As we watched events unfold alongside students on Tuesday, much of the focus on UAB president Ray Watts’s announcement about the discontinuation of the football, bowling, and rifle teams has focused on UAB being the first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school to do so since 1995. It’s important, but it’s necessary to look at the bigger picture in Division I in order to see a larger trend and to find a possible solution.
A review of a list of discontinued football programs shows that UAB is the sixteenth Division I school overall to make the choice in that time period.
Current total enrollment
|University of the Pacific||CA||1995||
|University of Evansville||IN||1997||
|California State University, Northridge||CA||2001||
|St. John’s University (New York)||NY||2002||
|East Tennessee State University||TN||2003||
|St. Mary’s College of California||CA||2003||
|St. Peter’s University||NJ||2006||
|La Salle University||PA||2007||
|University of Alabama at Birmingham||AL||2014||
The majority of those schools compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) with 10 out of 16 located in the Northeast — the place where football was born; three other schools are located in California (including the largest of them, Cal State Northridge with more than 38,000 currently enrolled). It may not seem like it makes sense to talk about the FCS schools until you realize the most recent example of a relaunched program comes from those ranks — East Tennessee State University. As you can see above, the program did close in 2003, but is scheduled for a return next fall. The full explanation is included as part of an editorial over on Dear Birmingham.
Another angle that has received significant attention these last two days is the potential fate of Legion Field. The Football Capital of the South. Realize if all options are on the table, there are two things that need to be remembered.
Legion Field is McLendon Park — the football stadium is located within the largest piece of property dedicated to park use in the city of Birmingham. (Yes, Red Mountain Park is huge, but it’s technically overseen by a state commission; Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is as its name change states, a preserve, and its managed by a non-profit organization.) If (as unlikely as it should be) considered options include demolition, file away the fact that it means we could see the land transformed into the city’s largest park. This could be seen as a catalytic project for the surrounding blocks.
Non-park use requires a public vote — Yes, it’s true. The property is dedicated for purposes related to parks and recreation. According to the city code, if it is to be used for any other purpose, a public referendum will need to be held and it pass in order for that new type of solution to move forward. The called meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation board to discuss possible options is currently scheduled for next Monday.