Birmingham, AL (SportsNetwork.com) – The University of Alabama at Birmingham
has dropped its football program over what it says are the “fiscal realities”
of rising operational costs that have placed a strain on the athletics budget
and made it too hard to keep a competitive team on the field.
The 2014-15 academic year will also be the last for its bowling and rifle
programs, the school announced Tuesday.
Despite the rumors surrounding its future, the Blazers football team went 6-6
this season and is bowl-eligible for the first time in 10 years.
UAB is the first school to shutter a major football program since Pacific in
“The fiscal realities we face — both from an operating and a capital
investment standpoint — are starker than ever and demand that we take
decisive action for the greater good of the athletic department and UAB,” said
university president Ray L. Watts.
“As we look at the evolving landscape of NCAA football, we see expenses only
continuing to increase. When considering a model that best protects the
financial future and prominence of the athletic department, football is simply
Watts said “the financial picture” currently facing the athletics department
— mainly, that it would cost too much to keep a competitive football team —
made the decision to drop the program “very clear.”
Funds will be redirected to the remaining athletic programs, he said.
“We will not cut the current athletic budget, but in order to invest at least
another $49 million to keep football over the next five years, we would have
to redirect funds away from other critical areas of importance like education,
research, patient care or student services,” he said.
“These are challenging times in higher education with flat or reduced state
and federal funding, and it is more important than ever that we take a close
look at overall operations, set priorities and aggressively align our
resources in the areas where we have the potential to make the most
UAB said it will honor the scholarships for athletes and contracts for coaches
whose programs are being canceled.
“It is our No. 1 priority to make this transition as easy as possible for our
student-athletes, coaches and others affected,” Watts said. “We will support
our UAB family and help impacted individuals make the best decisions for their
UAB became bowl-eligible with a 45-24 win over Southern Miss on Saturday. The
week before, it held a lead into the fourth quarter against then-nationally
ranked and unbeaten Marshall before losing on a late fumble in the end zone.
UAB coach Bill Clark praised his players after the Marshall game.
“I am so proud of them,” he said. “With all the adversity and turmoil that has
been surrounding them, to come out here and fight like they did today was
unbelievable. That is what I expected.”
The Blazers lost the only bowl game they played in, falling to Hawaii in the
2004 Hawaii bowl.