By Kyle Parmley
BIRMINGHAM – The 2014-15 academic year will stand as the final year of competition for UAB football, along with women’s sports bowling and rifle. The news was announced Tuesday afternoon during a press conference delivered by school president Ray Watts.
A large crowd gathered outside UAB’s football building around 2 p.m. as players were called to a mandatory meeting in the team meeting room. Watts delivered the news in person to the team, and videos emerged on social media afterward of players passionately voicing displeasure over what was said.
Following the meeting, Watts required a police escort to his vehicle and was transported back to the UAB Administration Building, where his office is. He held a press conference at 3:30 p.m. to publicly announce the decision to cut the football program and the reasons for doing so.
CarrSports Consulting conducted a yearlong strategic planning study to evaluate the feasibility of the athletics programs with and without football. It was determined that “investments in football were unlikely to provide a sustainable return relative to the required investment,” according to the statement from Watts via email.
The decision to keep UAB’s football program would have been “fiscally irresponsible,” according to the statement.
A cloud of uncertainty hung over the future of UAB’s football program for several weeks, when some former players began to express concern that the sport would not be retained much longer. The speculation came to a head Sunday afternoon, when ESPN reported that head coach Bill Clark feared that the program would be “shut down.”
The news prompted a boon of support from Blazer students and supporters. A rally of several hundred people was held Sunday night on the Campus Green expressing support for football, which bled into two days of marching and protesting. Traffic was disrupted on University Boulevard on Monday and Tuesday morning, as football players and assistant coaches led the march from the Green to the UAB Administration Building.
UAB will be the first team since 1995 to cease operations of an FBS football program. Conference USA bylaws also indicate that to remain in the conference, a school must compete at the FBS level in football. It is uncertain whether or not the Blazers will be allowed to remain in the conference.
There are currently six players on the UAB roster from The Trussville Tribune coverage area. Senior running back D.J. Vinson, redshirt freshman safety T.J. McCollum, sophomore running back Marcus Reaves and redshirt freshman linebacker Brandon Fuller all played at Clay-Chalkville High School. Junior wide receiver Jamal Hundley and freshman linebacker Joseph Roberts played at Hewitt-Trussville High School.
Vinson has exhausted his playing eligibility. The other five players in the coverage area will be able to transfer to another FBS football program and play immediately, as opposed to sitting out the typical one year of competition.