U. Alabama-Birmingham to Revive Football Program

Ray Watts
The Associated Press

On Monday, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced it would reverse an earlier decision and reinstate the college’s football, bowling, and rifle programs, according to ESPN.

Last December, the university abandoned the programs, citing a lack of financial solvency, but UAB president Ray Watts said Monday that citizens and the business community have rallied to offer financial support totaling roughly $27 million, thus making the return of the programs possible. The city of Birmingham, the UAB’s National Alumni Society, and funds raised from a hike in student fees are expected to raise $5.3 million. The rest of the funding should come from private donors.

Watts said the school will inject roughly $20 million per year into athletics. He insists $17 million must come from private donations.

The projected deficit over the next five years if football is restored would amount to $17.2 million, but Fox Sports reported that Watts said, “Our students, our alumni, the city of Birmingham and now many community members have stepped up with commitments to cover that $17.2 million operational deficit. That’s why we’re in a position today to make this decision.”

Watts added, “our goal is to play as soon as possible,” but would not commit to starting football again in the 2016 season.

ESPN reported that if UAB’s football program returned in 2016, the university would still be barred from bowl games until 2017 unless the NCAA granted a waiver. Because the school abandoned football in the Conference USA (C-USA), the conference has yet to decide whether UAB will be able to compete the first year it comes back. Still, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky expressed satisfaction with UAB’s decision, telling the Associated Press, “It didn’t really come as a great surprise, but we’re very pleased with the decision to bring back football. As a conference, we’re committed to football so we welcome the good news that UAB football has been given another chance.”

As to how to fill the football roster, which was laid bare by the termination of the football program, new athletic director Mark Ingram said the university will cooperate with Conference USA and the NCAA for the “most appropriate way to do that within the boundaries of the rules,” adding, “This will be a continued challenge.” Bill Clark, the football coach, said excitedly that it was an “exciting day for UAB” and a “true relief to know there is a future for UAB” football.

The decision to terminate the athletic programs was triggered by a report from CarrSports Consulting that stated UAB athletic expenses would skyrocket to $38.5 million by 2019 but revenue would barely reach $1 million; the university had asserted that the deficit would grow to $49 million with football. But a second report from College Sports Solutions released in May argued that if the three programs were revived, it would “foster much goodwill and stimulate a substantial amount of spiritual and financial support from alumni, donors, ticket holders, friends, students, faculty and the community” in addition to bringing “positive national attention to the University.”

The UAB football team went 6-6 last year, the best it had done in ten years, and doubled its average attendance. UAB’s subsidy of athletics will be topped at $14.49 million through 2019.