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Fivethirtyeight.com Tries To Spend More Time Talking About UAB Football's Numbers

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We sat down - at our computers - and chatted about an attempt to prove mathematically why UAB football was doomed, no matter what. SPOILER: they're wrong.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Nicolas A. Lewis: I find this article to be absurd at best. I'm pretty sure that using five football teams that haven't even accumulated four years of FBS football as proof that starting a new FBS team is a doomed venture for anyone is just a badly flawed comparison.

That eliminates most of the comparative list, but I think South Florida is perhaps the perfect example. Namely, an example of what UAB could have been if those in charge had been investing in the program all along, rather than one day saying "hey, I wonder what it would cost for this team to be competitive? Oh... crap."

Aman Kidwai: I think the ol' boys from Tuscaloosa had much more to do with it than the changing state of college sports. That said, I suppose it doesn't mean that the other schools on that list have local powers near them who would like for them disappear.

But an athletic department doesn't have to be a profit center. Nobody complains when a school's english department doesn't make money. Athletics is a marketing program; if done successfully, it will raise applications, improve the quality of the student body and increase national exposure of the school.

Christopher Hondros: Yeah, I would say the regents/trustees issue is at the forefront. Legion Field was already in existence, so starting a program didn't require a stadium from scratch. All the steps were there in making it relatively successful.

Football has huge finances, which is why half the Big West programs cut theirs. UCSB took their football field and turned it into a soccer field and have won national championships, but they didn't invest money into it until much later, after that first championship.

Nic: Speaking of soccer. Let's not forget, an offer to have the $10 million cost of an indoor facility covered was rejected by university officials, supposedly because the strategic plan review wasn't done. Not long after, they accepted $1.5 million towards their new soccer stadium - when that same review still wasn't done.

Will Butler: Yeah, that's just a bad administrative move. UAB is a unique combination of bad administration and open interference by Power Five program interests.

UTSA is a good example of the opposite. They're under a larger umbrella, but theirs is still a successful venture because the UT system is willing to put money into the program and doesn't feel threatened by them. Hell, the UT system is exploring giving Rio Grande Valley a football team.

There's kind of a gentlemen's agreement around here that a board of regents does not interfere with any program, regardless of size. Sam Houston State is in the Texas State University system, and they won't get any interference from San Marcos if they ever decide to try and go FBS. Texas doesn't screw with UTSA or UTEP; all they do is force schools under their umbrella to have orange as one of their school colors. Small price to pay. It works.

The Texas State board had a big fight ten years ago about trying to get Lamar, SHSU, etc., to standardize their names to Texas State-Beaumont, Huntsville, etc. But they've never messed with the football programs to my knowledge. The board was even supportive of Lamar starting football back up in FCS, and they have a nice 15,000-seat stadium now.

Chris: That's similar to the California State University system. Despite Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge shutting their programs down, you still have San Jose State, San Diego State, and Fresno in FBS plus Cal Poly and Sacramento State in FCS.  Once again, it comes back to this argument of "who's lobbying to get money" and "who's trying to screw who over."

Aman: I just hate the way conference realignment has affected perceptions. "Power 5" is now a term regularly used; I do it myself, but it's not a real thing. Purdue isn't better than Boise State or Colorado State. A lot of really mediocre schools have skated by offering no football value to their conference, and it looks like they are the ones who will benefit most from the recent changes in college sports - stipends, autonomy, etc. - at the expense of the plucky "mid-majors" who have done more with less.

UConn, for instance, has been a basketball powerhouse for a long time and actually has a history of football success. They made it to a BCS bowl, convoluted though that trip may have been, but it just doesn't matter as we learned the hard way. Schools can come out of nowhere in football too, it's just that sports fans have the memory of goldfish. Nobody seems to remember that Baylor and Oregon used to be nothing.

Nic: Yeah. Florida State, too, before Bobby Bowden arrived back in the day. I mean, realistically this is true across the board. Every single Somebody was a Nobody at some point.

Will: It's all about administrative support in my mind. Texas State tried to move to FBS in 2000, but things stalled when Jim Wacker died and the current president was installed, who is rumored to be apathetic at best about athletics. She put the brakes on the process until the students forced her hand after the 2005 playoff run.

Realistically, if Nicholls State can have a football team, albeit FCS, anyone can have a football team. They are the definition of broke. Their program is held together by duct tape and paper clips, but they survive. Their stadium is a dump, and they took a huge hit to the program after Katrina. They go 1-10 every year, but they still survive because damn it, it's Louisiana and they want football.

I think when any team shuts down, it's due to either mismanagement from Title IX or lack of investment in the program. Administrative support is the biggest key, and geography is second. Football can survive with a strong administration in the south.

Chris: I agree; lack of administrative support is a dangerous thing, football or not.

Will: I think UAB could have thrived with an admin that actually wanted them to exist.

Chris: UABSOLUTELY.

*drops mic*