UAB fans have no one to blame but themselves

ITKOkay, 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.

(Follow ITK on Twitter for Bama news, commentary and smack.)


Add Yours
  1. 1

    uab athletics was born of a lie. the lie being that the basketball program everyone agreed to was going to start out at division three.

    then they went behind everyone’s back and hired bartow. bartow, coming from ucla, would never have agreed to come coach a division three team.

    so the program and it’s core supporters have been antagonistic to Tuscaloosa from the beginning. hiring former auburn play-by-play man gary sanders was another jab.

    then, when Coach Sanderson didn’t just lie down and let bartow have any recruit he wanted, came the infamous letter to the ncaa accusing Sanderson of being a cheat just like the man who hired him, Coach Bryant.

    any warm and fuzzies i had for that program went out the window at that point.

    uab’s program was born on a lie and born of spite. and even in it’s death throes, they’re still lying about it.

  2. 3
    Hunter Ford

    I hope the basketball program will survive and thrive.

    The hard core loyal fanbase of UAB was antagonistic to Tuscaloosa and I could never see why they didn’t realize that a little more diplomacy, instead of mudslinging, would be in their best interest.

    As a UAB student and editor of the school’s newspaper, I was often chastised (mostly by one vocal person) for not denouncing my lifelong, family tradition, heritage, of being an Alabama fan and convert to some sort of UAB counterintelligence agent.

    I thought UAB and Alabama could co-exist. It was mostly UAB fans who couldn’t play nice.

    So, you are right ITK. UAB fans did themselves in.

    I still hope UAB will continue its basketball program and perhaps, a singular focus on making that program the flagship of UAB athletics will make it a perennial NCAA tournament team again.

    Now, what happens to Legion Field. And will any other major college football programs shut down or downgrade?

    • 4

      Legion Field.

      Legion Field is a microcosm of the city of Birmingham. the only sporting entity thats EVER worked in B’ham, at Legion Field, is Alabama football.

      after Auburn took their games home, Alabama wanted to continue playing at Graymont Ave. but the stadium was dilapidated. Alabama practically begged the city to upgrade the place.

      the ultimate insult came when the city gave 2 million bucks to UAB athletics. folks in Tuscaloosa threw their hands up and brought their games home too.

      the city has never in my lifetime been a good steward of Legion Field. it was famous for its swaying upper deck. but when it was time to repair it after years of neglect, they tore it down.

      now that UAB football has folded, the city wants to make a “commitment” to Legion Field.

      yeah. they let Alabama get away. let the SEC Championship game get away. made one stupid decision after another throwing good money after bad.

      if nothing else, they’re consistent.

      • 5

        Agree, finebammer. I was never so pleased as when Bama moved all games to Tuscaloosa and invested in Bryant-Denny to improve capacity. I didn’t like parking in the Legion Field area, I didn’t like the food choices in that area, and I sure didn’t like that upper deck swaying around in every breeze. The city of Birmingham had the opportunity to make that into a showplace, with and entertainment district surrounding it, but – due to a showboating mayor and a city council more concerned with taking the citizens’ money from them for flukey (ie: illegal) sewer projects – they missed that opportunity. Now they want to commit to that monstrosity they are stuck with – now that they’ve effectively run just about every potential user of that venue out of town. Birmingham and UAB football deserve each other their respective fates.

        • 6

          back in the late seventies and the eighties, i actually enjoyed attending games there, enjoyed eating and partying there. of course, i was a young, stupid, naive kid then too.

          what’s ironic now is how the city claims they’d have gladly been a part of (translation: spend taxpayer’s money) any stadium project UAB wanted then whine about what they are going to do with Legion Field.

          outside of ‘Bama football, the SEC championship game and post-season basketball tournaments, Birmingham has thrown millions of taxpayer dollars in a black hole of failed ventures.

          (one in particular i recall was a theme park in the late eighties. the city had two companies vying for an opportunity. one wanted to build a 12 million dollar facility, and basically needed no help from the city. the other wanted to build a six million dollar park, wanted the city to provide the land to build it on and wanted help financing it. who did the city pick?? thankfully, before the financing could be finalized, the company bankrupted)

  3. 8
    Lee Miller

    Most UAB fans are not against Tuscaloosa or Alabama. In fact, we just want a board and an administration that will support what is best for UAB as a comprehensive university, which is what is best for the Birmingham metro area, serving a large population base with the full array of educational needs.

    Alabama has support from the trustees since they mostly went to Alabama. There are 2 trustees on the board that got their undergrad degree at UAB versus 13 that got theirs from Bama. Reverse that and think about how you would feel.

    We just want a fair shake. By SEC standards, our program isn’t good, but at the CUSA level we were solid. Our attendance is not as bad as everyone thinks (5th out of 14 in CUSA this year).

    People were hurt and lives were turned upside down over this decision, and it wasn’t fiscally responsible as you said. It’ll prove to be the opposite. You guys know how important a football program is to a school, even at UAB, just like it is at Troy, USA, Auburn, and UA.

    You can say UAB shouldn’t have ever had a team, although I’m not sure why you would feel that way. But now that we have had one for decades, it’s wrong to just cut it! It’s like saying, “You never should have had a baby when you were so young, but now that it is a child, let’s make it right and kill it.”

    At the very least, all reasonable people should agree that a university should have leadership that is loyal to all the programs of that university. UAB needs that, but doesn’t have it. THAT is the problem.

    • 9
      Hunter Ford

      What would t take for UAB to gain independence? It is a part of the University of Alabama system. Could UAB one day be The University of Birmingham?

      That would take state legislation or an act of Congress or a war. The UA System might gladly hand over the undergrad programs to a separate board of trustees but not the medical school The University of Alabama Medical School

      Since I have moved away fro Birmingham I have a greater perspective of how others feel about UAB. Lots of folks outside Birmingham see it as a dysfunctional mess of urban sprawl and decay and political bickering amongst a gaggle of separate municipalities that can’t work in unison.

      The whole place can be damned unless you get cancer or something an need the medical services there.

      I’m sad the football thing didn’t work out. I still have an affinity for the basketball team and hope it will stay alive and thrive.

        • 11

          It’s going to be difficult for the basketball team to thrive when UAB athletics has to lose conference affiliation. Best case scenario is CUSA lets UAB stay (not likely) or UAB goes to the CAA, which is sad. The A10 or MVC aren’t going to happen. It’s really sad to watch just how far UAB sports have been allowed to fall in conference affiliation the past 9-10 years, all because of zero investment into football. People aren’t going to show up to games when UAB is playing Delaware, Elon, Hofstra, Towson…sad. UAB should be sitting in the American with Memphis, Uconn, Cincy, Temple, etc.

    • 12

      “Most UAB fans are not against Tuscaloosa or Alabama.”

      but the ones that matter, ARE. your patriarch wrote a letter to the NCAA accusing Coach Bryant of being a cheat and condoning cheating.

      i heard your former play-by-play guy, gary sanders, on Matt Murphy’s show a few days ago. smooth talking, slick tongued snake.

      and you wonder why Alabama people who know their history don’t like UAB.

  4. 13

    “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.”

    Jimbo Fisher himself is on record saying someone blocked his hiring. I’m sure you think he lied about it though. Pat Sullivan was also blocked the same year. Our AD at the time said as much.

    ““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.”

    You’re going to sit here and say that everyone in Birmingham is a liar and President Watts is not? Seriously? Every major donor for UAB was ignored and UAB has some rich people.

    OUR OWN FACULTY ATHLETIC REP WASN’T INCLUDED IN THE PROCESS AND WAS LIED TO. Coaches were LIED to. Not a single soul other than Watts and the AD knew what was going on. The AD now is under a new title as “Special assistant to the president” and GOT A RAISE.

    There’s not a school on this earth that could build a fanbase after what UAB has been through. Sorry. You can stick your head in the sand all day and think the Board had nothing to do with this and all of the people on the UA Board are just fantastic people, but you would be wrong. Many of them only care about UA athletics and flat out do not want UAB to have a D1 athletic program at all.

    Trust me, not a single UAB fan thinks Alabama as an institution should help us or really cares one way or another about the UA fanbase itself. You guys have the right to do whatever you want. But if you think the Board of Trustees that UAB operates under gives a rip about UAB athletics, you’re out of your mind. Every other school has a board that tries to SUPPORT their athletics. UAB does not.

    You can also say “But the President did it!”. No doubt. He did make the final decision. He was the first President UAB has had who would willfully do the Board’s wishes. Take a look at UAB presidential history. Notice a trend? Everyone is forced to resign or fired, usually over something to do with athletics. You do realize that UAB athletics are subsidized to the tune of about 64% a year right? Next year once football is dropped it will be over 80%. Everyone in the country can see President Watts is just a hatchet man and is just here to take the fall. The silence of the UA system chancellor and board tells us that they agree with the decision. It’s obviously something they wanted to happen. They also have to approve the decision.

    “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.”

    Sorry, but these numbers are a complete hack job. You can’t go up to a head coach and ask them to tell you every facility they would ever want and then cut the program due to it, which is exactly what happened here. No one builds every facility they ever need in a 5 year span. It’s also already been disputed by multiple sources that the Carr Sports report is completely wrong in regards to revenue increases, scholarship costs, and overall expenses.

    It is not a conspiracy if you have ex UAB Presidents, ex employees, ex coaches, coaches who only INTERVIEWED here, and ex athletic directors all saying that the UA BOT has meddled in UAB athletic affairs.

  5. 17
    Hunter Ford

    I have a friend who is a longtime UAB fan who says he is afraid UAB will eventually eliminate ALL NCAA athletics. Intramurals and club sports will be all that are left.

    Homecoming will be fun at the Ultimate Frisbee game

  6. 18

    It is sad for those involved…but UAB football was a joke at best. Don’t kid yourselves into thinking Watts made that decision. PB jr ordered that “hit”, and is the Col Jessup of this whole matter. He turns 70 in Feb…pretty convenient timing eh.

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