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 (capstonereport.com) 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!)

13 Comments

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  1. 1
    Kevin

    I’m still trying to figure out why bammers are so obsessed with ending the football program at UAB. WHY do you care whether they have football at UAB or not? And don’t use that worn out excuse about the program “losing money.” VERY FEW football programs make money in Division I.

    I may never go to a UAB football game, but it’s sickening to see bammers trying to choke that program. Frankly, it’s none of your damn business if UAB has a football team or not. It’s up to UAB’s administration, students, and alumni. And given the fact (and yes it’s a FACT) that the UA BOT has done everything in it’s power to put the UAB program at an extreme competitive disadvantage, I think they’re lucky they’ve done as well as they have with it.

    So why don’t you bammers worry about your own problems in T(hug)town and leave UAB’s business to UAB??

  2. 2
    BamaFanInNYC

    Kevin, for what it’s worth why don’t you worry about your own problems in C(ow) or R(edneck) or perhaps even Thug (Opelika) Town rather than what we’re centering our thoughts around.

    I understand it’s simply because there’s nothing worth talking about in that town, other than whether Trotline or Northern Railroad will perform at your school’s rodeo this weekend.

    But seriously, why are you concerned with what we’re centering our thoughts around?

    Just get over the fact that YOU WEREN’T accepted into The University of Alabama and now you’re rotting like outdated cheese in the middle of a blazing sun down at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute of Opelika.

  3. 3
    WillisMann

    If you had a system school worth bickering about (and no, your cross town system school known as Opelika High School and your fatherly institute Alabama Polytechnic Institute-Montgomery are not worthy candidates), maybe you’d understand our need for concern, Kev.

  4. 4
    Daddio

    I think Legion Field is the problem. I visit the B’ham area several times during football season and Make Samford games if they are in town. I am a UA grad but enjoy the sport and the venue at Samford is easy to get to, not much traffic, reasonable ticket cost, and a fun and safe atmosphere. It’s like college games were in the 50’s. If UAB were to play in the Hoover area I think attendance would improve, but would the city still kick in support? That’s doubtful. They are caught in a spot for sure. I hope they keep going.

  5. 6
    tmc1

    Bamafaninnyc,
    that was indeed the best post I have read today… very creative analogy… GOOD STUFF!
    Kevin,
    I realise that auburn likes to think they are popular among the teams in the south, but in fact… they arent.
    Nobody likes Auburn because they cheat, chop block, and they are the NCAA’s informant. Even people who support UAB know it..

  6. 7
    nashtide

    Cap **cough** Hunter
    I like your site, but isn’t it a little unethical to promote your own blog in a newspaper article as if your an objective third party??

  7. 8
    Hunter Ford

    No… It is unethical for oil companies to raise gas prices during the summer so I can’t afford to drive to the beach…but it is not unethical to self promote…. ask Paul Finebaum…

    Roll Tide!

  8. 9
    capstonereport

    Four out of Five dentists agree, the Capstone Report won’t cause tooth decay.***

    The question for Hunter is actually a decent one. This isn’t Hunter’s site (his site is actually here…I forgot to append the link at the end of the story. Hey, I’ve been sick for the last week…so oops.) http://alagonzo.blogspot.com/

    We publish his stuff here because 1. the Propst saga was interesting. 2. Hunter’s an Alabama fan. and 3. he’s a good writer. much better than me.

    Now, the ethical question is good, but I don’t think it is unethical since it isn’t his site—he’s just good enough to share stuff with us. Which, I’ve even invited an Auburn fan or two, and others to do here. I’m always willing to publish good quality content, and share it with our audience.

    ***actual dentists not queried during survey.

  9. 10
    Hunter Ford

    I thought the UAB commentary by Capstone was very good and appropriately edgy. The Birmingham sports scene needs something like D-I football to fill the void left by the loss of Alabama games, the Iron Bowl, the SEC championship, etc.

    The market is big enough I believe, to sustain a decent fan base. Remember, Alabama and Auburn are two of about three dozen schools that play football at the highest level i.e., more than 70,000 fans per game.

    There are some pretty lame programs out there playing D-I football Kent State, Bowling Green, Florida International, Disney Tech,…

    It’s a frustrating mess. A book could be (probably should be) written about the politics of the UA system and how it has affected everything at UAB, not just athletics.

  10. 11
    Hunter Ford

    Here is an interesting excerpt from UAH David Williams’ blog at http://www.uah.edu

    “One last word about football; extraordinary amounts of time are spent at the NCAA and at football playing institutions dealing with this minuscule fraction of the total student body, playing a facility-intensive sport that, in most cases, results in financial losses to the university. The time spent on football by these institutions is out of all proportion to what I see as the mission of UAH (my next blog will be on our mission statement). There is more than enough football in Alabama at the top level as well as at intermediate (and lower) levels to satisfy the most ardent fans. Adding another team will not make any significant difference to the quantity and will certainly not raise the quality of football already available at, e.g., A&M, UNA, UWA, USA (soon!) Troy, UAB, Auburn and UA. So let me summarize: we have one Division I sport, ice hockey. Every other sport will remain Division II and football is not on the horizon. Let’s take what we’ve got and make it better, not introduce another sport which will only drain resources from the broad range of excellent women’s and men’s athletics that we’ve worked hard to create over the last 40 years. “

  11. 12
    Kevin

    BamaNYC – Maybe you’ve been away for a while, but T(thug)-town is where you go to score drugs and dodge bullets — not Auburn. We don’t have the problems you have. Though I do realize that bamzos are easily confused.

    tmc1 – Auburn is concerned with “popularity,” goober. When you have a strong program, people hate you. In UAT’s case, people just pity you for your delusional stupidity.

    And Hunter — you are an indeed right that an VERY interesting book could be written about the BOT’s meddling in UAB athletics (and other issues). It’s sickening. And weird to find myself agreeing with you.

    Again — UAB’s athletic program shouldn’t be the business of UAT or Auburn fans. If UAT fans are THAT insecure about the future of their program, then that’s THEIR problem — it shouldn’t be UAB’s problem.

  12. 13
    Shane Crack Korn

    As the #1 bama Redneck caller into FineScum I must say I found this truth, not joke, to be humbling.

    What do you have at a sold out Byrant-Denny Stadium?

    A full set of teeth.

    Love,
    Shame rtr

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