Bringing a program back from the dead
By LIAM BEVANS
College Contributor Network
The town of Birmingham, Alabama lost its favorite son on Dec. 2, the day Ray Watts sent the University of Alabama at Birmingham football program out to pasture.
His reasoning, of course, came solely down to numbers.
"As we look at the evolving landscape of NCAA football, we see expenses only continuing to increase," Watts said.
"When considering a model that best protects the financial future and prominence of the Athletic Department, football is simply not sustainable."
It seemed that the president would stand strong with his convictions, and fend off any media backlash or public outcry. Yet the uproar from the nation, and the Birmingham community in particular, was too much for Watts to handle. Only about a month after he disbanded the program, President Watts created a task force to study the viability of returning the Blazers to the gridiron.
Unfortunately for the fans, it doesn't matter if their prayers are answered and the team returns in 2016, once they forewent the 2015 season the program was dead. The team that could potentially call Legion Field home in two seasons will be a sham of a program, and a punch line for years to come. It all comes down to recruiting.
You see, while Bill Clark remains an employee of the state of Alabama just to gain a pension, every other staff in America is able to hold junior days and get a jump on the next recruiting class. UAB has no guarantee of a program, and so Coach Clark has absolutely nothing to offer potential players. Is an 18-year-old going to come to a school whose sales pitch consists of more questions marks than a Jameis Winston character profile? UAB would get slaughtered trying to compete for players, not to mention their roster has already thinned out due to transfers.
With a depleted cast of characters, and no influx of talent, UAB will simply not be able to compete within Conference USA. They weren't a powerhouse to begin with, and now they will have an even more difficult time trying to stay afloat against mid-major competition.
What's left in Birmingham right now is a bunch of fans fighting for their reputation. They are trying to save face after a national audience watched their hearts get ripped out by a university president. They are putting all their emotions on the line, supporting a now-defunct program more than they ever did when the Blazers actually had a team. And if the people actually get their wish, if the team returns, they are going to get burned. Hard.
If you don't believe me just ask the fans of SMU. They didn't self-impose their death penalty like UAB, but they sure felt the consequences for decades after. So, if money is the real motivation behind the shutting down of the program, then there is no way the president can actually bring it back. Because if this bowl eligible team couldn't attract enough fans to remain viable, the next ten seasons of putrid football certainly won't get them in the seats either.
UAB football died on Dec. 2, let it rest in peace.
Liam Bevans is a graduate student at Boston College. He has spent the last six years working for the BC football team both as a student and as an intern. Follow him on twitter: @liham_andcheese