This is just flat-out depressing. Maddening. Confusing.
But it also gives me hope.
You get the idea. I could go on, but I'm conflicted if you couldn't tell.
Izell Reese is one of a handful of former Blazer players who is very involved with the football program. His particular involvement is such that he was part of the committee that decided who should become the next coach of the UAB football team back when they were conducting that search about a year ago.
Reese is a smart business man, so he recorded all of those conversations and interviews in that process, and after what went down with the shuttering of the program, he felt betrayed to the point that he not only gave a candid interview with AL.com, he also released the audio recording of the committee's final meeting before they recommended Bill Clark as their top candidate for the job.
First, from the interview:
"In representing UAB football as a proud alum, loving that program from the bottom of my heart, I feel like I went into something not knowing the whole story," Reese said. "I think it's important for this to be shared. Everything coming out (of the university) is not truthful. UAB alums, students and the Birmingham community, everyone has the right to know."
That's... well that's just not good. Granted, it's not as though we were of the opinion that university President Ray Watts, the UA Board of Trustees and others were blame-free or "just doing their job" here. But yet another person who has nothing to gain by throwing these people under the bus but chooses to do so anyways reflects very poorly on them.
Interesting things I learned from reading the transcripts and listening to Reese's tapes:
After their search, the committee narrowed the prospective recommendation for UAB's next coach to Bill Clark and current South Alabama head coach Joey Jones. They went with Clark for a few reasons, but the first and foremost was that the committee had been told they couldn't offer more than a three year contract, and they felt Clark was more likely to accept such a deal.
Their primary reasons in Jones' favor were his familiarity with the area (as a former Birmingham Southern coach), his good relationship with Paul Bryant, Jr., and his ability to build a strong community of which the team and school were in desperate need.
Speaking of Lil' Bear, there's this as well, from athletic director Brian Mackin:
Well, I knew (Jones) was very close to Paul Bryant. So Paul Jr. is probably a fan of his. But Paul Jr. does nothing for me. We've just got to tolerate him. No coach is going to make him change his position on UAB football.
I'm gonna call Dr. Witt, the chancellor. I'll call Paul (Bryant Jr.) I'll call Fess (St. John). This is what we think is going to happen. We're going to offer him the job. Are you OK with that?" They say, "Yes," then you call the candidate and offer the job. I'm a little different now where I'm going to get with Ray (Watts), get his schtick on the three-year deal. ...
[UAB VP of finance Richard Margison]'s going to need to take tonight, I suggested, to run this up the flagpole to Dr. Witt or Paul and take his time and get in touch with those people.
aaaaand *sigh* this...
I just thought, it's just like the Jimbo Fisher thing. Here it is, I've got certain people on that board preventing me from doing something that ...
I'm sorry, but WHAT?! You have a member of the board of trustees who has a well established disdain (if not hatred) for your football program and everything that goes along with it. And yet he is one of three people that is expected to green light any significant decisions that go along with the team?
Reese also mentioned that it was never explained at any length to the committee why they would not be able to offer more than a three year contract to whomever they wanted to hire. At the time he assumed it was to do with Garrick McGee's swift exit and not wanting to make a lengthy commitment to anyone, but we all know better now.
On the bright side though, it perhaps bodes well for UAB's football future that their biggest road block to success is a small group of trustees (or one in particular), as their reach is finite. For instance, the board has their annual meeting every September. In the 2014 edition, Bryant relinquished his position as president pro tem, and at the next meeting in September of 2015 he will retire from the board completely.
Now, it may be true that he is chairman of Bryant Bank and named his own bank's director (Karen Brooks) to succeed him as pro tem. It is also true that the board nominates its own successors via secret ballot, and that Bryant will likely then become "trustee emeritus" and can still advise the board. But a reduction of scope of influence of any kind has to be viewed as a positive step, especially given people like Brian Mackin and all the former players who would love to make this program something special if they could just get everyone on board.