The Zombie program

I don’t want to take too much luster off the announcement that UAB President Ray Watts has reversed his decision of six (!) months ago and decided to reinstate football at that school – I have no doubt that it means a lot to the players, coaches and supporters of the program – but it’s hard not to be cynical about it.

At a news conference, Watts said the biggest reason for the reversal is UAB now has “tangible” additional financial support it did not have before. UAB supporters have committed $17.2 million to cover the athletic department’s operating deficit and need to produce an additional $13 million for facilities, Watts said.

Watts laid out three conditions for the return of football: UAB can’t exceed the amount of institutional support it currently provides for athletics; public and private donors must meet “reasonable” timelines to convert their pledges into money, a timeframe Watts said he will make public at a later date; and UAB won’t borrow money to improve outdated athletic facilities. UAB is a rare Football Bowl Subdivision School that for years has not carried an annual debt service due to athletics.

At times, Watts became annoyed by specific questions, such as why the university couldn’t have better analyzed football’s future on the front end before eliminating the sport. “I don’t want to pursue a lot of time looking back,” Watts said.

I bet you don’t.

There is so little of substance there, nothing that constitutes a firm commitment to anything, that I can’t help but cynically wonder if this is just Watts’ way of keeping the school in Conference USA for at least a little while longer.

For months, Conference USA played the long game with UAB’s future while the university couldn’t get a grip on what to do. C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky elected not to rush UAB into a decision about reinstatement, thus avoiding giving the UAB administration an out to kill the reinstatement possibility sooner. C-USA was content to let the issue run its course.

“I hoped that the longer it played out, the better the chances would be for it to be reinstated,” Banowsky said. “I was trying to encourage everyone just to be patient and give them the space they needed to get the answers they needed.”

Watts confirmed UAB plans to remain an FBS program in C-USA. New UAB athletic director Mark Ingram said the goal is to play football again as soon as possible, which may be 2016. There will be NCAA issues to navigate through for UAB to regain its FBS status.

Banowsky described UAB’s immediate FBS status as “unchartered territory” because he doesn’t think there has ever been a program to take this route. A school can stay in FBS if it has 76 scholarships — 90 percent of the maximum 85 scholarships.

“My initial thought is I think they’ll be able to maintain FBS status, even though they don’t field a team in a given year,” Banowsky said. “The sooner they can get back to 76 (scholarships), I think the better off they’ll be under the NCAA’s eyes. I think UAB’s intention is to move it along as quickly as they can within practical reasons.”

Getting those sweet checks is about as practical a reason as I can think of.  Hey, maybe UAB’s new athletic director can schedule a few cupcake games while they’re putting the band back together.  How much of a guarantee can a FBS team without a roster get for a road game these days?


Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

23 responses to “The Zombie program

  1. CannonDawg

    What’s next in Ray Watts’ bag of tricks? Cancelling the business school and seeing if some “tangible” additional support might be found?


  2. Quick! Somebody call Everett Goulson!


  3. Go Dawgs!

    Thanks for Jake Ganus, though, Mr. Watts.

    UAB football would have been coming off of a 6 win season this year with a real chance to do something special in C-USA under a coach who had finally breathed life into the program. Now? Now it’s going to be a first-year program attempting to play Division 1 football in a crowded neighborhood of established programs. If they don’t go 0-12 in 2016 (if they even manage to get the team on the field by then, which is no guarantee from the sound of Watts’ “plan”) it will be one of the greatest coaching performances of all time. In short, the fact that this clown is attempting to mop up his mistake should not be enough for him to retain his position as president of UAB. The incredible lack of vision he displayed in wanting to get rid of the program in the first place and the deception he employed to get the rest of the university community to go along with it are both striking.


    • Scorpio Jones, III

      “The incredible lack of vision he displayed…. ” Certainly seems that way, but more and more as this soap opera continues I am beginning to think maybe the folks who say this was not Watts’ vision at all, but someone else’s may well be right.


  4. JCDAWG83

    This whole, sorry, episode really makes me wonder what it would take for someone to be fired as the president of UAB.


    • Scorpio Jones, III

      One would suspect he won’t be fired if he was just doing the bidding of the people above him…its the only logical explanation…oh…wait, this is Alabama, logic is not a word often heard.


  5. 3rdandGrantham

    So to make sure I have this straight: President Watts and others conspired in total secrecy to shut down the program, and finally achieved their Machiavellian feat by (conveniently) letting the cat out of the bag at season’s end. Yet now the same president is now reviving the program due to newfound financial support offered the program. More so, the president wants us to believe all that nonsense and take him at face value.

    If that’s not the most absurd thing ever, I don’t know what is. After all, a very simple solution from the outset would to publicly ask for support, thus averting the need to shut down the program to begin with. But of course, anyone with a room temp I.Q. knows that Watts is lying and essentially is playing the CYA game now.


    • Macallanlover

      Career ending, imo. Even in academia, surely this cannot be tolerated. Many hidden agendas will surface as this is put under the microscope. Shocking that it could occur in Alabama. 🙂


  6. Dog in Fla

    Ray’s got more cover stories than this cover medley


  7. Beakerdawg

    After UAB has trouble fielding a competitive team over the next few years, Watts and Co. can say, see we brought it back but it is just not supported so we have to shut it down for real this time… It smacks of Urban’s desire to spend more time with family, but that family turned out to be WWL….


  8. Dog in Fla

    The UAB football program built by private contributions may have the same fate as Alabama’s abandoned zombie village $1 million Governor’s Beach Mansion

    “Built with private contributions, the house was constructed on land donated by Louisiana developer E. Lamar Little and his partners in 1962, when George C. Wallace was in his first of four terms as governor.”


  9. Mayor

    The same bad conditions exist for UAB football now as before. The Blazers will have a few years living on the financial support of this fundraising, but will still draw only a few thousand per game in attendance and the money will then dry up. I don’t like the way any of this was handled, and I think President Watts is a spineless ass-kisser, but the reality is there is no place in Alabama for UAB football. DIF is right–it’s a zombie football program now.


    • Dog in Fla

      heh…there must be a lot more people with money to throw away in Alabama than I thought there were. Think they’ll try to rehire Neal Callaway if their efforts to lure Jimbo fall through again?


  10. Scorpio Jones, III

    “Banowsky described UAB’s immediate FBS status as “unchartered territory” because he doesn’t think there has ever been a program to take this route.”

    Unchartered? really, this is the conference commish? Unchartered?

    Uncharted, maybe? Jesus.


    • Cojones

      Aren’t they talking about the team’s charter in the conference? That would make it the charter territory, the chartered territory and, finally,the unchartered territory. Of course, he could have expressed it as “Going where no team has gone before”, but Gene Roddenberry would probably object. “Unfamiliar territory” might have been better. “Untraveled territory” could hit the spot, but “unchartered” seems correct for that part of the country where voting and individual rights seem “unchartered”.