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Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama


September 22, 2009 3:10 PM

Is it time to pull plug on UAB football?


Before the UAB-Troy football game last Saturday, The Birmingham News ran a story asking the question: Who’s No. 3 in State?

Obviously, Alabama and Auburn are the top two college football programs in the state, while UAB and Troy are trying their hardest to be taken seriously at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.

Troy has a much longer and richer football history. The Trojans are celebrating their 100th season this fall. Most of that was spent at the small-college level before they made the jump to NCAA Division I-A status, now FBS, in 2001. They are members of the Sun Belt Conference.

UAB didn’t have a football program until 1991 and made the move to FBS in 1996. The Blazers are members of Conference USA.

After the Trojans’ 27-14 spanking of the Blazers on Saturday, the more legitimate question might be:

Is it time to pull the plug on the UAB football program?

As I wrote before the season started, the Blazers did little in their first 18 years to make themselves relevant. They created a buzz several years ago when quarterback Darrell Hackney was throwing passes to wide receiver Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons), but the buzz has been silent the past three years.

With current coach Neil Callaway in his third season, UAB desperately needed a good 2009 season to renew interest in the program, but after a rousing 44-24 victory against Rice to kick off the season, the Blazers have fallen flat. They lost at home to double-digit underdog SMU 35-33 in their second game and last week fell at Troy, which came in 0-2.

Now, UAB might not win another game until November. Their next five games are at Texas A&M on Saturday, at home against Southern Miss, at No. 4 Ole Miss, at Marshall and at UTEP. It’s conceivable the Blazers could win at Marshall or UTEP, but I doubt it because frankly they are not a good road team.

In other words, UAB is facing a 1-7 start and staring at its fifth consecutive losing season. And their shrinking fan base – the Blazers drew fewer than 20,000 spectators to their first two home games – probably will shrink some more.

UAB is still a part of the University of Alabama System, which includes the Crimson Tide, and is governed by the UA System Board of Trustees. With their schools in financial straits because of state budget cuts, the board could decide to save some money by axing football at UAB. The Blazers do not have a self-sustaining program as The Birmingham News story pointed out.

A friend of mine who is a UAB supporter, booster and friend of Gene Bartow, the former UAB basketball coach and athletic director who started the football program, told me he has heard some talk to that effect.

So, UAB football might not be around to celebrate its 20th birthday in two years.

At this point, I don’t think it will be missed.

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