*****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.
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.