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The Fight to Save UAB Football: One Writer's Personal Experience

What being a UAB football fan means to me.

The only game I'd ever get to attend with my grandfather.
The only game I'd ever get to attend with my grandfather.
Tyler Cantrell

In the fall of 2006, I came to UAB as a Junior. I had followed the Blazers some over the years and pulled for them, but I had never attended a UAB athletic event. I watched the Blazers play Oklahoma on TBS (Adrian Peterson did fumble) and we almost knocked off one of the best teams in the country. A few weeks later I attended my first game as the Blazers beat Troy 21-3, I was hooked as a fan.

A week later my connection to UAB would change drastically. My grandfather and father figure (the man in the headline photo) attended the UAB vs Memphis game with me. The Tigers brought back the opening kick for a touchdown and he said to me "This is going to be a wild one."

He was right, but the Blazers would come back to win. He sat and told me about how many games he had attended there through the years and we shared a moment I still treasure in those bleachers. It would be the first and last college football game I'd ever get to attend with him.

Years later, I'd become more engaged with what the UAB family really is. Mitchell Miller was the crazy fan at Bartow Arena that always sat in the front row wearing weird costumes and distracting the other team. I soon found myself sitting there with him. Later I remember him bringing his future wife (little did he know at the time) to a game for the first time. I was later honored to be a groomsman in their wedding.

Through our friendship, I would jump on board with Mitch and another friend James Thrasher to form a website called BlazerTV. For three years we self funded that site and dedicated our spare time to covering and promoting the Blazers. I was the football reporter and covered the team along with my cameraman Bryant Bowling until we didn't have the time or resources to continue the site.

Through the two years I was covering football I shared many unique experiences with the players and their families. The first ever game we covered was the 2011 opener at Florida. After the nerve racking experience of covering a game as a credentialed reporter for the first time I was mentally drained. As we left the stadium, Bryant and myself found ourselves painfully lost outside the Swamp (Florida didn't issue us a parking pass).

As we wandered the streets in the dark a strange thing happened- the Boyett family saw us and stopped to pick us up. Connor Boyett was a defensive lineman on the team that I had interviewed a couple times in spring and fall practice. His father Jimmy, mother Rachel, and brother Chase recognized us. If they hadn't we might still be lost in Gainesville. I remember thanking them and all they said was thank you for covering our team.

That was the start of me developing a relationship with the families of UAB players that I still have today through working with BlazerTV and now Underdog Dynasty. Countless family members would talk to me, call me, email me and thank me. Soon I found myself  going through the highs and lows with them, they became my second family. Now my family is being threatened.

Shortly after I came to work for this site I found out about the infamous "study" about UAB football. The "study" is about much more than football. Certain people want to set  UAB back to being a glorified extension center on the undergraduate side of campus. To them it doesn't matter that over 18,000 lives would be affected. This site broke the story of the UAB Football Foundation's letter to UAB President Ray Watts.

Since that time a dramatic amount of support has been shown for not just the Blazer football team but the university as a whole. Enough that it appears the plan to remove football may have to be reconsidered.

The entire situation came to a head Tuesday morning as the Birmingham City Council met to a packed house. All kinds of UAB supporters and players were in attendance. Former player Tim Alexander's speech was met with a standing ovation- Alexander was paralyzed in a car accident- and following the speech he was picked up and carried off the dais by several current UAB football players. The story on the rally was documented in this link.

In the end, the entire Birmingham City Council, State Representatives Jack Williams and John Rodgers, former Blazer and current Atlanta Falcon Roddy White and many others voiced their full support for UAB. Birmingham has united itself in the wake of its school coming under attack. For those who want to show support for UAB football, sign this petition.

For me it's simple. In Tim Alexander's own words "It's about more then football."

UAB and everything it encompasses is a part of who I am. The City of Birmingham is a part of who I am. If they remove the football program, they would kill the joy of my fall Saturdays. How many women would lose their scholarships without the Title IX protection provided by the 85 football scholarships? If they remove portions of the undergraduate programs, they would devalue my degree. I'm ready to stand against them and fight for my family.

Because of UAB I have forged lifelong friendships.

Because of UAB I have largely been shaped into who I am today.

Because of UAB I have my job in Birmingham.

Because of UAB I have a memory of my grandfather that I remember every fall Saturday.

Because of UAB I fight for MY university.