Contributing Writer

Bartow RallyProtestors at the Dec. "Blackout Bartow" basketball game (Photo by Amber Gomez).“Damn, if that don’t cut it!” - “Spider” Conway (portrayed by actor Doug McGrath), from the motion picture, “Pale Rider.” If someone were to ask me what movie best describes what UAB and the city of Birmingham have been subjected to in recent years by outside factions that clearly mean them no good, this would be the first one to come to mind. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do and you’ll get my gist...”The Matrix” would be my second one, but I digress for now...

“Epiphany” is defined as an awakening, a sudden and lasting realization to the true order of things...

The morning of December 20, 2014 was my day of epiphany & will resonate with me in the most melancholy of ways, because this was the first day of another college football bowl season, one that I was once bristling with anticipation for. It was a season in which our UAB Football Blazers should have been a part of.

But, someone else had other ideas in mind for our football program. As ESPN aired at 10 a.m., the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl between the Nevada Wolfpack & The Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana University, I watched with mixed emotions, happy on one hand for both schools and their fans in attendance, on the other hand genuine rage and frustration with those responsible for shutting UAB Football down in the midst of its most productive & memorable season in 10 years: becoming bowl eligible, our first year Head Coach winning Conference USA Coach Of The Year and crowning one of its best players, Jarmarcus “J.J..” Nelson, with All-American honors; all of this cause for celebration and thoughts of a bright future ahead, only to be subjected to what one local news reporter compared to “premeditated murder,” and I’m inclined to agree.

And let’s not forget, a triple digit percentage increase and one of the top teams in Conference USA in fan attendance, garnering community and civic support in spite of having to work with some of the most substandard facilities in the country (there are middle and high schools in Jefferson County that have better facilities than UAB had to work with), yet this is their “reward?” Apparently, when it comes (or in our case, came) to UAB Football, no good deed goes (or went) unpunished.

Its own administration/athletic department, aided and enabled its tormentors, save for a handful of UAB Coaches brave enough to show and openly express support for our football team in the midst of a culture of censorship, silence, deceit and hidden agendas that have nearly torn the UAB campus apart. If any other college football program on any level, let alone Division 1A, has ever been as marginalized, scrutinized, neglected, persecuted and flat out screwed over by its’ so called “representatives” as UAB had been, I’m not aware of it.

This was an act of supreme betrayal of an entire college campus, and a potential political attack on an entire city and region, just as cowardly and despicable, the manner in which the systematic assassination of our football, rifle and bowling teams were carried out, with no transparency, shared governance or sincere involvement, oh no, in my opinion, corruption, arrogance, myopic fear & the realization that this program was turning the corner and becoming this city’s symbol of pigskin pride. All of their hard work and sacrifices, cut down by political tyranny and bureaucracy. UAB & Birmingham’s plight, our senselessly-murdered football program’s legacy, are vivid examples that there is no balance of equal representation or support, ask our UAH brothers and sisters to the North.

The scales are definitely unbalanced in Birmingham and against UAB when it comes to the sport of football, in which Birmingham was once famous for, and if we don’t want that part of our history to go away completely, we’d better bring the fight like we’ve never done before, no matter how long it takes.

UAB supporters are no stranger to pain, heartache, and the memories of young men and women’s faces directly affected by this travesty of a decision supposedly made in the name of “fiscal responsibility.” The mere utterance of that phrase makes me sick now, because of what it has done to our essence on and off the UAB campus. The sorrow in the eyes of those emotionally devastated by this decision (count me among them), brought on by people and factions with a depraved indifference they’ve caused us all will stay with me always, yet in the empty, heartless eyes and spirits of the decision-maker(s), we are nothing more than collateral damage...And with that, here’s hoping that the Alabama State Legislature, the voters, and the Governor will do what needs to be done, complete and total restoration of UAB Football, Bowling & Rifle Teams, the creation of a transparent, inclusive, autonomous and communicable Athletic Department, & the passage of state laws allowing UAB and UAH to govern themselves via equal representation or their own established Board of Regents, after all that UAB has been through recently, the word “trustee” just doesn’t sound so good anymore.

We are all witnesses to the deception, to the culture of disregard and selective persecution, censorship, as well as the long term damage that has been caused; the affects have been immediate, impacting and indelible, much to the chagrin of its orchestrators. None of these traits are welcomed at UAB or UAH. But, if this teaches us nothing else, it’s to stay forever vigilant in the future, because if you don’t have a seat at the dinner table...You are probably on the menu...UAH and UAB know this now all too well...Let Freedom Ring for us both...and Unleash The Dragon!

Albert Khalis Pride is a Birmingham resident, former UAB season ticket holder and Blazer Booster Member.