AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — A notable figure in University at Buffalo’s athletic history was honored Friday when the Willie R. Evans Quadrangle is formally renamed during a campus ceremony.

Evans was a star running back and one of only two Black players on UB’s 1958 football team that declined an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando because Evans and teammate Mike Wilson would be not be allowed to play. The 1958 team was inducted last year into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.

The renamed quad is a posthumous honor for Evans, who died in 2017 after a brief illness. He was 79.

Willie Evans
Photo courtesy of UB Athletics.

A plaque in the former Porter Quadrangle of Ellicott Complex on UB’s North Campus acknowledges Evans, a Buffalo native who graduated from UB in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, and worked in Buffalo Public Schools for more than 30 years. Evans also served as president of the UB Alumni Association, and was the recipient of the Community Leadership Medal, the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Russell J. Gugino Award, and along with his teammates on the 1958 team, received UB’s highest honor, the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal. The Willie R. Evans UB Alumni Association Legacy Scholarship is named in his honor.

Renaming the quad “aligns with our values as a diverse, inclusive, scholarly community,” said Satish Tripathi, university president, in a news release.

The UB Council voted in 2020 to remove the name of Peter B. Porter from the residence hall as part of the university’s commitment to fighting systemic racism. Porter, a former U.S. Congressman, secretary of war, and secretary of New York State, owned five enslaved African Americans.

Evans was selected from a list of 65 people suggested by UB students and staff, 40 of whom met the nomination criteria. Tripathi chose him from five finalists who “have set a tremendous example for our community,” Tripathi said. “Willie Evans emerged as my clear choice for this distinction.”

UB football will play its homecoming game at 3:30 Saturday against Mid-American Conference rival Miami.

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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.