Ray Watts, president of UAB, announced today that our school’s football program will be cut. Immediately. Despite performing well this season under the direction of a new coach–even qualifying for a bowl for the first time in years–the program is draining UAB’s budget. According to the Alabama Board of Trustees, the decision to shut down football is a “necessity” for our institution.
While I’m not the biggest football fan, Bruce and I have taken the girls (and recently, Edwina) to UAB games to cheer on the team. I’ve had the occasional football player in class and have seen the pressure on these guys to maintain a play-worthy GPA while living and breathing football every day on the field and in the gym.
In a state like Alabama, having a school football team matters. Alabama and Auburn are the indisputable kings of the game in this part of the country, but students at every school appreciate having a dog in the fight.
Simply put, college sports offer students a sense of belonging. Life in a university can be isolating–staying up late to study for exams, worrying about maintaining the necessary GPA to receive funding, feeling the pangs of homesickness–and a Saturday at the football field can help fill the void.
Plus, for many players on the field, as well as for the musicians marching in the band and the cheerleaders rooting for their team, football offers the means to an education.
Here at UAB, there’s a sense of loss among students, faculty, and certainly the players who won’t be taking the field again for the Blazers.