Beyond the Xs and Os

Keeping the Bills in Buffalo

By Mark C. Poloncarz

Subjects: Sports And Society, New York/regional, State And Local Politics, Public Policy, Business And Government
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Hardcover : 9781438475936, 226 pages, September 2019
Paperback : 9781438475943, 226 pages, July 2020

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


1. The Stadium in Orchard Park and the 1998 Lease Agreement

2. Starting from Scratch

3. The First Meeting

4. Finding the Right Team

5. Viability = D × P³ – C

6. Enter Populous

7. G4 or 4G?

8. Should I Stay or Should I Go?

9. Percoco

10. The More Things Change, the More They Remain the Same

11. At Least They Fed Us

12. The Letter

13. Thank God We Got Schumed!

14. It’s Pronounced Like the Bread

15. They Want a What?

16. Well, Those Were a Crazy Few Days

17. The $400 Million Bomb

18. Detroit

19. Sandy and Troubles at Home

20. In the Red Zone

21. They Might as Well Go Now If That Is the Case

22. I Probably Just Lied to the Media

23. Touchdown

24. I Think I Made Jerry Sullivan Speechless

25. The Legislative Interlude

26. Blue Tick Hounds


Inside account of the negotiations between the football Bills, New York State, and Erie County to sign a long-term stadium lease and thereby keep the team in Buffalo.


Beyond the Xs and Os is the previously unpublished story of how a long-term stadium lease was negotiated and signed by New York's Erie County, the state, and the Buffalo Bills football team. Mark C. Poloncarz, the elected executive of the community that owned the stadium, provides a rare glimpse into the long, difficult, but ultimately rewarding effort to successfully conclude negotiations between a National Football League (NFL) franchise, the NFL, and a multitude of players from the political arena, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and US Senator Chuck Schumer. Poloncarz discusses the financial side of sports and reveals how the county was able to navigate what proved to be often-turbulent waters. Complicating negotiations was an ongoing frenzy in the local news media, hungry for any news about the new lease, and Bills team owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr., who was ninety-two and had said the team would be sold upon his death, thereby possibly being relocated to another city. In the end, a new lease was signed and the Bills remained in Buffalo at a time when a number of similar sized communities watched their teams relocate to other cities in larger markets.

Mark C. Poloncarz is Erie County, New York's eighth county executive. Since taking office, Poloncarz has returned Erie County government to its core mission of serving the needs of its constituents in a common-sense, pragmatic manner that improves the lives of all, while also overseeing the economic turnaround of the City of Buffalo and the county. Before being elected as county executive, Poloncarz served as Erie County's comptroller for six years, and previously practiced corporate and finance law in Buffalo. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York and a law degree from the University of Toledo.


"Many Western New Yorkers who have come to know Mark Poloncarz … will recognize him in this book. It has an authenticity that makes it the antithesis of the ghost-written, air-brushed, self-promotion vehicles published in election years only to be quickly remaindered. Since this is the only insider account of the negotiations likely to be written, that revealing, unpolished … authenticity will help the reader accept this account as genuine." — Buffalo Spree

"…Mark C. Poloncarz's book … offers the most complete, inside-football account of how the county, the state and the Bills navigated a lengthy negotiation that ultimately resulted in a 10-year lease of the Bills stadium in early 2013. The book is filled with political insights and surprises … it also offers flashes of wit, recountings of fraught conversations and interesting anecdotal nuggets." — Buffalo News

"Bills fans are very familiar with their favorite players and what happens on the field, but few understand the business side of the game and what it took to keep the franchise here in Buffalo. Mark Poloncarz's book gives the reader a seat at the bargaining table, listening in on developments as Mr. Wilson's representatives and governmental officials negotiate terms to keep Buffalo's football team playing here in Erie County. High-stakes decisions and relentless pressure run throughout Beyond the Xs and Os, a book that shows Bills fans how the measures put in place by Poloncarz and others kept our beloved team here." — Thurman Thomas, former Buffalo Bills running back and member of the Professional and College Football Halls of Fame

"Mark Poloncarz's book is an exhaustive, meticulously detailed account of one of the most seminal moments in the history of Western New York. All the better because it comes from original source material: the person in the room and at the negotiating table! It's required reading for those who care not only about the Bills but also about their impact on the region's future for decades to come. The public owes Mark a debt of gratitude for making all this information public and for his hard work on a strong relocation penalty in the team's lease with the county—it no doubt kept the Bills in Buffalo." — Luke Russert, Washington, DC-based journalist/political reporter and lifelong Buffalo Bills fan

"This book is a must-read for those who want to know more about the business of professional sports. It offers a rare peek into the intensity of stadium negotiations to keep a professional sports franchise in a city. Mark Poloncarz has written a primer on what it takes to conduct hard-nosed negotiations that protect the fan base and the community, and on how he helped to keep the Bills in Buffalo. It is an up-close look for Buffalo Bills fans, or for anyone interested in learning more about the business side of sports." — Andrea Kimball, Vice President and General Counsel of the MLS soccer club, Sporting Kansas City

"Enjoyable behind-the-scenes descriptions of the political dramas, as well as personal and humorous anecdotes. The subject is 'do or die' for the vast majority of Bills Nation!" — Nellie Drew, University at Buffalo School of Law