If UAB football is going down, it’s not going down without a fight.
Amid reports that UAB is planning on shuttling its football program, possibly as soon as this week, hundreds of UAB fans gathered Monday in an effort to keep Blazers football afloat.
The Alabama Board of Trustees has long been rumored to have an eye out to cancel UAB football amid concerns that the program was not financially solvent. First-year head coach Bill Clark is under contract only through 2016, and the program does not have any non-conference games scheduled beyond that season.
With the team showing a spike of unexpected success, qualifying for eligibility to play in just the second bowl game in program history, fans have rallied in support of the program’s future.
— Madison Underwood (@MadisonU) December 1, 2014
Head coach Clark had not heard anything about the future of his program as of late Monday afternoon.
Clark isn’t alone, as UAB president Dr. Ray Watts has not been made available for comment.
Alabama governor Robert Bentlely expressed support for the program Monday, telling AL.com, “Hopefully it’s going to survive, and I’m going to find out some more information about the situation over the next day or two,” Bentley said.
Current players also joined in the fight. In a letter provided to AL.com, the senior class of 2015 wrote a letter to its school president saying in part:
Every one of us has fought for UAB football all year long. Many of us have fought for UAB football every day for the last four years. When we were recruited, we were sold on the very best of what UAB can be, and how UAB would in turn, make us our best. We believed in UAB then, and we believe in UAB now – which is why we will not stop fighting for what is right.
So we ask you to provide the leadership and direction we need. Stand up for your students and alumni. Stand alongside the businesses, leadership and people of Birmingham. And fight for us.
Or, with all due respect, look us in the eye and tell us you don’t believe in us.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban also weighed in on the topic – carefully playing both sides, speaking partly as a colleague of coaches that could lose their jobs in the coming days, and also speaking as an employee of the same university system that could shut UAB football down.
“My thoughts are always with the players and the people in our profession that are affected by losing their jobs, whether it’s getting fired or someone discontinuing their program,” Saban told the Associated Press. “I hate to see that for anyone in our profession. I certainly hate to see players have to go through the things they have to go through when they have to change programs or don’t have the opportunity to play were they thought they were going to play.
“Saying all that, I understand the other side of it, too. There’s a business aspect to all this that has to make sense to people relative to justifying athletic programs in general. And that’s above my pay grade, and I’m not involved at all in any opinion in what should and shouldn’t be done.”
Should UAB cancel football, it would be the first major program to do so since Pacific in 1995.