UAB president's letter on football program shutdown


In a letter written Tuesday by University of Alabama-Birmingham President Ray L. Watts, it was confirmed that the school's football program will close.

The school recently completed a financial review of the athletic department, in which they say the program is not likely to provide enough returns in relation to their investments, despite recent successes on the field.

The letter, in full:

Dear UAB Family,

More than a year ago, UAB began the largest, most comprehensive strategic planning process in the university's history. Designed to identify areas of excellence and set priorities for investment and growth, this strategic review has empowered leaders across campus to think critically about how to best invest resources and position UAB as a premier and sustainable institution for the future.

Today, we announced results of the Athletic Department's strategic planning process. In order for us to more effectively reinvest in athletic programs that are most likely to bring growth, prolonged success and national prominence to UAB, the 2014-2015 academic year will be the final season for UAB football, bowling and rifle.

After an extensive review of current and future financial data, it became clear that, despite noteworthy success this season under Coach Bill Clark, investments in football were unlikely to produce a sustainable return relative to the required investment. This is especially the case with the rapidly evolving NCAA landscape and the soaring costs associated with maintaining a competitive team.

UAB already subsidizes $20 million of the roughly $30 million annual Athletic Department budget, which is the fifth-largest budget and subsidy in Conference USA. We will continue to support Athletics at this level, which amounts to an institutional investment of at least $100 million over the next five years. According to expert analysis by CarrSports Consulting, UAB would have to substantially increase our operating budget and our capital investments in facilities to support an Athletic Department that fields a competitive Conference USA football team.

The difference between our future Athletic Department with and without football is an additional $49 million investment on top of the $100 million UAB will already invest in Athletics in the next five years. From an operating budget standpoint alone, the difference between the scenario in which we maintain a competitive Conference USA football program and eliminate it is more than $27 million over the next five years. This does not include additional needed capital investments of $22 million for football facilities alone. These capital projects would include a field house, an indoor practice facility and a turf field, but not a stadium.

We have considered many options to fill this financial gap, including through philanthropic support; but our informed analysis of current and past support and interest concluded that the gap is simply too wide.

It would be fiscally irresponsible and virtually impossible to keep pace with these growing financial demands without sacrificing the financial health and sustainability of Athletics, or redirecting funds from other critical areas of importance, like education, research, patient care or student services.

This decision is not about cutting the Athletics budget, but instead is about reallocating resources to more fully support and reinvest in athletic programs in which we have an opportunity to achieve a high level of success. Many of our programs have been on the cusp, and redirecting funds from football can propel them to the next level.

With this strategy, I am confident that UAB's best days for Athletics are ahead. But the coming days and months will be difficult for those most affected. We couldn't be more proud of how well our student-athletes and coaches have represented the institution, even in the midst of recent, very regrettable distractions. They have earned our respect and appreciation, which makes this necessary financial decision all the more difficult.

I have met with impacted student-athletes and coaches, and will meet with others affected. It is my top priority to make this transition as easy as possible. We will honor scholarships for those who choose to stay at UAB beyond this season, and we will honor coaches' contracts. When a program is discontinued, per NCAA bylaws, players who decide to leave UAB to play elsewhere will not be required to sit out of competition the following season.

To those who are losing something they hold dear with this decision, I am truly sorry. I know many are saddened by this news. As a Birmingham native, a sports fan, and a UAB graduate who loves this university and its people, I am among those disappointed in the necessity of this decision. While it is the right one for the financial future of UAB Athletics and UAB as a whole, it is an agonizing one to make.

I know many will be interested in following developments during this transition. For more information, and updates as they become available, I encourage you to visit

Very sincerely,

Ray L. Watts


UAB '76

We will be streaming the university's 3:30 p.m. formal announcement of this decision at this link. Look for updates online and on WAFF 48 News.

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