UAB football: cooked goose or ugly duckling?

By Hunter Ford
From The Western Star

UAB’s football team went 2-10 last year, draws less fans than flies, and after learning that it will lose nine scholarships for academic incompetence, it appears the Blazers’ goose is cooked.  Stick a fork in it- UAB’s football program is done.

But wait! Hold up on that picnic.

Is it inevitable that the UAB football team will be buried in the same graveyard where Birmingham pro football teams are interred? It may happen. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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An excellent website called Capstone Report ( made a brilliant analogy of UAB football (and practically gave its eulogy) last week.

Capstone Report opined that the University of Alabama Board of Trustees should put Blazer football out of its misery. The UA system should no longer pour money down the “rat hole” and instead focus on more worthwhile endeavors.

Capstone further argued, effectively, that UAB football was doomed from the onset because it can’t compete in a market it should automatically dominate if it expects to succeed.

Birmingham is and will probably always be an “Alabama” town with Crimson at its core. Orange and Blue elements will form the majority of its leftover components. There is scarce room for Green and Gold.

Capstone called Alabama and Auburn the “Coke and Pepsi” of college football teams in this state. UAB, Capstone said, is RC Cola. Capstone called on UAB officials to make a case for continuing the football program, practically daring Blazer leaders to do so.

First, I must say I fully agree with the “RC Cola” analogy. Second, don’t hold your breath for the gutless UAB administration to respond in any way towards the double-dog dare served by Capstone.

However, I will give it an unsolicited shot.

There is a place in the market for RC Cola and for UAB football. Much like RC Cola, UAB cannot expect to dominate its market. What it can do is offer a decent product for less money. It can charge consumers (fans) less to enjoy its product and it can do so with less production costs, thereby giving its owners (the UA System) less of a financial burden to overcome.

Instead of abandoning football altogether, UAB could scale back to I-AA (now officially called the Championship Football Subdivision).

By playing in a lower classification, UAB would have less to live up to as far as attendance figures and might be in a position to win more games.

In the I-AA category UAB could still play some “money” games on the road against the Tennessees and Florida States of the world.  It could then focus on establishing annual contests with in-state and inter-city rivals. Birmingham needs more annual sporting events to look forward to. Why not a “Steel City Showdown” every year with Samford? Work to get Troy on the schedule every year. Perhaps make a move to join the Ohio Valley Conference. Samford would be a built –in conference foe along with Jacksonville State.

UAB has another major problem…venue. People don’t want to go to Legion Field any more.

In a lower classification, UAB would not have to meet large stadium size requirements. The Blazers could play at Hoover’s Regions Park (formerly the Hoover Met.)

If you’ve ever been to a Hoover High football game, you will know that Regions Park is a surprisingly good football venue.

I have talked to Hoover officials about this and I believe Hoover would bend over backwards to host UAB football games if it had the chance.

UAB has a lot of political problems to overcome.

The politics of the city of Birmingham have been a double- edged sword. Birmingham has supported UAB football monetarily, but the campaign for a domed stadium has failed to provide a new stadium while poisoning the public perception of Legion Field.

The politics of the UA system has worked against UAB.  Crimson Tide football is still the apple in the eyes of the UA Trustees. UAB is a red-headed stepchild with green teeth.

UAB is established in a conference and has a lot of contractual obligations. Some may feel it should be an all or nothing deal to keep UAB football alive or let it die.

But I believe, at a smaller level, UAB could not only survive the boiling pot it is in now, it could be an ugly ducking with the chance to one day be a swan.

(They could give out free Moon Pies at the games!)