Thursday, June 04, 2015

Alabama-Birmingham resurrects its football program

The Blazers might be coming back from the dead!
At a press conference Monday evening, president Ray Watts and athletic director Mark Ingram confirmed that the football Blazers will indeed be returning to the university.  It was Watts’ controversial decision to axe the football program in the first place last December.

When asked about the about-face, Watts stated that he didn’t want to dwell on the past.

“I don’t want pursue a lot of time looking back. … [It’s time for] healing and moving ahead,” Watts said in a press conference that essentially raised more questions than provided answers, adding in what will be a controversial comment that there was no “tangible” support financially when the initial decision was made.
So how were the financial problems that doomed UAB's football program last fall resolved?
Watts explained to the Associated Press prior to the press conference that his reversal came after spending the weekend in meetings with supporters of UAB football.  According to the president, those supporters have agreed to cover the cost of a projected $17 million-plus deficit over the next five years. Watts added that supporters “raised about 10 percent of the estimated $12.5 million- $14.5 million needed for a turf practice field and new fieldhouse,” the AP wrote.

“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,” Watts said. “That’s why we’re in a position today to make this decision.”
There are certain fundraising deadlines for bringing football back, but Watts declined to get into on specifics on that subject or the subject of just when the Blazers will begin play anew.
Assuming those fundraising deadlines are met, the Blazers will probably resume playing football in the fall of 2016, as a member of Conference USA. Left unanswered is how UAB's administrators, fans and boosters will continue to push back against the University of Alabama System Board of Trustee's alleged hostility towards UAB's football program, although it's clear that a groundswell of popular as well as political support is what led to its reinstatement.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach provides an excellent FAQ of the timeline for bringing back to life UAB's football program. FiveThirtyEight's David Goldenberg looks inside the competing studies that killed, and then brought back to life, the UAB program.

For what it's worth, I think the team's nickname should be changed from the Blazers to the Zombies.

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