Part III: Aftermath and Outlook

The student body took to the streets, and Free UAB began. Free UAB Student Organization (FUSO) was formed, with Timothy Alexander as the president. He was a motivational player. He never took the field but still invested blood, sweat, tears, and heart into UAB football. When the team was on the practice field grinding through drills he would be on the sidelines doing pushups and sit-ups, encouraging his teammates to keep pounding. He became the spokesman of Free UAB when he delivered a speech to the Birmingham City Council and received a standing ovation. He goes to different cities and states and discusses Free UAB. He shared similar sentiments to Henderson:

“We heard about it with two games left to go, but we thought if we kept winning we could save the program. We just didn’t know. Ray Watts never came to a football practice; he didn’t care about UAB football.”

Alexander also grieved over the impact it had on the players. He lamented: [slightly paraphrased]

Everything that you worked for is gone. We came to UAB for football. What do we hope for, what do we believe in? Football was our way out, it was our stress reliever. It was a gift from God. It was my passion. It was our way out of bad places [the projects] and out of bad things. It was stripped from us.

Tensions in Alabama and on the campus are high. Ray Watts cannot travel around campus without an armed body guard to protect him. This is a college president on a college campus, not a war zone, not a prison. The administrative building is locked down, and one can only visit by appointment. The Faculty Senate issued a vote of no confidence. The www.al.com editorial board has called for his resignation.

The best case scenario for the BOT would be for Ray Watts to resign and take the fall for murdering UAB football. If they fired him and if anything illegal occurred, Watts would have an incentive to talk. Money is another factor: Watts is the 11th highest paid college president in the country. “No one” according to Rep. Williams believes Watts. However, Watts has rarely talked about the issue. Watts is still the President of UAB. The standoff continues.

Rep. Williams observed the impact on Birmingham:

“Birmingham was a steel town, but the steel industry crashed. We were a banking town, but that collapsed. We have been through some very troubling times, and this blow coming from our own state is even worse. Outside of a disaster this event has united Birmingham more than anything. I have everybody from Obama loving democrats to Tea Party Republicans supporting Free UAB. It cuts across all racial, party, economic, social, [and] geographical lines [etc.]. You would events like this wouldn’t happen, it’s astounding that we are struggling with this.

“There are five bills in the legislature concerning this. Thirty eight are cosigned to a bill to return UAB football, and forty two are cosigned to a bill to restructure the UA BOT.”

He also discussed the BOT and a key problem:

“Twelve or thirteen of the members of the BOT don’t care. But Free UAB is a rallying point for our community. There is a disconnect between the powerbrokers of the state and the community.”

The idea among Watts and the BOT was that Free UAB would be a focal point for a few days and then it would die down. That is anything but the case. Legislators from around the state support UAB football, and people all across the country support Free UAB. Williams informed me that 49% of the Alabama residents polled in a recent poll have a negative view of the UA BOT and 77% support UAB football. The number of people supporting Free UAB is growing by the day, and Dr. Watts and the UA BOT are losing credibility by the day. Williams believes that “The BOT is trying to hold out until June [the legislature leaves session] and hoping that this will calm down.”

Even worse, former Head Coach McGee was apparently scared to talk about the subject. These Twitter Direct Messages from former Coach McGee to a supporter were leaked. According to him, he was tipped off on the plan before he left UAB in early 2014. McGee apparently did not trust the coach before him (Neil Calloway) concerning this issue. McGee was told to stay silent by the administration once they found out that he knew of the shutdown (according to the DMs). This is vital to understanding the problem. In it shows the culture of fear and retaliation created by Watts and the UA BOT: http://www.underdogdynasty.com/uab-blazers/2015/4/3/8338985/uab-football-shutdown-garrick-mcgee-twitter-dms-2013

Football is a hallmark at high schools and colleges across the country. From the small Division III school with no scholarships to powerhouses like Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson; football is important to many students when selecting a college. If football was a money drain that provided nothing to the community, most programs wouldn’t exist. The University of Alabama-Birmingham has lost its football program despite massive outcry from students, alumni, faculty, Alabama residents, and college football fans across the country. The cutting of football has negatively impacted UAB and the effects will worsen until UAB has football again.

But, the worst thing of all is that the program was cut under the ruse that football was losing money when, according to a recent financial analysis, the truth is that not only was the team performing well on the field, it was indeed performing financially as well.

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