UAB drops football program

UAB pulled the plug on its football program Tuesday.

University president Ray Watts told the team in a meeting Tuesday afternoon that the school decided to disband the sport after the current season. UAB also announced that bowling and rifle were being dropped.

“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. “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 move to dump football was not a surprise. Athletic director Brian Mackin indicated earlier in the week that the program would be discarded and he would lose his job.

The football program has struggled with financial issues resulting from lack of attendance without an on-campus stadium and for attention in a state with high-profile programs at Alabama and Auburn. In 2011, a proposal to build an on-campus stadium was rejected by the University of Alabama System Boad of Trustees.

Ironically, the move comes after first-year coach Bill Clark led the Blazers to a 6-6 record — their best season in a decade — and postseason eligibility in the Football Bowl Subdivision for the first and only time since the 2004 seson.

UAB also enjoyed succcess at the gate, with its average attendance doubling this season to more than 20,000 fans per game.

The impact of eliminating football will affect the school’s affiliation with Conference USA, which is expected to drop UAB if it no longer has football.

A student protest at a campus rally on Monday included the members of the marching band and the cheerleaders. Students also marched through campus on Tuesday to express their displeasure.

On Twitter, former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, a Birmingham native, expressed their support for the Blazers’ football program.

UAB becomes the first FBS program to eliminate football since the University of Pacific in 1995.

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