Dick Offenhamer

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University at Buffalo Football Coach

As varsity football at the University at Buffalo thrives in the modern era, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame tonight honors the man who presided over the first golden era of UB football nearly 40 years ago.

Dick Offenhamer brought a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the University at Buffalo when he became head coach in 1955. The former Bennett All-High gridder starred as a tailback at Colgate University in the 1930s. As a collegian, Offenhamer was noted for the outstanding speed which produced two 95-yard touchdown runs. From 1936 through 1946, Dick coached at Kenmore High School, compiling an outstanding record of 50-7. His teams captured Niagara Frontier League Championships in 1943, 1944 and 1945. Following a stint as athletic director and freshman football coach at his alma mater, Colgate, Offenhamer was recruited by UB President Dr. Clifford C. Furnas in 1954 to revive the school’s sagging football fortunes.

Under Offenhamer, the reborn Bulls immediately began to rise from the depths of small-college competition. Within several seasons, the Bull’s schedule featured Eastern powers such as Harvard, Army, Boston College, Cornell, Holly Cross and Villanova. Offenhamer instilled in his players not only a command of technical skills, but also the desire to prevail with hard, clean play. The team showed improvement year by year, and the culmination of Offenhamer’s leadership and inspiration came in 1958, when the Bulls corralled the Lambert Cup as the top small school in the East. The highlight of that season was an upset win over the powerful Columbia, which earned Offenhamer NCAA Coach of the Week honors. That championship team provided a tremendous boost to student spirit at UB. That 8-1 campaign was the high-water mark of an 11 year UB coaching career which produced nine winning seasons and an overall record of 59 wins, 37 losses, and 5 ties fashioned by tough, disciplined and fundamentally sound squads. Offenhamer’s program at UB produced several individuals who went on to distinguished professional careers, including Gerry Philbin, a member of the NY Jets 1968 Super Bowl champions, and Buddy Ryan who brought Offenhamer’s lessons to life with the ferocious Bears’ defense of the mid-1980s. However, every player who ever suited up for Offenhamer’s Bulls learned invaluable life lessons which reflected well both on themselves and the University.

Offenhamer’s legacy has been recognized since 1979 with the presentation of the annual “Dick Offenhamer Award” to a community member who has made significant contributions to the State University of New York at Buffalo. However, as once noted by a local scribe, he is also frequently honored whenever a team coached by one of his ex-players is described as playing “Offenhamer football.”