UAB is not going to be playing football in 2015. That unfortunate decision was made final shortly after the end fo the 2014 season, but the planning to shut the program down reportedly occurred well before the start of the season. UAB played a full college football season while leaders knew the program was going to be shut down.
According to a report by Al.com, a public relations firm put together a strategy for UAB to carefully announce the shutting down of three sports programs last September. Other documents reportedly suggest the school pushed back the announcement date. UAB made the decision public in early December, after UAB’s football season had come to an end. UAB did not receive an invitation to play in a bowl game despite meeting the NCAA win requirement.
Per the report, UAB had two different dates in September to announce the decisions to cut the programs. Wednesday, September 17, 2014 was designated as the announcement date on one draft of the strategic plan. Another list targeted September 30. Why was the decision made to push back the announcement dates? The fear of seeing the football players boycott was among the reasons.
From the Al.com report citing a memo from PR firm Sard Verbinnen to UAB director of media relations Jim Bakken dated September 5, 2014;
That memo offers “our basis for opposing a mid-season announcement.” It suggests the potential for “a critical mass of immediate transfer requests … where students refuse to finish out the season” or “a full team boycott.”
“If not effectively managed,” the memo says, “it is conceivable that UAB would not be able to field a competitive team – or any team.”
The memo also suggests the possibility that UAB football players “may react very badly if an announcement is made during the season.”
“Although we initially believed that an early- or mid-season announcement was best for students, upon consideration of the potential for immediate withdrawals and the impact on team morale, we have adjusted our view,” the memo says.
If you thought the UAB mess could not have gotten any uglier, it just did with that memo. On November 11, 2014, UAB president Ray Watts said publicly no decision had been made on the future of the football program. Judging by the information obtained in the documents in the report, that was not the case. It looks as though a decision had been made by early September, and who knows how long before that.