Free UAB

UAB

*****Update – 11-21-11*****

I received an email Saturday morning about this post from a local radio station.  They were asking to do an interview about what I had written.  I was apprehensive about it but eventually said yes.  I finished the interview a few moments ago and I am pretty devastated about how poorly it went.

The interviewer really wanted to go into the Bryant conspiracy.  I stated that nothing written here is my own theory and that it was all conjecture.  I’ll quote myself:

“…I don’t claim any of it is true…”

I also stated where I got the theory and, for those paying attention, I link to the same source in the original post below.  Much of the Bryant information came from a post on BlazerTV.com and I pointed this out during the interview.

I ended up being way more nervous than I ever thought I would be and I failed on on fronts.  Pretty sure I sounded horrible and I am extremely disappointed in my performance.   I took the time to prepare and had a stack of notes in front of me but once I realized where the questioning was going everything came apart.  I should have known what the focus would be and should have been prepared for it.  It was clearly obvious that the interviewer didn’t know what to do with me once I froze up and, to his credit, tried to steer the questioning in a different direction to make the interview and his time worth salvaging.  To be honest, I regret wasting his time as much as I regret my own lack of skill as an interviewee.

Anyway, I will try to write more about the experience later.  I am just completely torn up about how this went down and I regret I didn’t go with my initial gut feeling to turn down the request.  I am not going to change the post in any way, however, because that just wouldn’t be right and I still feel that UAB has been given the shaft on this issue.  Let me say this though, I have never had a conversation with any trustee nor have I spoken with anyone that knows about the behind the scenes discussions of the BOT.  Everything that is written here is conjecture either on my part or on the part of others whose theories have been referenced.  This website does not claim to be anything more than a personal blog that exists solely for my own amusement.  The title alone should give that away.

With that being said, if they use any of what I said on the air I hope that it does service to UAB.  If it does not, then I am very sorry as all I wanted to do was to give UAB a chance to have its voice heard.

Go Blazers

*****End Update*****

I earned two degrees from UAB.  I was on scholarship as an undergraduate and as a graduate student I funded school through both work reimbursement and my own earnings.  I was active in student programs and attended many UAB events as a fan.  I have a great deal of love for the university.  I learned a lot there and made some great friends.  My time at UAB really does stand out as some of the best days of my life.  It is because of this experience that I am now saddened by what is going on at the school.

For years UAB has struggled to get a Division 1 football team off the ground.  Many people think UAB doesn’t need a D-1 team but they don’t understand why it is so important for the school to have a competitive football team.  UAB needs a strong football program for many reasons but one very important reason is student recruitment.  Students want to go to a school with an exciting football atmosphere.  I am not going to address the why of that question but it is true.  That social experience is important and this has been shown through research and market studies.  Another reason for a strong program is that conference alignment these days is based on football first.  So, without a team that can compete in D-1, UAB has a hard time affiliating with an athletic conference.  Obviously this affects other sports at the school, most notably basketball.  It has been hard enough for UAB to get exposure nationally even though the basketball team has been strong since its beginnings.  Without a football team to drive conference alignment, all athletic programs suffer do to difficultly in scheduling competitive opponents which then results in the impossibility of competing on a national level and ultimately makes recruiting student athletes almost impossible.  I don’t like it, but the fact is a school’s entire athletic outlook begins and ends with the football program.  In Division 1 sports, football drives the rest of the programs.  As much as that sucks and is unfair, that is just the way it is.

Knowing this, I have been following the effort to build an On Campus Stadium (OCS) at UAB with great interest.  Such a facility would be a great advancement for UAB and the city of Birmingham.  It would give the students, faculty, alumni, and fans of UAB athletics a place they could be proud of.  It would be a state-of-the-art facility that people would look forward to going to and one in which athletes would be proud to play.  Today, UAB plays at Legion Field, a decrepit, old stadium and a relic of a bygone era.  The stadium is run down, falling apart, and an eyesore in the middle of a struggling community.  No one looks forward to going to Legion Field and I can only imagine how disheartening it is for the athletes to call such a place their home.  A new stadium would be a shot in the arm for the program and would be a jewel for the city.  Sadly, it looks like a few vindictive and underhanded people are going to stand in the way of this project happening.

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees was supposed to consider the issue of the stadium in their open and public meeting this week.  However, earlier in the week a statement came out that said the Trustees would not consider the project.  This came as a shock to just about everyone involved, including some of the Trustees.  In effect, a few people killed the project from behind closed doors.  There is plenty of detail about what has gone on in other places and I don’t claim any of it is true but things seem very clear.  The short version of the story goes like this.  Paul Bryant Jr. does not want UAB to have a successful football team because his father, Paul “Bear” Bryant, former Alabama head coach and god to rednecks everywhere, did not want UAB to have a football team.  The theory goes that if UAB has a good team it could make recruiting more difficult for the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa (UAT).  This idea, of course, is bullshit, but that is a debate for another time.  Junior just happens to be the President of the Board of Trustees that governs both UAB and UAT (and the University of Alabama at Huntsville as well).  This means Junior has a certain amount of power and he isn’t afraid to use it.  His meddling in the affairs and success of UAB is legendary if not criminal.  It is suspected he killed the OCS project through force of will.

The problem here is not that the project has been killed.  The problem is that it isn’t even getting the chance to be debated.  The BOT won’t put it on the agenda so we can’t hear any public debate.  Maybe it is not feasible given the financial picture but that should be debated in a public and open forum.  Decisions of this kind are not to be made behind closed doors by law.  The BOT is also tasked with looking after the well-being and best interests of ALL member schools.  Clearly this is not happening.  The board is looking after the best interests of UAT and tossing the scraps to the other schools.  Given that UAB alone brings in over 70% of the revenues for the system such clear bias is not only wrong but complete nonsense.  UAB and Birmingham have earned the right to build a stadium if they can afford to do so and my understanding is that the plan is financially sound.

I am angry and disgusted at what is going on with this situation.  I want to go to football games on the campus where I have so many great memories.  I want to take my family to games where I feel safe and comfortable.  I want them to experience the college football atmosphere in a way that is uniquely UAB.  Junior and his cronies don’t want this.  They don’t want people to love UAB like they love UAT because in their mind such experiences create competition for students and players.  It is sad that UAB and the city of Birmingham are again being held hostage by a few old, rich, white men who care nothing for any interests other than their own.  UAB has become a great institution on its own and in spite of people trying desperately to keep it down.  I can only image were the institution might be if given free reign to determine its own destiny.  A strong UAB is good for everyone in the Birmingham metro area and the State of Alabama.  I only wish the BOT would understand that a rising UAB would lift everyone associated with the school and the city.  That would assume they understand their duty and clearly they do not.  I’m sad, I’m disgusted, and I am pissed off.

Go Blazers!


Comments

Free UAB — 9 Comments

  1. There’s no disputing the facts, and everything you’ve stated here is just that – fact!

    Your sentiments about this situation mirror that of mine and countless others. I sat in with FreeUAB members and some of its’ supporters at the most recent board of mistrustees meeting on February 2 & 3. You had to be there to fathom the level of arrogance and lack of equality for all campuses in this system. Although the turnout was strong & passionate by those in favor of the movement, there wasn’t enough of a student presence on hand, in my opinion, also, the Mayor of Birmingham , William Bell, who professed a few months ago to be a staunch supporter of the on-campus stadium, was conspicuous by his absence on both days. I know he had the groundbreaking for the baseball stadium for Thursday, & I understand that, wish I could have been there, too, but that was only for 2 hours or so, plus , he was right down the road,a few blocks from where the rally was taking place and subsequent sit-in for the BOT meeting. He was also a no-show on Friday, too, (if he was there, I sure as heck didn’t see him) and that’s when he really should have been there, especially when SGA President Brad Watts (hope I got his last name correct) gave an impassioned, direct and impacting speech to the board, cautioning them that many times when UAB wanted to have something to make its’ campus unique and progressive, only to be told no by some “millionaire boys club” disguised as an entity claiming to have the best interests of our campuses at heart (but we know better, don’t we, UAH?), it happened anyway in spite of the obvious attempts to obstruct its’ progress in things other than academics and medical endeavors, & that the stadium would be no exception. In addition to invoking the words of Dr. Volker(If I’m not mistaken) about our city “not dreaming enough dreams”, he uttered the one line in the direction of that board looking them squarely in the eye as he did so, that defined the entire moment…”Defeat is a word that UAB does not know the meaning of.” I’ve said all along that this stadium issue is a “political football”, and make no mistake, the stench of politics & economic elitism was definitely in the air at the Alumi House this week. But the resolve of Free UAB was made even greater by making its’ presence known and felt at this time. Students of UAB, I implore you to be as proactive as you possibly can where this movement is concerned. We’re talking about the future of this University, its athletic program, and the city of Birmingham as a whole, they’re all tied together,whether you care to believe that or not and let’s determine who is really in charge of this city and its’ endeavors to progress. Who’s really running Birmingham? It’s my personal observation that nothing would please this board more than to be able to kill off UAB athletics altogether. Please take that into consideration the next time you choose not to get involved. Free UAB! Unleash The Dragon!! Let Us Build Our Stadium! This kind of oppression from outside forces aimed in our direction has gone on for far too long…

  2. I just wrote a letter similar to the sentiment of what you both shared. Even as a UAT grad and UAB graduate school graduate I think it is utterly embarrasing for even us UA graduates. It is the same thing when UAT tried to tell AU where to play the Iron Bowl. They really believed that they could control that dynamic. Of course AU showed them other wise. We are dealing with people who could be clinically diagnosed as borderline insane. Fortunatly, in more progressive states this sort of thing never really goes on. If you look at it, LSU did this with the University of Louisiana and it has gone on somewhat in Mississippi with Southern Miss and how they have been treated. Common theme: both those states are politically, socially and economically regressive. It is just a symptom of the “larger disease” of living in a pathetic “non-progressive” state like Alabama. Alabama Athletics is the only thing the state has had to “hang it’s hat on” and that is why these factions are so virulant to change. I recently wrote a letter to a State House of Representative friend of mine concerning what he should do if a bill comes his was to vote for “total autonomy” to the Huntsville and Birmingham campuses. He is an AU man so he understands! Honestly, if we do desire to “break away” from UAT we do need to “tickle” the sentiment of Auburn supporters. That is our best hope in becoming the University of Birmingham. We can sell them on the fact that: “you support us and have fun pissing off UAT at the same time.” I strongly, believe many of them would go for that.

    John Brown
    UA College of Arts & Sciences 1999
    UAB Graduate School Of Education 2004

  3. If UAB truly wants to separate themselves from the UA system…

    Then they should be forced to send the medical school BACK to Tuscaloosa (keep in mind the medical school is our bread and butter and it belonged to UAT prior to being moved to B’ham). In addition, I’m sure the BOTs would want a return investment on the untold millions and millions of dollars they’ve invested into UAB over the years. All that money they’ve spent on UAB throughout the years could’ve very well gone to UAT or UAH. Keep in mind, the UA System OWNS the medical school, not UAB, so by separating ourselves, we’re going to lose the medical school in the process.

    Can the UAB fans afford to pay back all the money the BOTs have invested in the university over the years? I think not.

    Can we afford to lose the medical school? I think not.

    Whether UAB fans agree or not, the BOTs have done more good for our university than bad. If UAB wants to separate themselves, then UAB will be forced to give UAT back everything they’ve loaned UAB over the years (like the medical school). Problem is, we can’t afford it.

    Why would anyone want to waste money on a new football stadium when it can’t even fill up 25% of the stadium they’re currently playing in? UAB is lucky to even have a football team. At least the BOTs were kind enough to give us that. Even so, half the students travel to Tuscaloosa on gamedays anyway. We’re not like an Alabama or Auburn, we’re an academic institute, not a football school and I take pride in that fact, unlike you morons who wants to be like those two redneck infested schools.

    After we’ve separated ourselves, let’s not go knocking on the UA System’s door once we’ve lost the medical school and are out of money because we had to repay an untold amount back to the BOTs. No, let’s struggle and suffer because that’s the logical thing to do… yeah!

    I love UAB with all my heart, but some of you more avid supporters are just flat out dumb.

  4. It’s all about making money and avoiding losing money. Building a new stadium is not cheap and you delusional people in Blazerville want the second coming of Cowboys Stadium. It is just not a pragmatic project to be undertaking in this economy.

    Yes, we realize UA is building all over the place and T-Town is thriving but that is because it’s a product that is in demand. After all, you didn’t see UA building at a pace like this 10-20 years ago, did you? Enrollment is ever increasing and many are coming from out of state which equals more money coming in. You get the big beautiful stadium and the new Science and Engineering complexes when you have over 30,000 students, can fill a 101,000 seat stadium every Saturday and find your university ranked in the USNWR’s top 30 public schools in America.

    The Birmingham extension school on the other hand has 17,000 students and supposedly a TOTAL of 82,893 in football attendance for 2011 (despite there appearing to be less than 2,000 in attendance each Saturday). Why should we spend money to build you a stadium when you can only get 8,872 to show up to the UCF game?

    The Blazers have not had a winning record since 2004 when they were 7-5. They are 0-1 in bowl games all-time. The program is not even on par with Troy’s, UNA’s and USA’s yet you guys want to compare yourselves to The University of Alabama?! Open your eyes, guys!

    UAB needs to stick to what they do well and that is the medical school. Do you think Johns Hopkins relies on what their Division III football team does (or lacrosse for that matter)? No, they concentrate on medicine and they are a leader in that field.

    If UAB wants to break off from the cash cow in T-Town and do their own thing, then UA WILL TAKE BACK the medical school and that will eventually bury what’s left of that corrupt landfill known as Birmingham for good… then you guys will have TWO empty stadiums.

    So be careful what you wish for little stepbrothers to the east… breaking away from what you have now would be the worst decision you guys could ever make. But I’m not complaining as I’d absolutely LOVE to see the UofA medical school BACK on UA’s campus some day.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I’ll try to respond to some of these at a later date, but right now I am a bit covered up. There are quite a few things some of you have said that are just plain wrong and not even close to factual.

    One quick thought though, to those that think the medical school could EVER be moved to Tuscaloosa I have only one word. REALLY? How could that ever happen? That idea doesn’t make sense on ANY level. Tuscaloosa is a great college town but that is all it is. It is a small, still mostly rural, college town. The medical center in Birmingham is centrally located in the state, only minutes for a major airport, and right in the middle of Alabama’s business community. No matter who “owns” the medical school (more on that in a moment) its location in Birmingham is the ONLY place that makes sense.

    Now, the School of Medicine is not property of UAT, UAB or any other institution other than the State of Alabama. It is owned by the people of Alabama and managed/government by the legislature. Therefore, it would not be that big of a deal for the legislature the change the name if necessary. One thing is for sure though, the School of Medicine will never be in Tuscaloosa no matter what crest is on the diplomas.

    The one thing you need to understand is that the University system is supposed to be governed by the Board of Trustees in a way that serves the people of Alabama and the current (and former) board have done things that are clearly against and outside the rules set by the legislature. Why is it so much to ask that each member school, UAT, UAB, and UAH be treated fairly?

    Finally, to the person that said UAT is a “cash cow”. Explain this with documented statistics please because based on what I have read, UAB brings in the lion’s share of revenue for the system.

  6. With great respect to the author of this blogpost, I understand your passion to defend your respected alma mater, but there are a few points in which I can’t help but call you out on:

    You said, “UAB and the city of Birmingham are again being held hostage by a few old, rich, white men who care nothing for any interests other than their own.”

    I can’t help but disagree with you, respectfully. These rich, white men whom you claim care nothing for any interests other than their own are the people who voted to have the prestigious University of Alabama School of Medicine moved from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in the 1970s. (As a University of Alabama alumnus and fan, I would trade you five Bryant-Denny Stadiums in exchange for your Medical School.)

    These selfish rich, white men are the reason UAB currently fields a football program. Many extension schools can’t say the same.

    These selfish rich white men have spent millions and millions and millions of dollars on your school since its creation.

    These selfish and rich white men are the reason you hold a degree from UAB, because they’re the reason the school even exists.

    I understand you have a right to be upset over the fact that UA’s college is growing, but the football program is not the reason the UA System places the most emphasis on UA; that reason is because it’s the flagship institute of the system, just as Auburn places more emphasis on their main campus, rather than AUM. Same deal with Troy, they don’t place more emphasis on their Phenix City campus, do they? No. It’s their main campus.

    I understand the want and desire to have an on-campus football stadium. But it will never happen until UAB fans can prove they deserve one. Bryant-Denny was once a toxic wasteland until the 2004 expansion. The expansion had nothing to do with the success of the team (UA was terrible during the Shula years). But even during UA’s worst period in modern history, UA still managed to sell out every home game. There was a rising demand for tickets, which UA answered by expanding the stadium. Had UA not sold out consecutive games and had such a high demand for more tickets, Bryant-Denny would still be the 80,000 seated dilapidated dump it was eight years ago.

    These men are not the bad guys, here. Wasting money on a new stadium for fans that don’t bother to visit the stadium they’re playing in now is not a logical idea from a business man’s perspective. Setting your biases aside, if you were in this situation, would you?

    And in retaliation, separating yourselves from the Alabama system would be a huge mistake I fear UAB could never recover from. Many of the fans aren’t thinking this through. They’re allowing anger to cloud their decision making. UAB does not own the medical school and if the system goes, so does the medical school. Plus, I suspect there would be a ton of lawsuits filed from the UA System, wanting a return investment on all the money they’ve spent on UAB since its creation.

    With that being said, you need to sit back and see this thing through: these men aren’t holding your campus and city hostage. Why would they seeing as how they’ve done far more greater things for UAB than negative?

  7. I see that you are misinformed when it comes to just about everything but that is not a surprise.

    The issue is that board’s illegal practices when deciding on what is discussed in a public meeting. If the stadium project was not financially viable then why not just say so during the public meeting? Give UAB some metrics they would have to meet before the project was approved. That’s pretty simple and yet it did not happen? Why? How can the FULL board come to a decision like this in private and not be in violation of the system charter? I can go on and on about the actual facts here but clearly most of the UA supporters that end up here don’t care about that.

    What I am more interested in, however, is the following:

    How did you find this site? Seriously, how did you find the site and then why did you take the time to post here? I get like 10 hits a day TOTAL. This site isn’t even in the backwater of the the internet. Why bother? Oh, and why do I always get these comments late at night? It’s very odd to me.

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