The University of Alabama at Birmingham football program that was disbanded in December will be reinstated in 2016, university president Ray Watts confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday. The news was first reported by AL.com and FOX6 WBRC.
In early December, Watts announced the controversial shutdown of the football program on the heels of the Blazers’ 6-6 record last season under first-year coach Bill Clark. After the announcement of the program's cancelation, the UAB Football Foundation raised more than $15 million in donations to try to save the team.
At a press conference on Monday, Watts discussed the decision to reinstate the football program.
Watts said external sources have pledged $17.2 million in support. Watts also laid out the principles that must be satisfied for the reinstatement process to move forward.
1) Maintaining, but not exceeding, "our institutional support for athletics at its current level."
2) Timelines for "meeting pledges, both public and private, and having money available soon."
3) Setting a "reasonable fundraising timetable that provides every chance for success" and that does not involve borrowing "money to build athletic facilities."
"Let there be no doubt: Our vision for UAB and what we can accomplish is bolder than ever," Watts said. "Our leadership, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community are pulling together and we will more forward more effectively than ever. Our commitment to excellence, to service and to prudent financial stewardship is stronger than ever.
"We must and will be successful because so many depend on us. There is a lot of work to be done, and by working together, we are up to the task."
This past season marked the first time UAB had been bowl eligible since 2004, the school’s lone bowl appearance. Clark took over a program that had not posted a winning season in a decade and was so downtrodden that Clark's predecessor, Garrick McGee, quit on his own accord after two seasons to become the offensive coordinator at Louisville.
UAB’s football program got its start in 1991. The last FBS school to drop football was Pacific in '95.
Clark remains under contract with UAB through January 2017 and had planned to sit out the upcoming season after turning down job offers. A majority of his players have transferred to other schools, where they are immediately eligible to play.
In January, Watts created the Athletic Assessment Task Force to review his decision to do away with the football, rifle and women’s bowling teams. College Sports Solutions was also hired to issue a report on the CarrSports Report, a university-wide yearlong comprehensive strategic planning study that included the evaluation of the financial viability of football.
Watts made his original decision about the three programs with information from the CarrSports Report.
College Sports Solutions’s report maintained that UAB continuing without the three sports or reinstating them were both “viable options.” Per the AP report, UAB likely would not have remained in Conference USA without football.