A contentious debate over the contents, bias, and accuracy of the Carr and OSKR reports addressing the long term viability of UAB Blazers football, rifle, and bowling has embroiled UAB since the shutdown of the three programs in November. That debate will now take a decidedly different turn after AL.com obtained a copy of the eagerly anticipated CSS report that also addresses the possibility of reinstating the three defunct sports.
Here are some of the more important findings of the report:
UAB's athletic department would have an annual deficit of $3.165 million if it reinstated football, rifle and bowling
Considering the deficits many Group of Five athletic departments run on a regular basis, and considering that UAB supporters, students, and the City of Birmingham have pledged a stunning $12.5 million in just a few days, that number is a relative drop in a bucket.
CSS deduced that both continuing to exist without the three sports and reinstating them were "viable options" for UAB. However, it also stated in the report that due to the strong desire throughout the community for the sports to return a decision to reinstate them would boost donations greater than current levels.
Despite his incompetence and myriad public relations fiascoes, Ray Watts has somehow inspired a stunning amount of support from the Blazer community that might not have otherwise manifested if he'd simply kept football. Who knew?
"It would foster much goodwill and stimulate a substantial amount of spiritual and financial support from alumni, donors, ticketholders, friends, students, faculty and the community," CSS wrote. "It could create a unique opportunity, not only through that support, but also through unprecedented positive national attention to the University."
This conclusion is incredibly obvious, but it's still highly important. An independent group of athletics officials with zero or minimal ties to UAB coming to this conclusion provides a stunning rebuke to anyone who would think that bringing back UAB football is a bad idea.
Both Watts and the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees would look "favorably upon return of football, bowling and rifle if such a return were made with sound financial considerations and plans," CSS concluded, based on interviews conducted with Watts and trustee Finis St. John.
Of course, what constitutes "sound financial considerations and plans" in the minds of Watts and the BoT is hard to say considering the lack of public appearances by both entities.
In its process of assessing campus-wide interest in UAB athletics, CSS determined there was a strong consensus "that the elimination of the three sports, particularly football, has been detrimental to the university."
"We were struck by the near unanimity of these campus groups in their opinion that the elimination of the sports was damaging to the notion of a stimulating campus environment and detrimental to UAB's own self-respect," the report said.
Translated: Watts, you messed up, and your entire campus is rightfully furious at you.
Whether Watts and the BoT will care about this conclusion is a matter of debate.
Without football, UAB would still lose money until 2020 where it would make a $152,201 profit, according to CSS' projections.
The school would also incur additional expenses from the expected departure from Conference USA if football is not reinstated.
Joining a new conference would not only likely result in less revenue generated through television rights and College Football Playoff payouts -- CSS estimates the figure at more than $2 million annually -- but UAB would also have to pay an entry fee of $2 million over three years to join the Sun Belt, and between $350,000 to $400,000 to join MVC.
Although their numbers may not match OSKR's rosy projections, these statements represent an almost outright refutation of the incomplete figures offered by the Carr Report and gives a fuller picture of the consequences of dropping football.
Most importantly, CSS speculated that bringing back UAB football would be a possibility in 2016.
@EBRINDLEY Yeah I'm clarifying. It's 2017 fiscal year as listed in that report, but that'd be 2016 football season.— John Talty (@JTalty) May 16, 2015
So what does this mean for UAB football, rifle, and bowling, and the Blazer community as a whole going forward?
First of all, the narrative that keeping UAB football is fiscally irresponsible should be put to bed permanently. This report is as clear-eyed of a review of UAB's finances that Watts, the Board of Trustees, and the Blazer Athletic Department is going to get from a group of independent officials, and denying their findings would obliterate any remaining credibility UAB's leadership would have left among the Blazer community as well as regional and national media.
An interesting thing to note is that this report leaked around 10:30 PM CST on Friday night. Whether that was a deliberate move by UAB officials to blunt the impact of the story on the report's original release date of next Monday or not will be a matter of speculation.
Before #FreeUAB busts open the champagne bottles, a word of caution: if Watts is hell bent on keeping UAB football dead and buried for eternity, the report did give him a viable albeit cowardly way out by noting that UAB could survive long term without football. However, CSS all but said that UAB would be a shell of itself if Watts went that route.
If Watts and the BoT support UAB as much as they say they do, then they need to end the current standoff and let their actions reflect the will of the UAB campus. CSS has given them a well-researched rationale to do so.
The outcome of this mess will determine one or more conclusions: Whether Watts and UAB officials hastily abandoned football based on shoddy numbers and conclusions, whether the BoT really wants to oppress UAB, and whether UAB itself will be given an opportunity to survive as an independent university within the UA system.
Here's hoping UAB's leadership finally makes the right decision.