone location common to mid-major schools like UB.  The commitment to higher salaries, increased budgets and improved facilities have made it more difficult for talented coaches to leave.

FLJ is OK at UB

 

Legette-Jack had plenty of reasons to stay, following the Bulls school record 29 wins and a captivating run to the Sweet 16.  It become a feel-good story in Buffalo, as crowds grew in Alumni Arena and fans who never watched women’s basketball made the Bulls NCAA tournament games must-see TV.

A native of Syracuse, Felisha  had important reasons to stay.  Her mom is battling Alzheimer’s and staying close to her was important.  But equally as important was continuing to build the family and community she has established in Blue & White.

“This is a hidden jewel….some real talent has come through Buffalo.  It’s amazing…the academics, the community, Canalside, the football, the energy, the blue collar mindset.  I can really make some things happen here,” said the program’s second-winningest women’s head coach.

“I think that’s what Nate thinks.  I think that’s what (football coach) Lance Leipold thinks.  I think that’s what (volleyball coach) Blair Brown-Lipsitz thinks.  We all believe it’s going to get done. But in order to maintain that success, what’s the going rate for that.  I think our administration is understanding of that, and we have the foundation to take this to the next level.”

Continuity & Compensation

Felisha Legette-Jack and UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt celebrate the signing of a new contract for the UB women’s basketball coach. (Photo: UB Athletics)

Legette-Jack’s contract was negotiated by new UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt.  According to sources, the annual salary of nearly $300,000 moves her near the top of the MAC’s women’s coaches in compensation.  The contract includes bonus payments for team GPA, along with on-court successes like wins, tournament appearances and NCAA trips.

Even though Alnutt has been on the job for a few months, he recognized that keeping Felisha was a priority.

“I’ve been very impressed during the short time that I’ve been here with our Women’s Basketball program under Coach Legette-Jack’s leadership,” said Alnutt. “This program is excelling not only on the court but in the classroom and are highly involved with giving back to the community. With Coach Legette-Jack at the helm, our program is in very good hands and I see more successes in these key areas of the student-athlete experience. I look forward to working with Coach for a long time.”

This comes a few months after Oat’s new deal (negotiated before Alnutt’s arrival) that will pay him around $600,000 a year, also near the top of the MAC.

A Bright Future

While Legette-Jack will have to replace five key players from last year’s team, including star point guard Stephanie Reid, she’s excited about six new recruits and returning star Cierra Dillard.  The NCAA success, and now the commitment to the coach, will help recruiting and maintaining a level of success that has seen four straight 19 win seasons.

“We’re just touching the ground level of the greatness of what’s going to happen here.  I’m not here because this is the only place that wants me now.  I’m making a real choice to be here.  The administration is making a choice to have me here.  It’s a wonderful feeling when someone wants you and you want them.”

Paul & Kevin Sylvester talked more about UB’s signing of Coach Jack in this week’s Sylvester & Peck On Sports podcast.

Paul Peck

Paul Peck is sports broadcaster with over 25 years experience in TV and Radio. He served as sports anchor, reporter, and producer at WIVB for 24 years. In that role, he covered all four Buffalo Bills Super Bowls, the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup Finals, the NCAA Basketball Tournament and the Daytona 500. He has been the Voice of the UB Bulls Football for 17 seasons, in addition to host of Bulls Athletics TV & Radio shows. Peck also served as the sideline reporter for the Buffalo Bills Football Network, host of the bowling show "Beat The Champ" and announces college basketball for ESPN 3 and Time Warner Cable Sports Channel. He has also been the Master of Ceremonies for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, one of the largest sports banquets in WNY.

Paul is also involved in the local business community, having been a financial advisor at AXA Advisors, and is currently the Vice President of Sports Development at VSP Graphics Group.

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