Reversal of fortune: UAB reinstating football
Fans and supporters get their wish: UAB football is back. (USATSI)
Buried but never completely dead, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s football program is alive again.
Sources told CBSSports.com that UAB president Ray Watts will announce at a press conference at 5 p.m. ET that football is coming back, only six months after a highly contentious decision to end the sport. At least one prominent UAB football supporter has been invited to the press conference in Birmingham.
UAB supporters fought the death of football for months, raising millions of dollars to show support, releasing documents to contradict administration statements, and trying to politically change the makeup of the University of Alabama System’s board of trustees, which oversees UAB. The result: Monday’s reversal that many believed was unthinkable throughout the past half-year.
UAB essentially gave itself a self-imposed death penalty, raising legitimate questions of how much damage will have to be overcome upon reinstatement. But in the process, UAB football arguably generated more support and exposure than at any time in its history.
Last December, UAB became the first university to drop major college football since the University of the Pacific in 1995. In an emotional team meeting at the time, UAB players questioned Watts how other schools could make football work financially but UAB couldn’t and they accused him of lying to UAB’s coaches.
Watts told the players, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
In fact, Watts didn’t know what he didn’t know — or chose not to know it.
To justify the initial decision, UAB cited a report by consultant Bill Carr to justify the initial decision. But the report had miscalculations, discrepancies and bad assumptions, most notably no financial model for life without Conference USA revenue. UAB assumed it would stay in C-USA without football, but the conference told the university it won’t remain a member if football doesn’t return.
When UAB’s faculty threatened to have a no-confidence vote in Watts last January, he created a task force to review the decision. The no-confidence vote still happened and Watts fought the task force’s initial hiring of a new consultant, OSKR. Instead, UAB hired College Sports Solutions, which determined that keeping or cutting the sports are both viable options, but reviving them could allow UAB to capitalize off new interest in the athletics department.
A major development in the past week was Birmingham businessmen meeting with Watts and providing financial support for UAB football. Some of these businessmen had traditionally not been associated with UAB.
It’s unclear what, if any, conditions UAB’s administration will place on the reinstatement of football.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.