From the files: Coach says student support crucial

By on November 23, 2011

The Kaleidoscope Editor Chuck Evans published this article in the March 19, 1991 paper.

The success of UAB’s new NCAA Division III football program will depend on the backing it receives from the university community, said the team’s head coach.

“With the support of this campus which I think I’ll have in getting this program off the round the first year, I think that we’ll have a successful program,” Dr. Jim Hilyer said at a Wednesday press conference in the Arena’s Green and Gold Room.

“This is a true student program,” he said in an interview afterward. “This is not a major network football. Our success or failure will depend on our students.”

Hilyer, who has coached UAB’s Club football team that past two years, said he has already heard plenty of positive reaction from students.

He said 31 Club Football players have expressed interest in playing on the Division III team, which will have its first 10-game regular season next fall. It is undecided where the five home games will be played, but Legion Field and Hoover Metropolitan Stadium are two sites being discussed.

UAB Athletic Director Gene Bartow said the Club Football team was influential in the decision to create a Division III football team.

“I think had there never been a Club Football team here, I’m not sure that this decision would have been made,” he said. “So I think it was a stop in the right direction.”

Hilyer said the Club helped pave the way for an NCAA team in that it introduced to the public the combination of UAB and football.

“I think Club Football showed a degree of compatibility between UAB football and the students,” he said.

Chuck Tuggle, 25, a member of the Club Football team for both year, said it is a good feeling to know he and his fellow players may have helped UAB get an NCAA-sanctioned football program.

“My first reaction is one of just immense joy,” said Tuggle, a senior majoring in industrial distribution.

“It was great news. It’s about time.”

UAB President Dr. Charles A. McCallum said one of the main reasons he instituted the new football program was the recent NCAA approval of Proposition 45, which requires all Division I schools to have seven sports for both men and women.

UAB presently has six men’s sports – basketball, baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and cross country. The women’s sports are basketball, volleyball, track, cross country, golf and tennis. In compliance with the new NCAA rule, soccer will be added to the women’s lineup in 1992.

Other reasons McCallum gave for instituting the program were its anticipated ability to be self-supporting and the students’ desire for football at UAB.

“This decision has not been made lightly, but only after careful reflection,” he said. “And I think that although I am still opposed to initiating a 1-A football team because of its extensive costs, I think a Division III football team will help our athletic program immensely.”

Bartow agrees.

“I think this will complement every athletic program we have here-men’s and women’s sports,” he said. I think it will be good for our total sports programs.”

Bartow said football will be instrumental in getting students, alumni and other athletic boosters more interested in other sports at UAB.

“I just think there’s a chance that it’ll add from a lot of different dimensions,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s any doubt it will help us financially. I don’t think there’s any question.”

He said the football program will cost $100,000-$120,000 in the first year but the payoff could be almost twice that amount through season ticket sales and private donations.

Bartow said he knows about 30 people who will each contribute $2,000-$4,000 a year to the program/ They would be members of a proposed President’s Club to support UAB football financially, he said.

No money will be taken away from other men’s or women’s sports to finance football at UAB, Bartow said.

Unlike those other sports, Division III football is a non-scholarship program by NCAA rules.

While the players are eligible for academic financial aid, they cannot receive athletic scholarships.

Therefore, ”Whoever lines up to play for us next year will be a true student-athlete because he will be a student totally and fully,” said
Hilyer, who is also UAB’s director of student-athlete development. “He will be receiving no type of compensation for playing football.”

Another NCAA rule that affects the UAB Athletic Department and its new football program states that since UAB will have a Division III football team but competes in Division I for its other sports, the football team will not be eligible to make the postseason playoffs.

However, in accordance with NCAA Proposition 53 to be voted in January, UAB and other schools with the same scenario may have their football teams placed in a new division-1-AAA- in 1993.

These other schools include Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Millsap’s College in Mississippi, Davidson(N.C.) College, the University of the South in Tennessee and the University of Chicago.

But in the meantime, the next step for Division II football at UAB is NCAA approval.

Bartow said the appropriate application is being submitted to the NCAA. He does not anticipate any problems with its approval.

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