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UAB Dropping Football: Some Perspective

by John on 12/03/2014

The University of Alabama at Birmingham shut down its football program. It is painful for the players, many students, and the boosters. But UAB won’t be the last college to shut down football.

If you haven’t followed the story, here is a great article on the emotion but also the numbers of why this Division 1 program closed its doors on college football – and ironically the rifle and bowling team. It will give you the machinations and perceptions of Alabama politics and some varied reasons of why the program closed.

Being many miles away from Alabama, I voiced my agreement with the school president and the Alabama System Board of Trustees.

I received some notable disagreement on the issue on social media. My good friend Tim Brando, a real pro and even better gentleman, was vehemently against the decision – especially what it does to the student athletes.

Here’s one tweet to

… didn’t have to be. This is as WRONG and despicable as any act in Intercollegiate Athletics I’ve seen in a lifetime!

And another:

The administration turned down a $10 million gift from boosters. There are more than economics at play here.

I don’t disagree with Tim’s and the other’s sentiment. I get it. I was a jock. Team sports are part of my DNA. Even more so, football is gut-wrenching passion; it’s like going to war with your buddies within our civilized society. As this study shows, football and other sports builds trust in society.

However, I do think the players will eventually survive this upheaval. There are also provisions from some of the UAB players to play elsewhere.

But there are other factors – much bigger factors in our changing society – at play here.

First, the concussion and head injury financial toll on college football programs will only grow in the coming years. That will be much more than the $10 million the boosters could afford. There are too many studies that show the damaging effect of football collisions. Many universities will be facing massive lawsuits and decades of medical coverage for former players who are incapacitated. Major universities like the Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre, Dame, Florida State, and USC will most likely survive this; a UAB type school cannot.

Second, as this trend continues, universities will see fewer students become football players. Right now, mothers and fathers are pushing their kids towards soccer as a fall sport – not football. I can’t tell you the number of former NFL players I know who tell me they forbid their sons to play football. Too many of these former footballers admit they have cognitive problems.

Third, our universities need to concentrate on learning in the 21st Century. This is not the 1990s any more. We need massive infusions of dollars into science, medicine, engineering, and technology for our country to move ahead and to stay ahead in the world’s economy. Fielding a football team isn’t part of that.

Fourth, universities are built on advancing society and creating jobs. Football programs – with their cost and players who get free rides – do not. Most universities have failed in the past decade to help society. Charging a student $15,000 a year for admission totaling more than $60,000 for 4 years with no guarantee of a job to pay off that tuition does not lead to jobs but to young people in debt.

Sure, UAB can be proud that Roddy White is a star with the NFL Atlanta Falcons, but is that enough for the millions paid out?

Let me plug my alma mater Providence College. PC, along with the other Catholic institutions, broke away from the universities with football programs to make the Big East into a basketball-dominant school.

The Big East took a lot of crap too. ESPN produced a documentary about the glory days of the Big East – that is no longer.

Granted, the Big East is not as competitive at the ACC, Big 10, and Southeast Conference.

But in the long-run, without football, the Big East will be. And so will UAB.

OK, your turn.

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