The University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) surprised many by making the NCAA tournament, and surprised even more by winning its first game. Now, there are people who want to use UAB’s new-found notoriety to try to resurrect the recently-disbanded football program.
According to Sports Illustrated, UAB finished fifth in the Conference USA, or C-USA, but entered the C-USA tournament, picked up some momentum, and became C-USA champions, earning them an automatic NCAA tournament berth. The Tournament Selection Committee seeded UAB in the number 14 slot in the South region, where they would await the number three seed, Big 12 champion Iowa State Cyclones.
Iowa State, one of the more attractive picks for bracketologists this year, had successfully repeated as Big 12 champion for the second year. Georges Niang, widely considered the Cyclones’ best player, had brought his team together for what they felt would be a long run in the NCAA tournament.
Someone forgot to tell UAB.
The Cyclones opened up an early 10-point lead during the first half, but UAB outscored the Cyclones 29-16 to take a three-point lead at the half. The two teams battled fiercely throughout the second half, and UAB found themselves down 55-53 with just under a minute remaining. Some good passing on the inbound got them the lead again, and some timely double-teaming defense on Niang helped preserve the 60-59 victory for UAB, who next face the UCLA Bruins.
Some UAB fans are using UAB’s current moment in the sun to try to reverse what many Blazers fans perceive to be an egregious wrong. According to Alabama.com, state representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills) has authored three bills to try to reverse UAB’s decision to suspend the school’s bowling, rifle, and football program. Ray Watts, UAB president, announced earlier this year that the three sports would be suspended due to rising costs to run all three sports. Williams has introduced bills to the Alabama state government to force UAB to reinstitute the sports, especially football, to set an ethics guideline for college authorities to follow before making such decisions, and to select a new Board of Trustees for UAB.
Since Watts’ decision to suspend the three sports, calls for his resignation have grown louder and stronger. Now, since the Blazers have the podium in a national setting, those who feel that the three sports should not have been suspended will only get louder. To this point, Watts has refused to revisit his decision, or to resign.
If his decision is overturned, the return of football to UAB would have to wait until 2016, as there is not enough time to put the program back together for 2015.
[Image courtesy of Andy Lyons/Getty Images]