UAB decision to drop football a mystery and a shame

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The football team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham won their sixth game of the season Saturday, defeating the University of Southern Mississippi 45-24, and became bowl eligible for the first time in a decade.
The win highlighted an impressive turnaround for the program. First-year Head Coach Bill Clark brought the Blazers out of college football’s two-win cellar and into a bowl game. Attendance was up 150 percent this season, and there seemed to finally be something to build upon in Birmingham.
The victory was short-lived, however, when Clark revealed Sunday that he believes the university will be doing away with the football program at some point this week.
So why drop football now after a first-year head coach leads a promising turnaround? The timing seems to suggest this decision has been in the works for a while. In fact, boosters and former players expressed their concerns over a month ago. The Blazers had not scheduled any games beyond 2016, and they had only given Grant a three-year contract when he was hired. The move was unusual because most coaches at that level are given five-year deals. When boosters noticed this, they became suspicious that the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees was working to intentionally stifle the football program.
Whether this is an ominous sign of things to come for mid-major football programs in the modern college football world, or instead a case of football powerhouses deliberately eliminating their smaller, in-state competitor, it seems clear the true victims are the players.
On Monday, the senior leadership of the team gathered on campus to protest the possible end of the program. In a letter to university President Ray Watts, the players asked him to fight to keep UAB football alive. It is a passionate and inspiring plea to sustain the team they have devoted their college careers to building.
But the most interesting line in the letter is a simple question: “Who exactly is against us?”
It’s a question that absolutely deserves an answer.

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