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Poll Shows Widespread Support for UAB Football and #FreeUAB

The #FreeUAB movement to bring back UAB football just added another weapon to their arsenal.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

If UAB President Dr. Ray Watts and the University of Alabama Board of Trustees are indeed engaged in a public relations "war," as declared by the PR firm hired to pull a snow job explain the decision making process in Watts's decision to end UAB football, they appear to be losing.

A poll requested by state representative Jack Williams and conducted by Surge Red, a Washington D.C. based public polling firm, surveyed 300 people in central Alabama--excluding Tuscaloosa County, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide--about the decision to end UAB football, and the results can be interpreted as vindication for the Free UAB movement. Residents were asked the following questions:

  1. Is the current UAB controversy about more than football?
  2. Did UAB President Ray Watts act improperly in ending UAB football?
  3. Did Ray Watts end UAB football due to pressure from the UA Board of Trustees?
  4. Does UAB receive fair and equal treatment from the Board of Trustees?
  5. Should UAB have a separate Board of Trustees?
  6. Should UAB be allowed to have a football team?
  7. Do you support UAB reinstating their football program?
So, without further ado, here are the results:
uab6

Well, yeah. The wording of this question wasn't the greatest, because even people who support the decision to end UAB football would know that the Free UAB movement has taken aim at the Board of Trustees. Still, this result certainly won't sit well with Dr. Watts and some BoT members that would like to keep the narrative focused on the supposed financial problems UAB football faced.

UAB1

Although it would've been interesting to see how the results might've differed if the wording of the question had been "Watts acted properly" in ending UAB football instead of "improperly," that's still an overwhelming number. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 64.9% of respondents who agree in some way that Ray Watts really stepped in it by ending Blazers football. Good luck with that PR campaign.

UAB2

Respondents didn't give quite as much of a damning appraisal of the role Board of Trustees in the shutdown of UAB football as Watts, but a majority (53%) still agreed in some way that they pressured the President in some way. Almost 1/4 of respondents weren't really sure of the role the BoT played in the process, perhaps because of the general lack of transparency and public statements on their part. Speaking of the trustees:

UAB3

That's another majority that agree with #FreeUAB: 51.1% think UAB gets the shaft from the BoT in comparison to 27.1% who disagree. Another pattern that should be apparent by now is that the categories receiving the highest percentages of responses are those that strongly agree with #FreeUAB's grievances.

UAB4

A stunning 78.7% of respondents think that UAB should be politically independent from the overall University of Alabama system. Although this poll deals with UAB football and the behavior of the UAB administration and leadership during the program's shutdown, this may be a result that could have widespread political implications for higher education in the state of Alabama.

UAB5

One has to assume that despite the exclusion of Tuscaloosa county from these results, the survey had to have picked up more than a few ROLL TAHD fans because, well, Alabama. So 87.1% of respondents think that UAB should have football, and there are likely more than a few Crimson Tide fans who are fine with the existence of Blazers football. Who could've possibly imagined that?

And now, for the coup de grâce:

UAB7

Boom. #FreeUAB 7, Watts/BoT 0. If this was an election, these numbers would be considered a landslide, a mandate, and a death blow to the opposition.

Representative Williams noted: "I knew we had touched a nerve in this part of the state but these numbers were consistent in the outlying areas of the state even on the Mississippi line and the Georgia line and north to south. You don't get numbers in the high 70s and high 80s unless it's across the board." Indeed.

The decision to start or end a football program may not be a democratic one, but the results are clear: Dr. Watts and the BoT continue to ignore the will of the public at their own peril. Momentum to restore UAB Blazer football is building, and that momentum could sweep the current UAB leadership out of office if they continue what appears to be an increasingly ineffective PR war.