UAB Football Set to Return Six Months After Being Shut Down
181 days after deciding to drop football from its athletic department, UAB has announced that it will reinstate the program beginning in 2016.
President Ray Watts confirmed to the Associated Press that the school will reverse an earlier decision and bring back football, bowling, and rifle after a new study revealed the financial ramifications of not fielding those sports. Without football, UAB would have been out of Conference USA within two years, which alone brings the school a reported $2 million per year.
Watts shocked Birmingham and the Blazers' fanbase when he made the decision to shut down football on December 2 of last year. At the time, the school cited a CarrSports Report that said it would cost $49 over five years to field a competitive program. The news was immediately met with public outcry, which included the beginning of a #FreeUAB campaign across social media.
Watts spent time with supporters of the program in recent days and felt the financial support was in place to resurrect the program just six months removed from the initial decision. According to the AP, donors have pledged to raise the $17.9 million needed to erase the anticipated deficit over the next five years.
But UAB will not try to field a team for the upcoming season. Instead, the program will return to the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA in 2016. That will give the school time to re-organize after a number of transfers, a lack of a 2015 signing class, and an uncertain future of head coach Bill Clark, who said he would return to the Blazers under the right circumstances.
Had the decision held, UAB would have become the first major college football program to dismiss football since Pacific in 1995. Instead, the city appears to have rallied around the athletics department like never before, which ultimately led to this stunning decision.