Future of UAB football

By on November 15, 2011

The UA system Board of Trustees has a long history of tampering with UAB Athletics, most notably in 2006 when Jimbo Fisher’s appointment as head coach was blocked by the board. Recently, and to the scorn of Blazer fans, they have indefinitely tabled talk of building an on-campus football stadium for the Blazers.

These actions by the BOT have made me sick. Many fans, myself included, are looking for a reason to believe. Something has to be done.

For 20 years the BOT has held the Blazers back in Athletics, denying UAB the essential threads necessary to be relevant. UAB and its faithful have been looking for a reason to believe in their school.

Early in fall 2011, I sat down with former Blazer offensive lineman Daniel Seahorn. The evening started with the normal southern salutations and quickly moved into a moment for Seahorn to clear his heart and soul of pain and embarrassment of his time at UAB.
Seahorn made it known that he loved UAB and it was special, but there was something wrong.

“We should be able to win,” said Seahorn. “You lose hope when they reward failure. How could they give Coach Callaway an extension last year?”

“Why [is the Board of Trustees] trying to hold us back? The on-campus stadium is waiting on them,” added Seahorn. “We have the medical school. Why can’t we make our own decisions? It frustrates me to see my teammates struggling. When is enough, enough? When are you going to get tired of being below average? When are you going to be tired of being the butt of the jokes? Why can’t we go on our own?”

Seahorn spoke with such eloquence and passion that I almost missed the power of his statements.

Why can’t we go on our own? When are we going to be tired of being below average?

In October 2011, UAB President Carol Garrison reported in her State of the University Address that UAB has a $4.6 billion annual impact on Alabama’s economy.

Garrison also brought attention to the fact that UAB ranks among the top 20 universities in the nation in federal research, that UAB is the top research university in the state, and that it receives more funding than all the other universities in Alabama combined.

The 2012 U.S. News and World Report ranks a number of programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham among the nation’s Top 10, including primary care, AIDS, health services and nursing services administration.

UAB supporters rarely, if ever, accuse the Board of Trustees of derailing the fortunes of the School of Medicine or other programs. However, the mention of Jimbo Fisher or the on-campus stadium ignites the flame of Blazer fans everywhere. As the fight for independence and an equal voice marches on, has UAB really been doing the best they can with the athletic cards that have been dealt to them?

In the ever-changing world of college football, UAB has done little to compete in the 20 years of their program. After two seasons in Division III and three seasons at the FCS (fomer Division I-AA) level, UAB ascended into big time football with a less than stellar record, tradition and facilities.

Since the 1996 season, when UAB first played as an FBS (Former Division I) football school, the college football world has changed arguably more than any other time in college football history.

With the recent surge in television contracts, coaches’ salaries and athletic budgets, UAB has been left behind, scratching its head and praying for a miracle.

The future of Blazer football looks even bleaker as mega-conferences continue to arise and rumors of the defection of fellow conference schools dominate the news.

Without East Carolina, Houston and UCF, can Conference USA really survive? When did the goal of college sports become survival?

It seems the whole goal of Conference USA football has always been survival. National Championships are out of the question, and the best a UAB team can do is play a .500 SEC school at the Liberty Bowl to finish their season. When did it become an accomplishment to beat a subpar team?

Though the unthinkable may happen, if the dominos align and fall just right, the conference winner could find themselves as a whipping boy in Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl.

The UAB athletic department has had plenty of success in other sports, boasting the only men’s NCAA Division I soccer team in the state and achieving unparalleled basketball success since the 1978 season.

Men’s basketball first came to UAB in 1978. Since its inception, the Blazers have 15 NCAA appearances, six Conference titles and an Elite Eight appearance.

No other university in the state has matched UAB in men’s basketball success.

The Blazer women have a WNIT title, two NCAA appearances and four conference titles also in their short history.

It is often said amongst Blazer alumni and students, “We can never compete with Auburn and Alabama in football.”

But UAB can and has in other in other sports. So why doesn’t UAB make a move to compete in football?

In a school smaller in size than Auburn and Alabama, and with a significant commuter population, would it not serve the Blazers more to play at the FCS football level?

The move down a division would not end the fight for freedom against the Board of Trustees. It would give UAB a chance to move to Regions Park, where fans would feel safer and the stadium would be constantly filled to capacity. Tickets would no longer have to be given away by the thousands.

The city of Hoover could partner with UAB, and UAB would, for the first time, make money as a football program.

As a member of the Ohio Valley Conference or the Southern Conference, UAB would be able to challenge Jacksonville State, Samford and Appalachian State, while still maintaining the ability to play Troy and Memphis.

With coordinator salaries soaring above the head coaching salary at UAB, the Blazers would be able to compete for the top coaches as they are now unable to do.

The Green and Gold could be a powerhouse and develop traditions that they never acquired. As a self-sustaining program, it would be one more leg the university would have to stand on.

And, just maybe, the recruits could visit the locker room after a game.

The smaller football budget would make other programs greater threats in the future.

If UAB does not change their focus, they will lose their competitive basketball program as their facilities and budget lag behind Auburn, Alabama and South Alabama.

If the football team’s only goal is to beat a bunch of Conference USA schools with zero academic standards and head to Memphis to play an irrelevant Kentucky team, the athletic program has missed it.

UAB supporters say their goal is not to compete with Auburn and Alabama because they can’t.

“When are we going to be tired of being below average?”

If UAB is not below average, they should prove it.

Eric Roberts
Sports Editor

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  • Matthew Vinson

    You had me until the drop down to FCS. UAB gets a lot of money from C-USA due to bowl tie-ins and television revenue. UAB has already been on TV 9 times, about to be 10 this Thursday. If UAB were to drop to FCS, that would eliminate us from C-USA and we would have to find another conference. Best case scenario: A-10. Worst case scenario: OVC or Sun Belt. For UAB to be successful in football, it needs and on campus stadium (and a new coach without BOT influence this time).

    Q: Can you name the three teams in C-USA without an on campus stadium?

    A: Tulane, Memphis, and UAB.

    Q: Can you name the three teams in C-USA with the worst records?

    A: Tulane, Memphis, and UAB.

    Coincidence, I think not.

  • http://twitter.com/UABslant The UAB Slant

    To suggest a move to the FCS would be better for UAB is completely asinine. UAB receives a significant sum of revenue from simply being a member of C-USA (BCS/Bowl payouts, TV contracts, marketing sales, etc). ALL sports would suffer from a move to a lesser conference.

    There is a reason why JSU, USA, UNC-Charlotte, Villanova, Georgia State, UTSA, and several other schools across the country are all wanting to jump to the FBS level… more revenue potential and more exposure for their schools.

    A new, energetic football coach that can actually sell the program and make a positive first impression would go a long way for UAB football. The new, on-campus stadium would be the icing on the cake and put UAB on par with the rest of its conference members.

  • http://www.blazertv.com James Thrasher

    “UAB supporters say their goal is not to compete with Auburn and Alabama because they can’t.”

    As a UAB supporter, I disagree with this statement. Our goal is to win[PERIOD]

    Can we compete with Auburn and Alabama right now? Of course not, that’s one of the many reasons we need the on-campus stadium.

    As to your argument about dropping down in football, that would only hurt the basketball program and bring the football program one step closer to extinction.

  • Granger

    Certainly worth considering. FCS schools don’t seem to allow the tail to wag the dog like the big boys do.

  • http://twitter.com/landonhowell Landon Howell

    ECU will stay, as it stands, in CUSA.

    The most likely schools to leave are Houston, SMU, and UCF.

    Regardless, UAB should have been in the conference realignment discussions, but the stadium (even if it is built in the future) should have been built years ago.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bateague Ben Teague

    Wow, Mr. Roberts. As a 2-time UAB alum I am deeply embarrassed. Not about the BoT…about that I am righteously indignant. I’m embarrassed that an article is allowed to be published in the school newspaper when the basic facts underpinning the piece – not, mind you, the parts the are your opinion – are plainly guessed at when three seconds of research on the internet could have uncovered actual data (maybe even quotes!). And you’re the editor?!?

    Sadly, nothing in our comments here is going to make much difference in light of the thousands of free copies of this libel that are distributed somewhere around the UAB campus footprint now. Unless, that is, you were to go back and perform the research with the intention of publishing what I can assure you would be a lengthy and humbling mea culpa, but if you weren’t motivated to do the research in the first place I think that my doubts about the follow-up being performed are well-founded. I truly don’t know where to start in correction your erroneous assertions (trust me, I will not ask you to edit your opinions). I can only think to point you in the direction of the most glaring examples of journalistic laissez-faire:

    “…UAB has been left behind…” – Is that so? Might I suggest visiting the official website of the NCAA to gather facts on the amount of money distributed to schools by their conference. If UAB’s annual share of CUSA TV, bowl, NCAA credits, licensing, etc. monies is evidence that we’ve been left behind, then what to make of the members of the Mountain West, Sun Belt, MAC, and WAC conferences? Not to mention members of the non-FBS, Division-I conferences like the Atlantic Sun, Atlantic 10, West Coast Conference, et. al. If you’re feeling particularly randy you could compare TV appearances, bowl tie-ins, and similar agreements that come (or don’t as the case may be) with conference membership.

    “If UAB does not change their focus, they will lose their competitive basketball program…” – That this statement immediately followed multiple column inches of tripe championing the notion of moving our football program to FCS is as clear an example I can imagine of either cognitive dissonance, ADHD, or typing under the influence. If membership in CUSA means UAB has been left behind, what the hell would membership in the Atlantic Sun or Ohio Valley conferences signify? How, exactly, does taking our “competitive basketball program” from fighting Memphis, UTEP, and Houston for conference titles (while entertaining OOC contests against Butler, Creighton, UNC, Duke, Kentucky, etc.) to winter months hosting battles against Samford, Jacksonville, Georgia State, Mercer, and College of Charleston at Bartow Arena not, in itself, equal the loss of our “competitive basketball program?”

    In general, I would also suggest a lengthy but dedicated reading of any credible information you can attain online regarding the future of CUSA vis-a-vis the upcoming changes to the FBS landscape. Perhaps Google “alliance” “MWC” and “CUSA.” You’re welcome.

    In closing, it deeply offends me that someone of your mindset will – perhaps – one day get to don a green gown and be handed an extremely valuable piece of paper from my beloved alma mater. I am consoled, however, in the knowledge that the journalistic standards you have displayed in this article make it unlikely that you will have to opportunity to use your half-hearted hack-and-slash “style” to sully UAB’s name in print outside of the “Readers’ Opinion” sections.

    Good day and Go Blazers!!!

    Ben A. Teague
    UAB ’99, ’04

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163500643 Eric Roberts


      Thanks for reading and even though we may disagree on somethings and agree on others I would love for you to sound off for next Tuesday’s paper. If you would write a paragraph or two and email it to me at sports@insideuab.com, I will gladly publish it next week.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163500643 Eric Roberts


      Thanks for reading and even though we may disagree on somethings and agree on others I would love for you to sound off for next Tuesday’s paper. If you would write a paragraph or two and email it to me at sports@insideuab.com, I will gladly publish it next week.

  • Luddy247

    Unlike the other commentors, I was with you until you said play football in Hoover. If that’s the case, we don’t need an on campus stadium. I am not so much against playing in the lower FCS, but to play in Hoover would be crazy and defeats the purpose of building the stadium. It is not ideal, but moving to the lower FCS is not a bad one either. We could establish ourselves a mostly basketball school that also plays football. Look at Villanova, Georgetown, Butler, etc. These school are basketball powerhouses, but also play football…..in FCS. You can definitely play in one conference in FCS for football, but play in C-USA for all other sports. Many people don’t even realize Georgetown had a football team. But, that wouldn’t happen the same way in Alabama.

  • Sarah Holsombeck

    Ok, the assumptions and propositions you make here are just plain silly. Hoover, really?! This is embarrassing. I can’t believe this article made it into our school’s own periodical. I am so ashamed that this will go out to our student body.

    “UAB has done little to compete”… really? UAB can’t “do” anything to compete, because we are NOT ALLOWED to compete. We are not allowed to build tradition, to foster student, alumni, and community excitement. We’re not given the opportunity to build just minimally sufficient facilities, to recruit good players, to hire the coaches that we want and can afford. We are not ALLOWED to be competitive and to succeed because we are under the thumb of very powerful and corrupt individuals who want nothing more than to see UAB football die. We will NEVER succeed as long as “our” Board of Trustees functions as it currently does.

    As a UAB alum and life-long fan, I support our FBS football team, our stadium hopes, and our university 100%. Go Blazers.


  • Cubby Bear

    Huh? Downgrading to a lower conference is not the solution. The solution is being able to hire our own coach and build an on campus stadium. You totally ignore the feasibility study which shows that this is a revenue generator. Regions Park? Really? Are you kidding me? It will not hold the current crowds that go to Legion Field… if we move to a better location, we will need even more seats.

  • Ironartist

    Straight bull shit. UAB loses about half a million dollars every year trying to play big boy football. They have a very small fan base, because students, like me only go there to work or stay home. Walk through their halls & you will see more Alabama & Auburn shirts than UAB. The BOT is trying to keep UAB from running up enormous debits that we the tax payers will have to one day pay. Thank you BOT for doing your JOB. Paul Byrant, jr have UAB football 5 million dollars just about ten years back. It of corse was squandered. UAB problem is its poorly run, and it’s larger problem is it has no marketable fan base. This debacle should be ended.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bateague Ben Teague

      Don’t like bull shit? Well, you must love facts. Here are some…

      Summarized by “The Business of College Sports” website here (you know, if you’re lazy): http://businessofcollegesports.com/2011/04/26/how-profitable-is-football-in-conference-usa/

      And using raw data provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool (in sum, schools that receive Title IX funds – which includes every public university in FBS – must make the finances of their athletics departments public) linked here (sorry I can’t run the query for you…which is why I provided the previous link): http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/

      UAB Football for 2009-2010

      Revenue: $6,811,742
      Expenses: $6,518,199

      Net PROFIT: $293,543

      Oh, as for having no fan base:

      UAB Avg. atttendance (to be fair, I’ll only include from 2001 when the numbers became turnstile counts – i.e., butts in seats – and not paid attendance): 19,924

      That slight tingling sensation is just shame…it will fade. In the future, I suggest you not rely on what you heard listening to Finebaum while speeding to and from Birmingham as fast as you can. Also, Paul Bryant, Jr. has never donated any money to UAB for athletics or anything else, much less $5 million. I think you are confusing the fact that Hal Thompson’s estate bequeathed just over that amount to UAB athletics upon his passing…and that money is still there to be used for a certain large, very important project that demands open, public, candid consideration by a public, governmental institution charged with the well-being and advancement of our dear University.

      I’m sorry, my dear University…your fallback when daddy wouldn’t pony up the funds for you to shack up at the #1 party school in America. I understand. My father went to UAT and I grew up a Bammer. I chose UAB for a superior engineering education and came back years later for a graduate degree. That education has fueled my career and, thus, my life. Therefore, I am a Blazer fan out of appreciation, loyalty, and integrity. You seem to be willfully ignorant of the reputation, beauty, value, and unique virtues provided by UAB both intangibly and tangibly in the wide array of amenities, aesthetics, and services in and around the campus. Shame. But your tuition dollars spend the same as anyone’s on expanding the Campus Green, renovating the HUC, and paying tutors for our student-athletes.

    • Shane5

      Kill yourself you idiot. PBJ is an inbred living off of his fathers name.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bateague Ben Teague

    You certainly “can” have football in a different conference if it is FCS. Now please point out the FBS conferences that “allow” non-football participation. I’ll help…there’s the Big East (which is about to collapse due to that very issue) and…um, …

    Yep, that’s it. Every other conference is requiring their “non-football” schools to move football to FBS or lose their membership (hence South Alabama rushing football and WKU jumping to FBS in the Sunbelt…and, hence actually, UAB rushing to FBS which got us into CUSA in the first place).

    More critically, there’s something that Butler, George Mason, Georgetown, Villanova, Gonzaga, et. al. have in common that UAB does not share: they are not in the South. Football rules the roost in southern culture and conferences. Outside the south there are plenty of options without football: A-10, Horizon, WCC, MVC, CAA, and so on. The choices for UAB without FBS football would be grim and, to your point, would actually drag our basketball program down…not lift it up.

  • Cajunblazer

    There an old saying, “with friends like that you don’t need enemies”. There is now a corollary, “with a Sport Editor of the Kaleidoscope like this one, we don’t need to wait until the BOT destroys our athletic department”. Roberts is obviously too ignorant to realize that if we don’t field a football team at the highest level, you can’t remain in a conference which allows the remainder of your programs, including basketball, to remain relevant. Such ignorance in his position is inexcusable. Eric should resign now.

  • Mbelcher987

    At least he never mentioned the ex Hoover high coach.

  • Hugjbjb


  • Gablenz

    Dear Eric,

    Please read this editorial from the Crimson White, and learn from it:


    It is well-written. It is well-argued. And its presence in UAT’s student paper when juxtaposed with (that means, “compared alongside”) yours shames UAB and its student publications.

    As a Kaleidoscope alum, I urge you with the strongest means possible to set aside your duties at Kaleidoscope and only resume them when you have enrolled in and passed remedial courses in English usage and in logic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-D-Evans/1709440750 Frank D. Evans

    A new coach and new system for the offense, defense, special teams and workouts will be a whole lot better. Reducing down to the FCS will not help at all. UAB needs a more better and experienced coach in order to win games. UAB has the athletes but they aren’t used the right way. The more games they win the better the recruiting goes in the off season. Give the new coach at least a chance to coach in his first year in the Conference USA.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=163500643 Eric Roberts

    I am going to pull comments from here and emails I have received to compile a sound off section for next weeks paper. If you would like to make a comment for the paper anytime on any subject please email it to me at sports@insideuab.com.


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