As the future of UAB football sits in limbo, the fight to keep the Blazers’ program afloat went, ahem, ablaze on Monday.
It started with a protest with hundreds of supporters marching on president Dr. Ray Watts’ office.
— Jesse Chambers (@jessechambers) December 1, 2014
— Madison Underwood (@MadisonU) December 1, 2014
Beyond the streets of Birmingham, the push to keep UAB football stretched all the way to governor Robert Bentley’s office in Montgomery. “Hopefully it’s going to survive, and I’m going to find out some more information about the situation over the next day or two,” Bentley told AL.com. And while the University of Alabama system has worked to kill the program, UAB’s peers across the state showed a sign of solidarity.
But by far the strongest statement came from members of the team, players who may literally be in their final hours as teammates. In a letter provided to AL.com, they wrote:
To Dr. Ray Watts:
As the college football season comes to a close and teams begin to measure their accomplishments, this should be a time for celebrating our progress and dreaming of what we can achieve next. Instead, our team, and all of the student-athletes at UAB, have been left to wonder if our future is about goals, growth, and vision – or if it is about quitting.
For several weeks we have lived and played under a cloud of rumors about the future of the football program at UAB, even as we fought to become bowl eligible for the first time in ten seasons. From our own athletic director and president we have heard no vote of public support. Nothing at all except for questions about whether we can perform at a ‘level of excellence.’
We have been left to wonder about our future as, game by game, we got closer to accomplishing goals for our university that most considered impossible heading into this season.
So we ask you, Dr. Watts, where is the excellence in that?
While we have had no support from our president or athletic director, the support from everywhere else has been overwhelming. We have seen our former players rally around us to raise money and urge you to fight for UAB. We have seen the Mayor of Birmingham and the City Council stand in unison and speak out about the value of our program time and time again as they pledged their support and finances.
We have been uplifted by the business leaders in our community who rallied around us and told you that when we win, all of Birmingham wins. We have felt the continuous support from our fellow students, our professors, our alumni, and Blazer fans as attendance at our games grew almost 150% this year. And we have been driven by the support from our own coaches who have shown us the very meaning of the word commitment as they have fought for this university and for us even as their own livelihoods have grown more and more uncertain.
We are honored to play for all of these people.
So if everyone is for us, Dr. Watts, who exactly is against us?
Every one of us has fought for UAB football all year long. Many of us have fought for UAB football every day for the last four years. When we were recruited, we were sold on the very best of what UAB can be, and how UAB would in turn, make us our best. We believed in UAB then, and we believe in UAB now – which is why we will not stop fighting for what is right.
So we ask you to provide the leadership and direction we need. Stand up for your students and alumni. Stand alongside the businesses, leadership and people of Birmingham. And fight for us.
Or, with all due respect, look us in the eye and tell us you don’t believe in us.
The UAB Football Senior Class of 2015 on behalf of the UAB football team
The #FreeUAB movement went well beyond Birmingham and the state borders, trending nationally on Twitter on Monday evening.