The unlikely hopes of UAB President Ray Watts, administrators and athletic officials to stay in Conference USA just took a big hit, as sources indicated to CBS's Jon Solomon that the conference will stick to their guns and continue to require all active members to have a football program. This decision thus has numerous implications for UAB officials as well as potential C-USA members who may look to take UAB's spot in the event that football is not re-instated.
Conference USA's executive committee meets in June and will formally vote on UAB's future. But there is not interest from two-thirds of C-USA's presidents to change the league's bylaws requiring football as a condition of membership.
Despite their understandable move to enforce their own bylaws, C-USA likely won't just dump UAB on the curb this summer. They'll give Blazers administrators one more year to review the CSS report that's due May 15 about reinstating football and get their house in order, with football or without.
Assuming UAB doesn't reinstate football for 2016, the school will most likely be a C-USA member for one more academic year in 2015-16, given the short timeframe for the Blazers to find a new home. C-USA is reluctant to kick out UAB and leave its sports without playing schedules.
One could argue that C-USA is being far more generous than UAB officials have been to the conference. By virtue of UAB dropping football and Charlotte's pre-planned move to C-USA, conference officials had to implement a convoluted 13-member schedule on short notice where certain teams in the seven member East division won't play each other because of the unbalanced nature of the division.
However, C-USA's relative mercy on UAB is likely based more on self-interest than altruistic motives. The conference has left room for changes to their 2016 schedule by making the 2015 schedule a one year only model, which means a 14-team schedule could be implemented in 2016. In other words, they've left the door open for UAB to get their proverbial excrement together and reinstate football.
Given UAB's dream run into the Round of 32 in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament, the conference would probably like to keep the Blazers if for no other reason than basketball, but it appears C-USA's anger over UAB's administrative incompetence transcends any desire to view Blazer hoops as irreplaceable.
C-USA also knows there will likely be plenty of suitors for UAB's spot with similar or better clout in football, if not in men's basketball or media markets. UL-Lafayette, South Alabama, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, and Texas State, among others, will be watching UAB's moves with great interest.
Financial pain in the cards for UAB
Solomon recently revealed that then-University of Alabama system chancellor Malcolm Portera requested a study back in 2008 about the feasibility of keeping or ending UAB football as well as the possibility of dropping UAB down to the Missouri Valley Conference or Atlantic 10 Conference, or even forming a new league. Unsurprisingly, those alternatives were found to be iffy propositions for UAB in the long term:
The study suggested UAB would have lost money in the Missouri Valley and barely broke even in the Atlantic 10 by eliminating football. Another option of trying to be more competitive in football listed a net loss of $11.3 million.
Unlike the 2014 Carr Report, the 2008 study was only used to assess options and not provide a determination for the future of UAB football. Alabama officials also likely looked at the $11.3 million figure as justification not to invest further in the program.
If UAB doesn't reinstate football for 2016, they stand to lose out on substantial amounts of conference and CFB playoff revenues in future years as well.
UAB would not receive a full revenue share next year in C-USA if it stays. UAB is expected to receive about $2.2 to $2.4 million this fiscal year from C-USA. The College Football Playoff is expected to be worth about $800,000 for UAB. C-USA's postseason football revenue increased by about 500 percent this year due to the CFP compared to past revenue from the Bowl Championship Series.
That's a pretty big financial hit for an administration that was supposedly (insert dismissive wanking motion here) obsessed with the costs of running an athletic department.
Poor leadership in Birmingham
Even if you don't believe in all of the anti-Alabama and anti-Board of Trustees theories coming out of #FreeUAB in regards to the shutdown of UAB football--at least one of our colleagues at RollBamaRoll seems to think Occam's Razor may be a more appropriate explanation of the situation--one might sense that the UAB administration didn't really plan their football exit strategy all that well.
UAB has not publicly shown a financial model without C-USA revenue and what it could mean for the athletics department moving forward.
Watts, his administration, and the athletic department have hammered the financial "numbers" as their main PR talking point for killing football. If those numbers are so important to them, why wouldn't the President and the athletic department of an FBS university take lower revenues from other less prestigious conferences into account?
If Watts and co. really thought that C-USA would take it easy on them despite the major inconveniences to the conference caused by ending Blazer football, they're delusional at best. If they didn't really believe C-USA would make an exception for them, then all publicly available evidence suggests UAB officials either never really had a backup plan to begin with, or perhaps all those insidious allegations that this was a hit mandated by the UA system have some weight to them.
For now, UAB is using stock PR quotes like usual to respond to any and all questions.
UAB says it "would be inappropriate to speculate on conference affiliation" prior to CSS review and CUSA meetings in June.— John Talty (@JTalty) April 29, 2015
Somehow, this doesn't seem to be convincing the UAB faithful that the administration has the school's best interests at heart.
There is one potential silver lining for #FreeUAB in this mess: if UAB really was naive enough to believe C-USA would keep them around without football, the financial reality of losing those C-USA revenues may now be setting in.
Let's see how devoted the UAB administration is to those Carr Report "numbers" now, shall we?