You will be shocked, shocked to learn that the decision to kill the UAB football program was made before the release of the report the school had hired a consulting firm to furnish. Hell, it may have been made before the start of the 2014 season.
… according to documents obtained by AL.com, the decision to kill football and the other two programs may have been made prior to the start of the football season.
The documents show that public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co. prepared detailed plans for UAB to announce last September that it would eliminate the three programs, months before the school made the actual announcement.
The documents also show the school pushed back the announcement date until the conclusion of the football team’s regular season on the advice of both Sard Verbinnen and CarrSports.
The documents indicate that Watts misled his student-athletes, coaches, supporters, faculty members and others on at least three separate occasions in November and December when he said the decision to kill the three sports wasn’t made until November.
As appalling as flat-out lying may seem – really, when will bureaucrats ever learn the coverup is usually worse than the original story? – it’s the rationale expressed for delaying the decision until after the football season ended that’s really shameless.
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.”
In other words, don’t do it for the kids.
And this is just as bad.
Sard Verbinnen, the New York PR firm, advised UAB in September to “allow other tough decisions to set the stage” to announce the review’s results. For instance, the university announced last June that UAB Medicine Employees would not receive annual merit raises based on “profound shifts in healthcare.”
Sard Verbinnen advised UAB that “further isolating the athletic department’s results from others announced earlier in the season will also lessen the chances that the UAB lumps all ‘tough decisions’ together and concludes that the university is in financial duress.”
It just goes to show you can never have enough bad news to prime the pump.
So why go to all the trouble to mislead almost everyone with an interest in UAB athletics? It can’t be political, can it? Nah… just ask the PR folks.
Also, Sard Verbinnen advised to wait until after the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees meeting in November to help mitigate “unwarranted speculation” that the decision was driven by the board. Many UAB supporters believe several powerful trustees with Crimson Tide ties, including Paul Bryant Jr., got football killed. The board oversees UAB.
“The strategic review required time and careful deliberation by the department and the community’s perception of it should not be compromised by the negative optics that could result if it were communicated in parallel with a Board of Trustee meeting,” Sard Verbinnen wrote.
Good to see that’s been avoided.