Anyone paying attention understands what's going on at this point. The worst kept secret in the state of Alabama is that UAB President Ray Watts is a mouthpiece for the otherwise silent University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.
Watts still holds the BoT played no role in the decision to kill UAB's football program. He also says he intends to stay on as the university's top official for the foreseeable future and, technically, is safe as long as the hand under the sock agrees.
There's just no way.
Following similar actions by student and graduate student organizations, the UAB faculty senate handed down a vote of no confidence in Watts Thursday. Greater than two-thirds of the group's members voted in favor of the resolution. This is where the "technically" part comes in.
The vote, as with the no confidence votes before it, is nonbinding. There are no teeth behind it with any power to make Watts even say "UAB," much less save it. In fact, the BoT issued a public statement just hours after the vote came down saying what an awesome guy he is:
"I have great personal and professional respect for Ray Watts and the leadership he is providing," (UA Chancellor Robert) Witt said in the prepared statement. "I look forward to working with him as he continues to chart UAB's future course."
It appears almost every single person under the charge of Ray Watts wants him gone yesterday, or two years ago. Yes, the BoT is appointed rather than elected. Yes, they have the final say. At some point though, common sense must prevail. The board is whistling as loud as it can past the graveyard pretending there's nothing to see, but this has gone beyond typical politics.
From a day to day standpoint I don't see any way the man can continue serving in the role. The president of a university is a very, very public figure. The president's job is to appear at all sorts of events, from athletics to graduations to ambassador visits to campus events put on by SGA.
The way this story plays in the papers, Watts will be booed, cursed at or worse everywhere he travels on that campus. His own secretary probably spits in his coffee before handing it to him.
Try to imagine Watts making a speech anywhere, on any topic, in front of a room of UAB students and faculty this semester. You might as well have a cattle rancher speak at a PETA rally.
What's more, some now wonder about the damage done not just to UAB, but to the Bear Bryant name thanks to the actions of the coach's Trustee son. Eventually, public opinion does matter. Why else would the BoT craft that "awesome guy" statement?
Whether the state legislature gets involved, there's a shakeup at the BoT, Watts tires of the puppet act, something's got to give. Something will change unless I'm really underestimating the climate of Alabama politics.
How much longer will the fox be president of the hen house?