The UAB football program, whose demise I talked about here, isn’t going as quietly into the night as UAB President Ray Watts and the University of Alabama Board of Trustees had hoped. Some, including Superdestroyer here but also some national commentators, wondered if the fall of the UAB football program wasn’t a harbinger of things to come for the have-nots of college football. What Ray Watts did, a lot of other university presidents are not going to be eager to follow. The media attention has largely turned negative, particularly in Alabama (where, a year ago, I would have thought that indifference would have reigned.

Though many assume (and is often the case) faculty is hostile to sports, Watts himself has received a no confidence vote from the faculty (as well as the student government):

During President Watts’ 22-month tenure, the resolution says, he has failed to apply principles of shared governance to selection of university administrative officers, disbanding of the athletic programs, changes in academic operations and changes in faculty benefits.

UAB FAR Frank Messina told the Faculty Senate in December that he was given no indication from Watts or a consulting group analyzing the university’s athletics department that those programs could be on the chopping block.

The other resolution was a statement in support of UAB Athletics. It calls for “a comprehensive analysis of UAB Athletics that is transparent and includes consideration of campus-wide impact for discontinuation of any athletic program.”

The basketball program gave an extension to their basketball coach, with an added stipulation to make sure he does not criticize the school. UAB has always had a stronger basketball program than a football one. The current coach hasn’t been particularly good in light of that, but he pulls in a half-million a year, which is good pay.

The former football coach, Bill Clark, has declined coaching opportunities, in part hopeful that UAB will reverse course on its decision. There are signs that it might, with the introduction of a “task force” to revisit the report on which Watts based his decision:

The numbers in the study have been called into question by several critics of the decision, with some saying it overestimated expenses and underestimated revenue and charitable support. UAB President Ray Watts announced the creation of the task force earlier this month.

In a statement, Smith said the group met Jan. 16 for about three hours. He said the task force discussed a number of issues, including a request for proposal to help determine the firm or firms that will conduct the report.

I actually read the report. It wasn’t hard, being something like sixteen pages. It quite obviously started with the conclusion and moved backwards. People are questioning the numbers, but it looks apparent to me that the preparers, CarrSports, gave the administration the numbers that they wanted to reach the desired conclusion. Last year they prepared a report for James Madison University, which suggested that JMU should make the transition from FCS to FBS, also likely a case of telling administrators what they wanted to here. There is talk, actually, of JMU being UAB’s replacement in Conference USA.

Conference USA is having its winter meeting, where among other things they will determine UAB’s fate in the conference. No decision is expected, but it could weigh heavily on UAB’s decision. If UAB doesn’t have a spot in Conference USA waiting for them, it’ll be harder to justify rebooting their football program. The only potential home for them will be the Sun Belt, which has substantially lower payouts. That’s if they can get an invitation. On the one hand, they’d be a great get for the Belt. On the other hand, they have two teams in Alabama already.


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13 Responses to #FreeUAB Fights On

  1. superdestroyer says:

    No matter what the consultants wrote, UAB will always play in front of an empty stadium, most of the UAB students are really fans of Auburn or Alabama (the one is Tuscaloosa), the athletic department will depend upon a subsidy from the university, the increased costs of trying to compete at the highest level will continue to increase, the students at UAB will be forced to pay ever higher fees to support an athletic department that they do not care about, and UAB will be seen as a loser school.

    Why not go down the road of the University of Chicago and drop sports altogether rather then be a loser wannabe schools that is happy being a door mat for the real athletic departments like every other school in Conference USA or the Sunbelt Conference?

    • trumwill says:

      If they dropped athletics, they’d be less UChicago and more UAH, except without the hockey.

      • superdestroyer says:

        The mean SAT at UAH is higher than UAB and their graduation rates are identical. I fail to see any statistical advantage of having a loser football team that serves as a door mat to universities that have hangers-on fans.

        UAB would probably have a higher entering freshman SAT score without sports and with loser, door mat sports.

        • trumwill says:

          I think you used a wrong word in there somewhere.

          The cost and student profiles of the schools are generally quite similar. A big difference, though, is that people have heard of UAB and a much smaller number know UAH exists, despite the fact that it’s not a better school.

          You can look at it as them being a loser doormat school. I think they’re more inclined to see it as they field a team at the second highest level in college football.

          A lot of schools would actually really like that (indeed, there is/was a line of schools hoping to replace them in C*USA). Conference USA and the Sun Belt aren’t the bottom. There are a lot more schools on the outside looking in than vice-versa. I can think of at least a dozen schools that would be thrilled to be in Conference USA and if I put my mind to it, probably more than two dozen. The Sun Belt has a shorter list, but no shortage of would-be members.

          So the question is.. how are all of these schools wrong? What makes not having a football program so undesirable that they are all, en masse, making the same error?

        • superdestroyer says:

          North Dakota State is better off winning in the FCS and getting ESPN Game Day to come to Fargo rather than being a poor sister in the MAC conference and being used as a door mat by the Big Ten. FCS have fewer scholarships, can offer partial scholarships, and do not have to deal with the egos of the big schools.

          Everyone remember Appalachian state from winning FCS championships and pulling an upset of Michigan. No one will care about them when they are used as a door mat by Clemson in 2015 or by Tennessee in 2016.

        • trumwill says:

          And yet, given the opportunity, what did Appalachian State choose to do? I actually myself think it was a screwy decision to make. But they actually have an investment in their school and I don’t. Georgia Southern made the same decision.

          It’s also worth pointing out that what Appalachian State will longer be remembered for isn’t their FCS championship, but their game against Michigan.

        • trumwill says:

          Related, I’m not sure that I have linked to this before, but I found this memo illuminating. It’s a memo by the former University of Montana Athletics Director essentially making a case for joining the WAC.

          Montana chose not to, of course, and that turned out to be a really good move as the WAC fell apart shortly thereafter. But it actually makes a decent case that the financial arguments against joining the FBS (even in one of the lower conferences) are not as strong as one might think. Not as strong as I had thought, anyway.

          It might shed some light on why so many schools have made the transition. Or it could have been a purposefully leaked document to leverage the Big Sky Conference. I’m not sure.

        • superdestroyer says:

          Supposedly the reason to move up is the expenses do not go up my much but the revenue from selling blow out loses to schools like Clemson and Tennessee help a school like Appalachian State with its financing. Since the schools was at Div 1 for their other sports, the costs of moving up is not that much.

          However, no consultant seems to account for moving from a winning school at FCS to a loser, door mat school at the FBS level.

          Since UAH has a lower acceptance rate than UAB, maybe the idea that being a loser, door mat school does not really help get students who have above mean (for the university) SAT scores. Maybe being a door mat, loser school just encourages the good students to look elsewhere.

        • trumwill says:

          So why do you think it is that so many of these schools disagree with you?

        • superdestroyer says:

          As you have pointed out before, many of the administrators at the smaller schools want to be administrators at bigger schools. And who is going to hire a president at Auburn, STanford, or Iowa who does not have experinece with college sports?

          Also, I think that too many schools believe that having sports programs attracts more male students. However, I really believe that winning sports programs attract more male students but that losing sports programs cause male students to look else where.

        • trumwill says:

          I think having an unsuccessful football team is mostly not a factor one way or the other. I don’t think Charlotte or Georgia State adding a football team will improve its prospects much.

          That could change if they have some success, though. And I think the possibilities of some success are better as a member of Conference USA, or even the Sun Belt, are better than in the Southern Conference or Southland Conference.

          That being said, even when there is benefit, unless you’re spectacularly successful, like Boise State Successful, I would be surprised if it moved the needle much.

  2. Peter says:

    I’ve got a completely radical suggestion. Maybe the NFL, the world’s wealthiest and most successful sports league, with a worldwide monopoly and a near-complete guarantee of never ending success, should use some of its incalculable fortune to help some college programs.

    • trumwill says:

      I do think that the NFL should form a minor league system, for those who don’t wish to go to college but want a shot at the NFL. Not holding my breath.

      Short of that, though, I do wonder if the NFL isn’t the answer to the question of whether or how athletes should get paid. Let players accept a stipend for NFL teams in return for signing rights upon graduation.

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