The University Board of Trustees governs the UA System, including universities in Birmingham and Huntsville. As such they are tasked with making decisions regarding the operations of each university. As it regards UAB, the BOT has overstepped its bounds numerous times by putting roadblocks in the way of UAB athletics. Because Bear Bryant didn’t care for UAB, the BOT, led by his son Paul Bryant, Jr., has repeatedly interfered in the operation of athletics at UAB. Every time there is hint of momentum, particularly as it regards to football, the rug gets pulled out from under.
The only people who know the real truth are those directly involved and they, for many reasons, are not talking. And now, the BOT, who gave preliminary approval (or, at the very least, strong encouragement) for the stadium at the September meeting ( http://www.al.com/sports/index.ssf/2011/09/uab_officials_detail_plans_for.html ), has removed the stadium and its anticipated approval from the agenda of the November meeting ( http://www.blazertv.com/2011/10/uab-stadium-project-not-to-be-included-in-november-bot-agenda-by-exclusion/ ). Many believe this is a pretext to what was the goal of the BOT anyway – to shut down the UAB football program. The same program they have handcuffed for the past 15 years.
Consider these transgressions:
1) The Board of Trustees has always held the threat of shutting down UAB football over the head of UAB administration to get them to bow down.
2) A sitting BOT member (O. Delchamps) actively and successfully campaigned against a then 7-3 UAB team going to a bowl game.
3) The BoT (via Paul Bryant, Jr.) three times refused to allow UAB to hire the football coach that we wanted to start the rebuilding process (Neuheisel, Fisher, Sullivan). The Fisher story(offer made and pulled at the last second) was confirmed by Mrs. Fisher on the Paul Finebaum show a few months ago. In fact, Fisher was to make $600,000 in base salary — $300,000 of which would come from prominent businessmen in the Birmingham area. UAB is paying Callaway more than they would have ever payed Fisher.
4) The BoT (via Paul Bryant, Jr.) forced us to hire his hand-picked coach (and buddy) in the process stripping from the program any excitement that should have been generated by a new coaching hire.
5) The BoT (via Paul Bryant, Jr.) convinced the President and acting AD of UAB that the bitter pill of a forced coaching hire was swallow-able by promising UAB that we could build an on-campus stadium in return for the hire.
6) The BoT (via Paul Bryant, Jr.) refused to let UAB fire his hand-picked coach, despite his running a once promising program into the very bottom of Division 1 football.
7) The BoT (via Paul Bryant, Jr.) forced UAB to give his hand-picked coach an extension, despite his amassing the worst 4 year record in UAB history and promising, again, that we really could have an on-campus stadium.
8 ) The promise of an on-campus stadium, the carrot for which we have endured so many years of illegal and disastrous micromanagement, has now been taken away.
Now, opponents of the football program and the stadium will point to dwindling attendance and the “drain” on the university. Consider these facts and anecdotes:
1) The stadium funding has been structured to be at worst case revenue neutral. No student fees are necessary. UAB has already raised $15 million and sold 25 of 33 luxury boxes nine months before the 1st shovel was scheduled to contact earth. Land has been acquired, major concessions by the city of Birmingham attained, and, yet, the BOT still has problems with it.
2) A team led by a head coach who fans wanted fired two years ago, and who is obviously incompetent at winning games as a head coach, does not provide for a positive experience at a football game. Case in point — the UCF game when fans stayed away voicing their displeasure at the direction of the program. Unfortunately, this brought out anti-UAB sentiment and national derision from those who had no clue what was going on. That includes the local media who, except on very few occasions, has never tried to get the truth regarding anything involving UAB unless it’s a negative story the Bammers can get behind.
3) An entire generation of UAB fans have been lost due to the current coaching staff. The class of 2012 has never seen a product they could get behind. In fact, the previous coaching staff did nothing to further the program either. What is the common thread between the two coaches? The BOT forced them on us and would not let us fire them, so we were stuck with the losingest coach is D1 history and the current coach, who if given time could easily break that record in half the time. Attendance has suffered greatly as a result. By the way, UAB is still averaging 18,500 fans per game despite the UCF game attendance.
4) The UAB Student Government Association has whole-heartedly praised the project ( http://www.blazertv.com/2011/10/usga-president-brad-watts-talks-on-campus-stadium/ ).
5) NO ONE WANTS TO GO TO LEGION FIELD. It’s a dump and is way too big for UAB – 70000 seats. 40,000 people will make the stadium look empty. It’s not in the greatest neighborhood and while I think the problems people have with the area are overblown, perception is reality. UAB students do not want to ride a bus to every game at Legion Field, sit through what this coaching staff gives us, and then ride a bus back to campus. An on-campus stadium would allow students to walk to and from the game at their leisure. Plans have been submitted and preliminary approval given at the September meeting. But as the BOT is prone to do – they dangle a carrot they never plan to provide.
6) The on-campus stadium will cost the university zero money. In the past, there have been intimations that if UAB could find a way to pay for the stadium that was affordable (i.e. not losing money) the BOT would be amenable to it. Well, they never though it could be done, but now that it has , of course, there is a problem. Typical BOT.
7) UAB is responsible for 70% of the revenue that comes into the UA System.
8 ) UAB is the largest employer in the state of Alabama. A recent study ( http://main.uab.edu/Sites/MediaRelations/articles/81729/ ) provided this information:
a. $4.6 billion annual economic impact on the state($12.6 million per day or $500,000 every hour of every day);
b. supports one of every $36 circulating in the state economy;
c. one of every 33 jobs held by its citizens is as a result of UAB;
d. $302.2 million in tax revenue for state and local governments;
e. generates $16.23 in the total state economy for every $1 invested;
f. $1 in every $25 in the state’s budget is generated by the direct or indirect effect of university operations;
g. The economic and employment impact of UAB’s expansion in 2020 (mid-range scenario) is projected to grow to $6.6 billion, generate 72,449 jobs and create $431.4 million in state and local tax revenue.
Finally, the Board of Trustees had a chance to do the right thing – let the future of UAB athletics be determined by UAB. But, alas, they could not allow such a thing. They are much more concerned with maintaining their power. Recent events at UAH have finally forced Huntsville to see what UAB saw long ago. Oversight from Tuscaloosa is biased toward Tuscaloosa and will continue to be so until one of the following happen:
1) UAB and UAH break away from the University of Alabama system and are allowed to make their own decisions based on what is right for their university, not UAT and the power-mad members of the BOT.
2) UAB and UAH are allowed equal representation on the Board of Trustees. Currently, the board consists of thirteen members. Two are UAB graduates, zero are from UAH.
By the way, I’m not even a UAB graduate. I’m from Louisiana (no, I’m not an LSU fan), received my master’s degree from UA and have lived in Birmingham for the past 15 years. I thought a lot of what I had been hearing was overblown, but I have felt the impact of the meddling of the BOT. The most discouraging thing is folks in Alabama think it’s fine as long as Alabama says so. It’s sad, really. Really, really sad.
Caleb West, a UAB Fan
This is a column/opinion piece written by a guest blogger and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of views of BlazerTV.COM as a whole or any of its other staff members.