Many students still not ‘Playing Their Part’
Posted on Oct 03, 2012 in Sports
This week marks UAB’s annual homecoming celebration, a special time when the University invites the local community as well as alumni and students to gather for an array of activities and events in an effort to encourage unity and promote school spirit.
Homecoming events have become a staple for many universities. Some schools, whose roots stretch back as far as the 1800s, have elaborate celebrations that almost always include parades, free food, contests with prizes, and a football game to cap off the festivities.
UAB is no different. For weeks, many organizations have been gearing up to promote Blazernation. To kick the week off, the UAB Women’s Soccer team will take on East Carolina at 1 p.m. at West Campus Field Sunday, Sept. 30, followed by “Paint the Town” which will be held at Hill University Center at 3:00 p.m. Both events are free for UAB students and open to the public (with a church or worship bulletin, admission to the game is free to the public).
The rest of the week is filled with a number of free activities that students can engage in. There will be pancakes and karaoke Monday night at The Commons on the Green. On Wednesday there’s the annual Gurney Derby down on 13th street between 8th and 10th Avenue, and the cookout and Green and Gold games that follow in the UAB Mini Park.
All of these events have been arranged to get students, alumni and the entire community to show their Blazer pride.
This year’s finale, you definitely won’t want to miss, on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, join us at Legion Field as the UAB Blazers football team captures their first win of the season when they face the Southeastern Louisiana Lions at 2 p.m.
There has been a lot of talk lately about school spirit and having personal pride in your university. Recently the athletic department sponsored a billboard off I-65 that features head football Coach Garrick McGee asking each of us to play our part and get involved with UAB, especially the athletic department, to build something special together.
But what does it really mean to “play your part”? If you’re not a part of the athletic department, and you aren’t compensated nor have a vested interest in the game, what is your incentive? What does it really mean to be a fan or to love your university? When do you play your part, and what exactly is your part to play as a student or alumnus or even as John Q public that just happens to live in the area.
Personal responsibility is an individual question, and if you ask 100 people you will get 100 different answers but one thing is certain, there is something each of us can do that requires little effort but has the greatest impact, and that is to constantly promote UAB everywhere you go. Regardless of whether you are currently a student, alumni or just a resident of the Birmingham area, like it or not UAB is your University; it’s the states largest employer, and we need each other.
Now there are some who seem to disagree with this philosophy and seem to share the common goal of unity and community spirit. Recently, I walked into the local Subway, here on campus, next door to Snoozy’s bookstore to grab a bite after one of our games. As I completed my order, I was given the choice to receive a souvenir cup of my favorite “Alabama” team and was surprised that neither option had anything to do with UAB. When asked why there wasn’t a Blazer souvenir cup, the standard “these were sent from the corporate office” answer was given by the Subway employee, followed by the comment “But isn’t UAB apart of the University of Alabama? Aren’t they the same school”?
The answer to this question, for all intents and purposes, is no. The Alabama School System, which comprises UAB as well as UAT and UAH, does share the same endowment, and board of trustees; however, each school maintains its own identity, and its own autonomy. UAB may have begun as extension center years ago, but as of 1969, UAB broke the shackles, and with the inclusion of the UAB Health System, quickly became the lifeline of the Birmingham metro area.
The fact is that when it comes to the athletic department; UAB has a relatively young program. Especially when compared with our instate “Big Brothers” who have been around for over a century and achieved a storied history of both winning and national championships that has gathered generational fans along the way.
Anytime anyone promotes another University, especially while on campus, it severely diminishes the work that has been done to improve our athletic department and establish own identity
Many of these generational fans are also students at UAB. Several weeks ago a small group of dorm students decided to gather at Blount Hall to show support for their favorite teams. These students reserved a movie room and went as far as to hang unofficial fliers around the dorm offering free food and drink to anyone who wanted to enjoy in the festivities. They were playing their part, but unfortunately not for the Green and Gold as neither of the teams on the screen were UAB, who incidentally played Troy University at Legion field that day.
Dustin Welborne, President of the Gang Green Society, was furious when he learned about the incident. UAB’s marketing department along with the Gang Green society work tirelessly and continuously to promote the Green and Gold both on and off campus. And while you may not be a horrible person for sporting your crimson or orange and blue on UAB’s campus, you can bet your bottom dollar that the opposite seldom ever happens.
“In the future you’re going to have that UAB diploma; can you really say that you got involved, that you went to the games, you got painted up”? Welborne said. “Your diploma is going to say UAB, and it’s going to have our colors, and you’re going to put it into a frame that says UAB. Each time you look at your diploma you’re going to think of how proud you were to go there while you were there and what you’re still doing to promote UAB after you have left.”
Fan attendances at UAB’s home sporting events (football, soccer, basketball) are often a hit or miss and there are several factors that contribute to the lack of attendance. When you ask most Birmingham residents what are the best college football teams that they follow, immediately people think of division one FBS programs. For an upstart program like the Blazers, whose football team has only been around since 1989 as a club team and didn’t go division one until 1996, it’s going to take time to establish ourselves. However, even in that short period of time UAB has managed to have a bowl appearance, as well as athletes who have not only gone on to play in the NFL but also been selected for Pro Bowl appearances.
There are several things we can do to increase fan participation, said Daniel Killilea, Assistant Marketing Director for UAB’s athletic department, “the first is to educate the public about who we are, and then we have to win games and put a quality product on the field. We have to start winning in every area of our athletic department. Our program has been overshadowed over the years by some sub-par performances, but going forward the coaches have to play their part coaching; the players have to play their part on the field; the strength and conditioning coaches have to play their part, and also the marketing department has to play their part and win the advertising game.”
The biggest challenge that we face as a University is the fact that we are largely a commuter campus. With over 18,000 grad/undergraduate students enrolled at UAB, there’s only space to house just over 2000 on campus. Once you exclude athletes, the number of students who are on campus after hours (when a lot of games kick off) drops dramatically, which makes it tougher for fans and students to congregate and socialize together outside of the classroom.
The bottom line is that if the fans want to see our athletic departments succeed everyone who is associated with the Blazers, and with the University has to start playing their part. The fans have to find a way to help create the buzz. Our alumni number just over 100,000 and they are spread out all over the world. Therefore, the burden of responsibility falls on the shoulders of our student body.
Students who attend larger schools often go there with a certain expectation of an established heritage. Here at UAB we have the unique opportunity to be able to create our own legacy and it starts now, today. Each student has to make a conscious effort to support our teams, go to the games, paint your faces, get rowdy and even a little muddy if you have to.
Ask yourselves this question, twenty years from now when you look back over your college years what will you really remember? There are UAB alumni who still remember and talk about that time when Nick Saben coached LSU, and his only loss of the season was to UAB that year. Some of the best college memories aren’t going to be from the classes we attend, but those times we had hanging out with good friends. Let’s each of us play our part to create another one of those lasting memories. Saturday UAB will take on Southeastern Louisiana University, where I will be playing my part and attending the game as I implore you to do the same.