The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers football program will return in 2016 almost two years after it was disbanded in Dec. 2014.
UAB Blazers football will be back with a vengeanace in 2016.
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University of Alabama at Birmingham president Ray L. Watts announced football, bowling and rifle will return that year in an official press release on the Blazer's official athletics website on June 1:
"Given the broad base of support never before seen, as of today, we are taking steps to reinstate the football, rifle and bowling programs. I am forwarding documents to Conference USA and the NCAA notifying them that UAB plans to remain an FBS program and a full member of C-USA."
The school discontinued all three programs in Dec. 2014. UAB had been providing its athletic department $20 million annually. Watts was unwilling to go beyond this amount as it may compromise the funds of UAB's educational, research and health care missions, per UABSports.com.
In order to revive the three disbanded programs, UAB needed outside funding efforts led by its Athletics Assessment Task Force. The team was able to raise more than enough money to make the undertaking possible, according to the Blazers' official athletics website.
Watts told UABSports.com on Monday this was the result of hard work and careful study:
"A public-private partnership like this for university athletics is unprecedented and is the result of a lot of hard work, input and commitment from many. We gathered input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, city and government officials, and business leaders in the community."
On the other hand, UAB director of athletics Mark Ingram told the university's official website he will collaborate with Conference USA in reinstating the three programs. He also said the school is forming a committee aimed at long-term fundraising efforts for the atheltics department:
"The Athletic Department staff and I will work closely with Conference USA to set in motion the steps necessary to reinstate these athletic programs as soon as possible. Also, a commmittee is being formed to move forward on continued fundraising efforts to support facilities improvements and other needs.
"Everybody has worked extremely hard together, and I feel like we're pulling in the same direction."
One of the outside sources is the UAB Football Foundation led by Justin Craft. According to AL.com's John Talty, the foundation has pledged $17.2 million for the football program's operational costs.
Talty stresses private sources need to raise an additional $13 million to cover the university's football facilities.
With these, Watts told AL.com on Monday this is just the beginning. He also admitted he asked boosters to reach a certain amount of donations just before he decided to disband the Blazers' football program in December:
"There is substantial work to be done.
"We didn't have tangible evidence from a historical record of giving that there was sufficien external support to do that and maintain our budget."
Talty says the move to reinstate the football, bowling and rifle programs will cost UAB millions although Watts did not specify exactly how much. In addition, UAB needs to pay more than $2 million in order to avoid playing the Tennessee Volunteers, Kentucky Wildcats, Georgia State Panthers, Troy Trojans and the South Alabama Jagaurs in scheduled games.
Even if UAB has the funds, Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig told Talty the move to reinstate any program might be a bit too abrupt on the part of the Blazers:
"I think you have to give yourself a two- to two-and-a-half-year time window before you play your first game. You have to build your budget, you have to hire your staff and you have to recruit.
"You have to have between two and three years before you even begin competition to make you sure you go about initiating a program in a thoughtful and successful way."
The Blazers football team lost 56 scholarship players to other schools when the program fizzled out in December. The AL.com update says UAB "could apply for an NCAA waiver to sign more than 25 players per recruiting class."
In spite of a majority of the football program's coaching staff taking opportunities elsewhere, Watts told Talty that Bill Clark remains UAB's head football coach.
Clark, who led the Blazers to their best record (6-6) in 10 years in his first year on the job in 2014, told AL.com he is "thrilled with today's news."
Had UAB not reinstated its football program, Talty says it might have been forced to leave Conference USA as it states each of its member schools must play football on the FBS level.
Talty cites the College Sports Solutions report when he says UAB might have been forced to pay $2 million yearly had it not revived its football team.
UAB disbanded its football, bowling and rifle teams in Dec. 2014 after CarrSports Consulting projected the expenses of its athletics department would grow to $38.5 million by 2019, per ESPN. On the other hand, revenue would go up by less than $1 million.
UAB told ESPN at the time it foresaw an extra $49 million in expenses for the football program over the next five years.
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