There's no doubt today is one of the most incredible days in the history of UAB, of the city of Birmingham and of college football itself. This UAB football story will be studied, talked about and, by anyone in leadership, recited as a cautionary tale for decades to come.
The thrill of victory tastes sweet. I feel as good or better today than I would watching my team pull off the biggest of upsets on a fall Saturday. I can, along with many of you, say I aided a movement that swayed some of the most powerful people in the state of Alabama as the decision to cut football at UAB was reversed in a mere six months.
It will always be a moment to remember:
All of that said, we've still got a long way to go.
Ray Watts carried no hint of remorse or regret into this afternoon's press conference, he would not admit the wrong decision was made in December and stated several times it is up to UAB supporters and the city of Birmingham to back whatever success the program sees in the future.
There were plenty of zingers, but here are the five that stood out the most:
"The goal of our strategic plan is to position UAB to be successful."
This is one of many statements by Watts that the average person could not spit out with a straight face. What "strategic plan" involves eliminating a 20-year-old program, sending almost everyone involved in it far away where they can never return, and then bringing the program back a few months later? Unless Watts is undertaking a bizarro world New Coke strategy, that doesn't sound like a plan.
Universities will study UAB's decisions these past 6 months for years and hope to God they never replicate them.— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) June 1, 2015
A few of the braver media members asked questions along those lines, which didn't draw real responses from Watts. The last was met with "we're moving forward."
"We're not in a position to borrow money to build athletic facilities."
Our list is in no particular order, but if it was this would be number one. It came as Watts made sure everyone knew the university was not going to help much in bringing football, rifle and bowling back. UAB will take on zero debt in order to build facilities, which Watts asserted was a standard practice.
That's complete nonsense, of course. The status quo at most most FBS programs is to do exactly that, take on debt and issue bonds to build facilities. Not at UAB in the past, and apparently not at UAB in the future.
"From the outset Dr. Watts made it abundantly clear that everyone would have a voice."
This one was from UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram, who came across much better than Watts throughout. This is the same Dr. Watts who the Blazer football team had never seen prior to him killing football and said he loved the school more than they did.
It's the same Dr. Watts who remains president in spite of four no-confidence votes. The one who claimed he'd asked for donations to save UAB football and received none, which is perhaps the biggest lie of all in light of the $20-plus million raised in just the last few weeks. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
"When comparing apples to apples, the CSS report and the Carr Sports report were very similar."
There was a $25 million difference between the two reports in arguably the five most important areas of study. Please define "very similar."
"I made this decision today."
I really, really hope not. The point Watts was making was he listened to every constituent group and continued studying and assessing the situation right up until the very end. I get it, and hope that's true. But please tell me there was more preparation than this. Given the overall lack of detail, maybe it's literally true as well.
Which leads us to...
"Our first season will be 20XX"
Yep, a non-statement made the list. Watts did provide great news in all but guaranteeing UAB will remain in the FBS, remain in Conference USA and will keep Bill Clark as head football coach.
We got no word on when the first season will be, how the program will jump from 0 to 85 scholarships, if there will be transition years spent at the FCS level or lower, etc, etc. As many have pointed out, what we're left with is a self-imposed SMU death penalty. If you've watched programs like Georgia State and UNC-Charlotte stumble out of the gate you know starting from scratch is not easy.
Watts said the information will be made public eventually (in his PR parlance: "there will be timelines for meeting pledges, both public and private). It all sounded familiar.
Again, today is a time to celebrate. This whole week is a time to celebrate for the "vocal few" who turned the hands of Watts and the BoT.
As Bill Clark said in his official statement, this is a critical first step on UAB football's new path.
Emphasis on "first."
Final thoughts for now: Today a day to celebrate for #FreeUAB. But it should also increase calls for admin accountability, especially Watts— Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) June 1, 2015