When the University of Alabama-Birmingham announced in December that it was folding its football program, it became the first Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I-A school to do so since 1995. However, according to documents obtained by AL.com, the decision to end the program was actually made when the football season began.
Public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co., initially advised the university to shut down football, women’s bowling and women’s rifle in September 2014. A memo obtained by AL.com noted that staff members, including football coach Bill Clark and athletic director Brian Mackin, would be notified on Sept. 17 and a public announcement would be made on Sept. 30. However, the public relations firm adjusted its thinking and advised the university to push the announcement back for fear of blowback from the football team.
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.
The memos uncovered by AL.com show that UAB president Ray Watts was not being truthful when he said on multiple occasions that the decision to shut down the programs was not made until November.
The Carr report, a document UAB made public on Dec. 2, detailed the reasons for the disbanding of the programs. The document was dated Nov. 18, which would go along with Watts’ timeline. However, AL.com said it found a nearly identical document from CarrSports Consulting that was dated Sept. 3.
Watts’ announcement that the university was disbanding the three programs sparked protests and debates that continue to rage. Several people have offered money to help save the football program while others have called for Watts to be removed from the university. Several UAB players already have found new places to play while others simply will finish out their education.
While many attempts have been made to get the football program reinstated, the chances of it actually happening appear bleak.
For more UAB news, visit BlazerSportsReport.com.
And don’t forget to keep up with all of Graham’s thoughts, witty comments and college football discussions on Facebook