The University of Alabama-Birmingham will officially shut down its football program at the end of the season, the school announced Tuesday.
UAB becomes the first Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I-A school to drop football since Pacific in 1995.
A release by the university cited the results of a review conducted by CarrSports Consulting that said in order to preserve the greater good of the athletic department, UAB needed to end football, bowling and rifle at the end of the 2014-15 academic year.
UAB said it would honor the coaching contracts and player scholarships of those affected. Per NCAA bylaws, players wishing to transfer will not be forced to sit out a season.
Athletic director Brian Mackin has been reassigned from his position to the newly created "special assistant for athletics." Mackin will be tasked with helping players and coaches affected by this transition process.
"The Athletic Department faces many challenges given the rapidly evolving NCAA landscape and soaring operating costs, which place extreme pressure and a growing financial burden on programs like UAB's. Costs are continuously spiraling upwards driven by cost-of-attendance payments to players, meals, equipment, facilities, coaches, travel and more," the statement said.
"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," college president Ray Watts said in that statement. "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 not sustainable."
Rumors about the program’s demise have been floating around for the past couple months and gained steam after the regular-season finale this past weekend. The Blazers finished the year 6-6 and are bowl eligible should they receive an invite.
UAB students and fans protested the move Monday while Watts deliberated about the future of the program. Those protests continued Tuesday before the decision was sent out in an email to students.
In eliminating football, UAB officials said they hoped to reallocate its financial resources to its remaining programs, which include men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, women’s track and field, women’s cross country, sand volleyball and volleyball.
"We are not looking to reduce the athletic budget, but instead to reallocate our resources to remaining athletic programs," Watts said. "This strategic plan will give us our best chance to win championships and national prominence. Many of our programs have been on the cusp, and funds redirected from football can propel them to the next level. The best days for UAB Athletics are yet to come."
UAB said it hopes to maintain it Division I status as well as stay a member of Conference USA, which might be a difficult task without football. The conference bylaws say that members must have a football program. A statement by Conference USA said that it did not agree with or understand UAB's decision to terminate its football program, and that the conference's board of directors would discuss UAB's membership in the months ahead.
"I want the UAB family to know that this decision was not made lightly; that it has and will continue to be truly agonizing," Watts said. "I know many will be disappointed. As a Birmingham native, UAB alum and sports fan, I am among them. I couldn't be more proud of how well our student athletes and coaches have represented the institution. They have earned our respect and appreciation, which makes this necessary financial decision all the more difficult. This is not easy, but it is the right decision for UAB and our future."
For more UAB news, visit BlazerSportsReport.com.
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