TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Eliminating distractions is something that University of Alabama coach Nick Saban always preaches, but as the Crimson Tide prepares to play in the SEC Championship Game this week another one is developing from a different part of the state.
According to numerous reports UAB president Ray Watts is expected to announce the dismantling of the football program today.
Although attendance more than doubled under first-year coach Bill Clark, the Blazers still play games in an off-capus stadium and only attracted about 20,000 fans per game this season.
“I don’t have any thoughts because it’s not what I’m focused on,” Saban said when asked about UAB during his press conference Monday. “I didn’t even now that. This is kind of news to me. My thoughts are always with the players and the people in our profession that are affected by losing their jobs, whether it’s getting fired or someone discontinuing their program. I hate to see that for anyone in our profession. I certainly hate to see players have to go through the things they have to go through when they have to change programs or don’t have the opportunity to play were they thought they were going to play.
“Saying all that, I understand the other side of it, too. There’s a business aspect to all this that has to make sense to people relative to justifying athletic programs in general. And that’s above my pay grade, and I’m not involved at all in any opinion in what should and shouldn’t be done.”
Alabama and UAB have the same board of trustees as the University of Alabama System oversees both schools and Alabama-Huntsville.
UAB is a little over an hour drive east of Tuscaloosa, but the two programs have never played on the football field.
Saban did face UAB once during his first year at LSU in 2000, and lost the homecoming game 13-10. It’s one of just seven schools he has a losing record against: Florida State 0-1; Navy 0-1; Nebraska 0-2; Stanford 0-1; UAB 0-1; Utah 0-1; Washington 0-1.
Among those who have spoken out in support of keeping the program going include Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox, a former UAB player himself. On Monday night former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron tweeted: “Everybody in the state should stand up for UAB & help keep their football program alive. I wish everybody the best. Keep the Blazers alive.”
The UAB joined the Bowl Subdivision in 1996 and played this season in Conference USA. At 6-6 it is bowl eligible. Two of its losses were to SEC teams, 47-34 at Mississippi State, and 45-17 at Arkansas.
The last FBS school to eliminate football was Pacific in 1995.