This morning, the UAB Athletic Department announced a $1.5 million donation from Birmingham company BBVA Compass that will go towards the building of a new stadium for the men's and women's soccer programs.
UAB announced the donation for the soccer stadium at a time when the financial viability of the Blazers' football program is being scrutinized. The UAB administration has commissioned Bill Carr and Associates — an executive search firm who worked with UAB on its last two coaching hires — to study, among other things, the long-term viability of Blazers football.
UAB boosters have alleged, in a letter first published by Underdog Dynasty, that the study could be the first step in the school's and University of Alabama Board of Trustees' effort to cut the UAB football program after the 2016 season.
Blazer boosters are taking matters into their own hands. The Birmingham Business Journal reported yesterday that the UAB Football Foundation — a group of prominent UAB boosters — has talked with the City of Birmingham about building an indoor practice facility for the football team without university or athletic department funds.
According to the article, the initial cost of the facility would be paid for by a municipal bond initiative and the foundation would pay the city back. UAB football does not currently have an indoor practice facility.
"There hasn't been any definitive discussions with the administration at all," Birmingham mayor William Bell said at a press conference Thursday, according to the Journal. "There have been some private entities that want to support UAB football, and they have come to me if the city would be supportive of such an endeavor. We gave them a preliminary yes that we would be supportive, but it would be outside of the realm of the administration of UAB itself."
The University of Alabama Board of Trustees, which oversees UAB as well as Alabama and Alabama-Huntsville, rejected UAB's plans for an on-campus stadium in 2011. UAB President Ray Watts has been vocal about focusing more school resources towards UAB's soccer and basketball programs, where the Blazers have had success, including a Sweet 16 performance in men's basketball as recently as 2004.
Watts released a statement Thursday that addressed the public outcry over UAB football's precarious future. But in that statement, released to AL.com, Watts never specifically denied the allegation that UAB is looking to cut the football program.