As a supporter of all G5 programs, Underdog Dynasty has been behind #FreeUAB ever since we broke the news that Blazer football was in danger back in November. A few days ago, myself, Will and Nic made the trek to the UAB alumni spring game at Legion Field to show our support and meet the leaders behind the movement.
The city of Birmingham is one of several dozen Alabama cities to support restoring football and greater autonomy to UAB, and gladly accommodated the event at the city-owned stadium (it originally was to be held on campus but, according to organizers, was squeezed off for political reasons). We've long known UAB's student government, graduate student government, faculty senate and alumni association all want president Ray Watts fired yesterday.
Legion Field provided the opportunity to witness firsthand what the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees thinks of the school's mission. The 88-year-old stadium is in poor shape, is too large and sits in a crime-ridden neighborhood miles from campus. UAB lined up millions of dollars worth of commitments toward a 30,000-seat on-campus stadium in 2011, a plan which was quickly dumped by the BOT.
This is where they decided the team should stay:
A back alley in Kiss of the Dragon? No, a stadium corridor.
Hey, look, exposed wiring. Are electrical fires real, or just a ghost story UAB fans tell their children at night?
This was last renovated when Ray Watts was a freshman. Mostly because lead glass is no longer a thing.
I know, you're ready to hop in the car right now to check it out. For a perfect microcosm of the situation, consider that the north scoreboard is literally a hand-me-down from Alabama's stadium.
After seeing both Legion Field and the surrounding neighborhood, it's a minor miracle that any event is still hosted here, let alone six Blazer football games per season. So we continued the tour and checked out the former team offices.
Oh, look, it's my old middle school!
With a dentist's office right next door. How convenient.
By the way, word is the day Watts made the announcement, a throng of protesters gathered at the front of the buildings to meet him on the way out. Somehow, word leaked (the first of many leaks from people with a conscience) that Watts would be shuffled out the back door instead. This led to some of those first pleasant moments of the full-blown UAB saga.
Behind the offices are the team practice fields, which have such poor drainage the Blazers often trucked it over to Legion Field, or FCS Samford, or Division III Birmingham Southern, to practice when it rained. A plan was organized to remedy the whole "a D-III school has better practice facilities than us" thing. You get three guesses as to where that went. This also gives you an idea what Bill Clark pulled off in achieving 6-6 last season.
Here, I could throw in pictures of the opulent facilities at Alabama and the Tide's pristine stadium, but that isn't the point. If you read this site often you know I'm our Georgia Southern writer, and throughout the day my mind lingered on the contrast between what I saw and what I know back home.
The University of Georgia sports fantastic football facilities. So does Georgia Southern. I've never heard even the most delusional Bulldog blame a loss on some drain of resources flowing to Statesboro, even though both schools are under the same board of regents.
That is the point.
Speaking of Georgia Southern, you may have seen this picture before:
By the logic of some UAB haters it's the picture of a program that should be shut down, because that crowd would look small in Legion Field.
The rest of UAB's campus is nice, by the way, located in a beautiful and emerging downtown Birmingham. It's a place any college football fan would love to tailgate if a new stadium got built.
Or at least, it's a place that needs to make that decision for itself.