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The OSKR Report and the Future of UAB

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The review firm initially tapped to study the financial impacts of UAB football, rifle, and bowling delivered a stunning rebuke to the Carr Report. What does it mean for UAB football and the university itself going forward?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Yet another twist in the UAB Blazers saga came to light Thursday afternoon as OSKR, the task force initially hired to explore the possibility of reinstating UAB football, rifle, and bowling, released their final report on the financial situation in Birmingham despite being unceremoniously dropped by university leadership months earlier on suspicions of bias.

UAB is still legally on the hook for $22,400 to be paid out to OSKR for their initial work on the investigation, a sum which the university has notably not paid yet. Two unnamed donors provided financial assistance for the authors, Daniel Rascher and Andrew Schwarz, to finish their work, although Rascher and Schwarz proclaimed that the donors had no further role in their study beyond providing financial assistance to finish the initial study.

After compiling 156 pages of financial figures and projections based on past UAB financial data and conservative estimates of any official numbers they didn't receive, OSKR's findings constitute a complete repudiation of the Carr Report used by UAB as justification to shut down the three athletic programs at the end of the 2014 fall semester. SBNation's Jason Kirk has an outstanding summary of everything you need to know from the OSKR Report, which you should read if you haven't already.

But what does this report ultimately mean for UAB football and the university itself?

The current (ugly) dynamic

The immediate conversation will be dominated by two narratives. #FreeUAB will feel vindicated by OSKR's findings, which seem to fit well with al.com's investigations that have shown that UAB likely undervalued the positive economic impact of UAB football by taking the Carr Report at face value.

There will also be plenty of UAB haters--many of them wearing Crimson, and many of them in positions of power--who will continue to move the goalposts on what constitutes the right for a football program to exist despite an ever-growing mountain of evidence that UAB football was systematically prevented by the Tuscaloosa-focused Board of Trustees from ever coming close to reaching its potential.

They will also continue to ignore evidence that strongly suggests the decision to kill the program was premeditated long before November 2014, or they'll cheer the decision because of their bizarre antipathy towards UAB football's existence.

However, what's ultimately important is where the university, and by proxy the Board of Trustees, decides to go from here. Up to this point, their responses have ranged from callous PR spin to blatantly ignoring the will of an entire campus to the bumbling panic caused by local outrage and national scrutiny that caused UAB to "consider" revisiting the subject of reinstating football in the first place.

As a result there's a growing political movement in Birmingham to separate UAB from the entire University of Alabama system altogether, and that could be a potential problem for an administration that abhors transparency and has enough shady political connections to fill a John Grisham novel.

In the immediate term, the OSKR report will invite unwanted attention from national outlets, but UAB's administration will likely continue to ignore the report and parrot their initial claims of bias based on Schwarz's Vice.com article criticizing the Carr Report that came out before OSKR was commissioned. Right now UAB's main focus is on hiring a new athletic director to replace Brian Mackin, and more than likely it'll have to be someone who is willing to kowtow to the will of Ray Watts and the Board of Trustees.

What's next?

The next big development to watch will be what the new sports consulting agency, College Sports Solutions, finds when they release their report on the viability of reinstating the three defunct UAB programs in mid-May.

The choice of CSS was notable in that it's made up of independent contractors with minimal ties to UAB, but also because they initially lost out to OSKR on the bidding process for the review. If their findings are similar to those of OSKR, momentum to reinstate UAB football, rifle, and bowling should reach a fever pitch.

If one views the UAB situation from the standpoint of Watts, Kahn, and the Board of Trustees, they have the following options:

  1. Reinstate all three programs AND reform the BoT along with Watts stepping down
  2. Reinstate football, rifle and bowling, keep the BoT and university structure as is, or:
  3. Continue to say nothing and/or wage a protracted PR war on #FreeUAB
Let's get one thing out of the way first: unicorns will fly out of Ray Watts's rear end before option number one happens.

Some #FreeUAB supporters that spoke to us during our trip to Birmingham seemed convinced that option number three was an inevitability as part of a long-term effort to strip UAB of all independence from Tuscaloosa.

However, a potential alternative to the current political war could arise if CSS's findings mirror OSKR's and provides a window for UAB to reinstate football by 2016. If football (and bowling and rifle) get off the ground once again, the administration could then try and blunt the political movement to separate UAB entirely from the Alabama Board of Trustees.

There's no guarantee it would work, and Watts would likely still have to resign for the university to eventually function properly, but it may be the only way for the BoT to keep the current administrative structure in place.

Otherwise, the powers that be will be in for a long, ugly, and personal fight with an outraged university community and will likely suffer even more regional and national embarrassment. However, if their aim is to strip UAB of all independence and make Birmingham nothing more than a satellite campus of the University of Alabama--a charge that has been leveled by many #FreeUAB members--that may be a risk they're willing to take.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If this is where it winds up, we will do our personal, level best to make sure that fight is as long, ugly and embarrassing as possible.]