Hearsay, whispers and rumors be gone – the official word is UAB football is coming back.
This week, following a decision to reinstate the program announced by UAB President Ray Watts on June 1, the UAB Alumni Society welcomed UAB fans to celebrate. Among them, St. Clair County residents joined to show their support for the decision.
Pell City’s Steve Foster, owner of Therapy South, has been a member of the UAB Alumni Society for 35 years since graduating from the university in 1980.
“I chose UAB because it’s one of the top-10 schools in the country, and I wanted the best,” Foster said.
Looking forward to seeing the Blazers take the field again, Foster says reinstating these programs means a lot for the present students and alumni.
“This is important for student life and a great way for alumni to rally support for not only the team, but the school.”
According to a report by the Associated Press, Watts reversed his decision to cut the school’s football, rifle and bowling programs, which was originally made citing exorbitant costs. The report states donors have pledged an estimated $17.2 million to cover the projected deficit the football program could create over the next five years.
The decision created a surge of criticism, even in St. Clair County, where nearly every municipality passed a resolution in 2015 supporting the reinstatement of the football program.
“It’s an exciting day,” Foster said. “We appreciate the voice of UAB supporters that made this day possible. There’s been an overwhelming response from donors who came together to change the outcome of this program. We thank Dr. Watts for being willing to listen to the voice of UAB and for changing his course.”
Joining Foster in celebration at the Alumni Society were members of the Marching Blazers Band, the color guard, Golden Girls and cheerleaders who were sporting their team colors of green and gold. St. Clair County native and UAB percussion player Georgia Ellard was amongst the fans.
“I think when these programs were cancelled it was terrible,” she said. “So, it is really awesome to see the community come together and to see how effective joining forces can be.”
A music education major, Georgia says the atmosphere on campus has definitely changed over the course of the past few months. What she likes most about overcoming this seemingly impossible challenge is the camaraderie that’s emerged throughout the UAB campus.
“It’s great to see the growth and unity,” she said. “It’s a true family atmosphere.”
As a member of the UAB Alumni Society board of directors Foster added that he was exhilarated by the other ways breathing new life into these programs can be a win/win for the school as a whole. He extended his gratitude to everyone who played a part in helping bring the programs back.
“Not only does it extend good will, but the fundraising dollars allow us to raise money for scholarships and research,” he said.
When the Blazers will take the field is still in question as Ingram told the packed house that they will play as soon as they can. Watts cited a possible six-month timeline.
“We’ve received tremendous support from our conference,” said UAB’s new athletic director Mark Ingram. “Other directors and coaches have been very supportive. Our intention is to come back and win a championship.”