The University of Alabama at Birmingham announced on Tuesday that it will be shutting down its football program. School president, Ray Watts, met with the team to explain the decision. Players reacted with tearful emotion, quiet indignation, and even with a disgusted walk out.
“You tell me it’s because the numbers don’t look right? Because the numbers didn’t look right? And you go home and sleep in a comfortable, big ass house, but it’s OK,” senior tight end Tristan Henderson shouted at Watts, through tears. “It’s 18-year-olds in here! 17-year-olds! What are they supposed to do? Some of these cats came from 3,000 miles away. To play here, to be a part of this! To be a part of all of this! But you say numbers? That’s what you’re coming at us and saying, numbers? [head coach Bill Clark] walked to you. Walked in your office and said, ‘You’ve got to do it the right way for me to be here,’ and you said you would. And now you just pull the plug? So you lied to the man’s face?”
UAB football players leave in tears after meeting with president. pic.twitter.com/FSQXI99db5— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonAspen) December 2, 2014
Fueled by speculation from people close to the program, including Clark, rumors of the shutdown had been circulating for some time. On Tuesday, following weeks of protests and concern from fans and players, UAB confirmed that 2014 will be the final year that the school will sponsor its football, bowling, and rifle teams. The decision came after an athletics department-wide financial review.
“The fiscal realities we face—both from an operating and a capital investment standpoint—are starker than ever and demand that we take decisive action for the greater good of the athletic department and UAB,” Watts said about the decision. “As we look at the evolving landscape of NCAA football, we see expenses only continuing to increase. When considering a model that best protects the financial future and prominence of the Athletic Department, football is simply not sustainable.”
The UAB football team finished 6-6 in 2014, becoming bowl eligible for the first season since 2004. Not bad for the first year of what was to be Clark’s tenure. It’s still unclear whether or not the team will participate in a bowl game this winter.
UAB is the first Football Bowl Subdivision/Division 1-A school to end its football program since The University of the Pacific did so in 1995.
Illustration by Jason Reed