Okay, I’ve had it. Since UAB President Ray Watts did the fiscally responsible thing by pulling the plug on UAB football, all 14 of UAB’s gridiron supporters have been vocal in protest.
You may have seen or heard them, calling radio shows or staging demonstrations. Fact is, the only problems UAB’s fan base could cause would be if they all went to the same Subway restaurant and claimed all the places to sit.
The jokes tell themselves with this bunch, with plenty of humor to go around. One of the funniest was their biggest protest last week, where news outlets reported “400 supporters were in attendence.” Friend, that’s the amount of people in line for a urinal at any given time at Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare Stadiums. And THAT number is contingent on whether or not UAB was truthful with attendance numbers, something we all know they haven’t been in the past.
The carefully constructed camera shots at other protests have shielded the viewer from seeing the total of 18 people on hand, a number that includes mailmen, passing joggers and others who may casually be in the area.
UAB football is dead. And my goodness, it needed to be. I hate it for both present and former players. Let’s face it…no one on the current roster picked UAB over Florida State…maybe Tennessee State, but certainly not Florida State. But still, an athlete should get to choose when he takes the pads off for the last time, or at least have an idea that the possibility is coming. And as for former players, UAB football was part of their past…part of their college experience. The absence of a football program robs this fraternity of brothers, taking the “house” that encapsulated those memories.
Still, despite all the weeping and gnashing of green and gold teeth, President Watts proved himself to be a leader by doing the right thing. According to Watts, the program was going to cost the University $49 Million over the next five years, and considering the program probably hasn’t made $4,900 this season, Watts did what leaders do, making the hard decision for the people he serves.
No doubt you’ve heard the ridiculousness in the aftermath of his decision.
“The Board of Trustees…they’re the ones who are to blame!”
“UAT is just keeping us down!”
“Paul Bryant, Jr.! He’s the debil!”
I heard these very words recently from a UAB employee and friend and I immediately called him on it. Ray Watts, the UAB president, is on record as making the decision, not any member or collective body representing the University of Alabama board of trustees. And yet my friend was holding to this fantasy. I cut him off quickly, pointing out that those thoughts are at best unsubstantiated opinion, at worst complete and utter hearsay.
In blaming the UA BOT’s most famous member, it’s amazing to me how many people believe they know the mind of Paul Bryant, Jr., the ultra successful businessman whose father was the second best coach in Alabama football history (Kidding Bama purists, I’m kidding). I’m afraid the caricature many UAB fans have created in their minds of Bryant, Jr. just doesn’t exist. Interested in the Alabama football program? Of course. Obsessed with it, and committed to damning the Blazers’ existence? Hardly.
The truth is, there was little to damn. Mainly because UAB athletics did it to itself. UAB fan, you had close to 25 years to build a following. You had over two decades to do something. And what did you do? You qualified for two bowls. That’s it.
“But Alabama didn’t help us!” Why should they? There is no welfare system in college athletics. Look, there’s no shortage of people who hate the Alabama Crimson Tide. Why should ‘Bama contribute to the future of an antagonist, which is what the Blazers have been to Alabama from day one? Speaking of Florida State, FSU was once a girls’ school just east of the Florida panhandle. Now the Seminoles are one of three teams next month that stand in the way of ‘Bama’s 16th national title. Not saying the Blazers would ever reach that point, but with no shortage of rivals, why in the name of everything good and green should Alabama foster another? Especially one who has from its athletic inception held so much seething contempt for all things Tuscaloosa?
Oh but there’s more you’ve probably heard. “Bama’s just afraid of UAB.” Much like a cage fighter is afraid of an eight year old. Making the Blazers exist on their own doesn’t automatically equal fear, although those desperate dots have been connected by enraged UAB supporters for years. Girl, please.
“UAB supporters have been ready to give millions for years but haven’t been allowed to do so.” See, the great thing about a controversy like this is, you can call a radio station and say whatever you want, and nobody is there to question it. Show me the money. Show me the documentation. Give the cash TO ME and let me hold it for you…I’ll even take pictures of it, document its existence RIGHT HERE, and invest it for you while you continue your fight. Simply, this a farce. A fantasy. Every UAB fan alive couldn’t pool their money and come up with more than a couple million.
Then there’s this jewel: “Bear Bryant had it in for Gene Bartow, and Paul Bryant, Jr. has held that grudge for decades, and is now just carrying out his father’s revenge.” Just for a moment, let’s suppose this is true. The feud between Bartow, Bryant and then Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson was well-known. But only because Bartow busted onto the scene and immediately began kicking sand in the face of the biggest, baddest dog in the junkyard. What an arrogant, utterly stupid play on his part, and if the Blazer program’s demise is the ultimate result of that arrogance, UAB fan, blame your patriarch, not UA. If you need help, the worst way to go about getting it is slapping the top dog with accusations you can’t back up. And if that’s the case, a small part of me hopes this claim is true. After all, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reapeth. And all Bartow did was ensure UAB equipment and athletic department gear will soon be for sale at a thrift store near you.
My favorite of all time was “We could’ve had Jimbo Fisher as our next coach but the board blocked it.” Yeah, because Jimbo freaking Fisher was coming to UAB over…wait for it…Florida State. Riiiight.
Then there’s this one: “All but a handful of programs lose money, not just UAB.” See, there’s losing money, then there’s LOSING MONEY. Much like there’s bleeding, then there’s bleeding from a punctured jugular vein. I don’t know if microeconomics are taught at UAB, but the “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” principle has been in play on Birmingham’s Southside for over two decades. Well, the waiter just walked up, and UAB fan, looks like you’re washing dishes.
But this is my favorite: “Killing UAB football will kill Birmingham’s economy.” Unless Birmingham’s economy depends on the 2-3 RV’s that make it to Legion Field for home games, I think the Magic City will survive.
If you never made it to a UAB game, you missed it. Not because it was some grand experience, but because it was just funny. The game I attended was “free UAB visor night.” And I kid you not, as I left the stadium, I passed stacks of boxes of UAB visors not given away. There simply wasn’t enough people to give them to.
UAB fan, you may not like it, but your program died years ago. All President Watts did was issue it a proper burial. I understand your frustration, and despite the ribbing here, I get your pain. But you need to get over it. Man up, face the facts…if not the sea of empty seats at your games for decades…and realize the ride is over.
But don’t let us stop you from blaming everyone but yourselves. After all, that’s much harder than admitting the football experiment at the University of Alabama at Birmingham failed for reasons other than your fantasies.