Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: UAB Football Termination Not Surprising

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: UAB Football Termination Not Surprising

Article excerpt

Birmingham is where sports dreams, both great and small, go to die.

Remember the Birmingham Vulcans, Americans, Stallions? Seems that any fly-by-night pseudo professional football league looking for a franchise could find takers in the Magic City. And with predictable results.

How about Birmingham's attempt to enter the rarefied air of high- stakes horse racing? I remember the black tie, champagne and caviar grand opening of the Birmingham Race Course in which the giddy guests had visions of the city becoming the next international hub for the Sport of Kings. We all know how that turned out now, don't we?

Hockey? Semi-pro basketball? Teams have come and gone over the years in Birmingham, seemingly without ever making a ripple or leaving a trace.

And now it is the college football program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham that is the latest dream to die.

When UAB President Ray Watts announced he was terminating the Blazers program, his decision was met with great anger by the crowds that had gathered outside the athletic facility where he met with this team and Coach Bill Clark to break the news. In a scene reminiscent of Ferguson, Mo., Watts was the target of shouts, rude gestures and blows to the car in which he escaped.

The decision to shut down the program came after a yearlong study of several campus programs, Watts said in a statement released by the university.

"The fiscal realities we face -- both from an operating and a capital investment stand point -- are starker than ever and demand that we take decisive action for the greater good of the athletic department. As we look at the evolving landscape of NCAA football, we see expenses only continuing to increase. When considering a model that best protects the financial future prominence of the athletic department, football is simply not sustainable."

And while Watts incongruously insisted the decision to do away with the football program "is not about financial woes" and was instead "about planning for excellence in the future of everything we do," the bottom line appeared to be the $49 million Watts said UAB would have to come up with over the next five years, above and beyond what the football team could produce in revenue, to keep the program going. …

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