University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray L. Watts announced Monday that UAB intends to reinstate football, bowling and rifle with new funding from private and public sectors.
“Given the broad base of support never before seen, as of today, we are taking steps to reinstate the football, rifle and bowling programs,” Watts said. “I am forwarding documents to Conference USA and the NCAA notifying them that UAB plans to remain an FBS program and a full member of C-USA.”
UAB, which discontinued football, bowling and rifle in December 2014, was subsidizing the Athletic Department at a rate of $20 million per year, an amount Watts was not willing to increase at the expense of our educational, research and health care missions. In an apples-to-apples comparison, two independent studies were similar, and both identified the need for increased external funding support for operations and facilities.
Fundraising efforts led by a committee of the Athletics Assessment Task Force to fill the funding gap identified by the review brought pledges far exceeding historical financial support and significantly improved the Athletic Department’s financial picture, making the decision to reinstate possible.
“A public-private partnership like this for university athletics is unprecedented and is the result of a lot of hard work, study, input and commitment from many,” Watts said. “We gathered input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, city and government officials, and business leaders in the community.”
Watts outlined several principles that must be satisfied for this process to continue to move forward, one being that UAB will maintain, but not exceed, its institutional support to athletics at its current level.
“To do otherwise would require us to take additional funds from our academic and health care missions, which we will not do,” Watts said.
He also says timelines will be established for meeting pledges, both public and private, and having funds available soon. Watts also says UAB is not in a position currently to borrow money to build athletic facilities.
“We will work with all involved to set a reasonable fundraising timetable that provides every chance for success,” he said.
Director of Athletics Mark Ingram, who has experience reinstating athletic programs, will lead the charge with Athletic Department staff, and will continue to engage vital groups in and outside of the UAB community moving forward.
“The Athletic Department staff and I will work closely with Conference USA to set in motion the steps necessary to reinstate these athletic programs as soon as possible,” Ingram said. “Also, a committee is being formed to move forward on continued fundraising efforts to support facilities improvements and other needs. Everybody has worked extremely hard together, and I feel like we’re pulling in the same direction.”
Royal Cup Coffee and Tea CEO Emeritus Hatton Smith has agreed to chair a task force of community leaders to raise additional funds from a facilities standpoint.
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