Does Anyone Really Care About UAB's Reinstatement?
Six months ago, people were up in arms about the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) disbanding its football program due to financial feasibility. Six months ago, it was national headline that a university would dare cut its football program, even though it was operating at a loss. Keep in mind this is a team that has not had a winning season since 2004 and had a record of 17-43 in the five years prior to 2014.
In the state of Alabama where football reigns supreme, even without a NFL franchise, of course this was a wildly unpopular decision. The few fans of the program had a right to be upset though. Last season the program seemed to have taken leaps and bounds from where it had been in previous years, going 6-6 under first year head coach Bill Clark, all while doubling attendance to an average of about 21,000 fans per game. So you can imagine the sheer disbelief and utter heartbreak these fans felt when they heard the news that UAB football would be no more.
At the time, this story pulled at the heartstrings of numerous college athletics supporters and everyone who had ever had their dreams crushed. It was a story that angered people; that these kids who had worked their entire lives to play a sport they loved at the Division 1 FBS Level had it swept out from under them just like that.
But, then a month later it seemed to be just a fleeting headline. All the chatter had died down and the UAB football program seemed to just be dust in the wind. Was that really what the program had become? Was it to be just another footnote in the long history of college football? It sure seems like it. Until the recent announcement that the program would be returning, I'm not sure UAB football would've ever been brought up in the national landscape again.
Ask yourself this, before the football program was cut, did you even know UAB had a football team or was even a school? Most people had no clue this program even existed before this story came out or maybe they did and just saw it as one of the laughingstock teams their favorite school scheduled every season to pad their stats, while adding an easy W in the books.
Let's face it, most people coming into 2015 still wouldn't have noticed that UAB's football program was gone. The fact of the matter is that UAB plays fifth fiddle to the other four FBS programs - Alabama, Auburn, South Alabama and Troy - in the state of Alabama. The program has only had one winning season in its 19-year history, and that was in 2004 when the Blazers went 7-5 and played in their only bowl game - a loss in the Hawaii Bowl to Hawaii. So it's not like fans would be mourning the loss of a storied program that had won numerous conference or national titles.
People would rather spend money going to watch the other big time programs in Alabama than go watch UAB put a bad-to-mediocre product on the field. Not to mention, the field isn't exactly in the part of town where people want to go to see a game anyway. The media is just trying to get people to fall in love with this story when in all reality, no one really cares about the program. Heck, the athletes didn't really lose much as they could transfer to the other dozens of mediocre teams in the country.
And who's to say that if the program doesn't rebound like it's supposed to and the team tanks again, the Board of Trustees won't cut the program once again? Even with backing of private financial donors to help revive football in Birmingham, the school is still going to operate its athletic department at a $3.165 million deficit. Yeah the school has the money now to operate the program, but what happens when that runs out and the fundraising fails to keep the team afloat? Just because attendance rose to 21,000 in 2014 doesn't necessarily mean that it'll stay that high in 2016.
By no means am I saying that I wish UAB any ill will or that I think it will do terribly. All I'm saying is that would people still be talking about UAB had it not been revived? With all of the other story lines that are more relevant and exciting, UAB's demise would be the furthest thing from 98% of every college football fan's mind. Even when the 2016 season starts, will there even be a mention on the national scope about UAB revamping its football team? Will anyone still care? Sure, there will be a short story on ESPN, but it won't be anything huge, just another moment for us to stray our attention for a fleeting second until the next headline rolls along.