On Tuesday it was announced that UAB was killing off its D-1 football program. I wasn’t in the room when it was announced. But someone was.

Seeing the rage, sadness of the players, listening to the students scream outside the doors of the meeting room, and the listening to men cry out loud that the school was taking away what they fought for for four years was heartbreaking.

If the reactions don’t kill you inside as a college football fan, you don’t have a heart.

Blame has been appointed. Some people blame Paul Bryant – the grandson of Bear Bryant – and University of Alabama Board of Trustees Member and the late Gene Bartow, the goddfather of UAB Athletics (as reported by Deadspin). If this true, Paul, then you just demolished a piece of the state where your grandfather returned to because he heard Mama calling him back. Nice one. How did he think cutting UAB would curry favor with fans of Alabama and Auburn? Not only are the schools making tens of millions from ESPN every year, but the stadiums are sold out, anyway!!

Others blame UAB President Ray Watts – who announced the death of the program to the players with the empathy and likeability of a banking CEO announcing mass job cuts for the good of the shareholders – who had already employed a sports consultancy to help eviscerate the program via smokescreen anyway (called a “report”). By the way, he looks like Phil Fulmer, one of the more revered people in the South.

Anyway, this made me remember a press conference by Western Carolina coach Mark Speir, after his team had played Alabama, who ripped ESPN analyst and former Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit, after his College Gameday tirade in which he hammered big schools for playing FCS schools in November, and ruining Week 12. Although we don’t agree with a lot of Speir said, he said one thing that was really interesting: “Our boys went down there and played their butts off, and the only reason a lot of them was there was the scholarship money raised by the money we get from playing Alabama.

Before continuing this, I’d like to say that I am a hypocrite. I’ve heckled every SEC school in the country who has played a Directional Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, but suddenly, I’m seeing the point. The smaller schools need the money to survive. 

Of course, it’s not great sport. The SEC schools put up about 70 points in an atmosphere that’s one-up from the Christmas office party when everyone’s a little uneasy about getting overenthusiastic because of the tutt-tutting that might commence and the homecoming crowd get to smile and be happy because they beat the living crap out of some directional school in preparation for the Big Rivalry Game the next week. It’s like watching the Christians and the lions. Sometimes, the Christian wins (see Appalachian State vs Michigan (one of our favorite games of all-time), UAB itself against LSU in 2000 (when Nick Saban was head coach there) or even little Georgia Southern against Florida in 2013), but not often.

But the games provide money for the smaller programs. Because let’s face it, NCAA regulations dictate that not every player out of a high school – despite the fact that every one of them has worked their butt off – is going to play for a Power 5 conference team. Plus, bigger teams can put together something like the SEC does, in which they REQUIRE one or two Power 5 conference match-ups a year, meaning there’s still room for a bit of financial generosity for the Directional Carolinas of this world.

Because if this tradition (and let’s face it, we love our traditions here in the SEC) doesn’t continue, then schools like Western Carolina who get hundreds of thousands from playing games like this, are doomed. The costs that go into putting on teams is so astronomical that they will suffer.

 

 

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