The UAB PR Documents detailing plans to end UAB football last September exposed by State Representative Jack Williams have been publicly released this afternoon on al.com. We'll have more in depth reaction as we get a chance to pore over the entire document, but here are a couple of quick hits that stand out:
This document assumes the final CarrSports Consulting report will reflect the extreme, increasing financial investment required to maintain football, bowling, and rifle at UAB without a reasonable expectation of return on investment, as has been suggested.
Right from the outset, a common PR talking point is parroted which sets the tone for the entire document and exposes a clear expectation by the PR firm that the CarrSports committee has already made up their minds on killing football without any public input from students, faculty, athletic staff, or players. Reminder: Ray Watts said in December that "Killing football was not what we set out to do. We didn't expect this outcome from the strategic plan, but the realities of collegiate athletics and costs involved today clearly drive this decision."
According to objective third party experts in college athletics and public relations, the announcement has the potential to generate significant regional and national media attention and be misunderstood by the UAB community if not carefully communicated and coordinated.
I'm no Matt Monte, but I'm pretty sure if you translate this from PR to layman's terms you come up with "if we don't control the message well enough and allow everyone to see through our BS, there will be excrement dripping from fan blades in massive amounts."
A winning record would be tremendous, but irrelevant in context. It is plausible that the Blazers finish the season with a winning record. The team's record, however, is not the primary rationale behind this announcement and it will be critical to develop messaging that effectively communicates that. Because this decision is based on financial realities and not on-field success, the team's record at any point in the season is irrelevant -- potential bowl eligibility does not impact timing in this situation.
Communicating that UAB enthusiastically supports a winning 2014-2015 season in order to position its student athletes and coaches in the best light for future opportunities will also be key to lessening any potential criticism.
I'll just let this speak for itself.
Contentious NCAA landscape may serve as media distraction. Given the ever changing NCAA landscape, the possibility that other programs are cancelled following the 2014/2015 season is high.
According to whom?
News coverage has already begun around potential changes to collegiate program, including Hawaii and others, which will likely take the heat off of UAB and serve as a good media distraction post-season. Morever, having to cancel a potentially winning team's program further demonstrates that it is the system that is broken, not UAB's management.
I believe this statement can be characterized as "categorically untrue."
3) Is UAB committed to its football program?
- As we've stated in the past, UAB remains committed to excellence, and to building and properly supporting championship athletic programs.
So why are you writing pages and pages of plans on killing UAB football, rifle, and bowling and dedicating no time whatsoever to the possibility of keeping those sports? If you really want to say you're committed to excellence and to UAB football, then release your memos addressing the possibility of keeping and supporting these athletic programs.
After an extensive strategic planning process, the Athletic Department and administration have determined that 2014/2015 will be the final season for men's football, and women's rifle and bowling.
- While this was a tremendously difficult decision, the UAB administration and athletic department leadership agree that this is the best decision for UAB and the future of UAB athletics.
- In making this decision, we referred to current and future financial data. We consulted highly knowledgeable outside experts and advisors from CarrSports Consulting to validate our analysis and inform our planning
- All signs pointed to the same decision -- football, rifle, and bowling are not sustainable in a model that best protects the financial future and prominence of the athletics department.
Does this sound to you like an athletic department/PR Firm prepared to consider the possibility of letting football continue? Because if you do, I have a bridge in Alaska to sell you.
(Directed towards student athletes)
Make History, Show Your Heart: This will be a difficult transition, but it will demonstrate your ability to deal with hard times and show heart, work ethic, loyalty, and dedication. These are traits to be proud of and this is a story you will be able to share and benefit from in every job interview for the rest of your life. Take this opportunity to prove your ability to deal with a difficult situation and to help others through the same -- something employers look for.
If you have the sudden urge to vomit, you're not alone.
These are but a few highlights of a damning document that reflects extensive planning by UAB and Sard Verbinnen and co. to kill UAB football, and greatly strains the credibility of the the continuing claims by Ray Watts that the decision to end UAB football was made in November.
Indeed, in an editorial released today by the Birmingham Editorial Board on AL.com, they state that "We don't believe any of it, and we'd be incredulous if anyone else did." Jon Solomon of CBS Sports also notes that it takes time and an extensive planning process to kill a football program, and that UAB's claims of waiting until November to make a decision are specious at best.
So, at best, UAB made a bad decision based on financial projections that have since been debunked then did an absolutely atrocious job of controlling the narrative. At worst, they're guilty of athletic and administrative malpractice at the behest of a hostile Board of Trustees.
No wonder so many people are screaming #FreeUAB and #FireRayWatts.