UAB deserves an on-campus stadium

When the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced Monday that it was bringing its football program back, merely six months after cutting it, I had mixed emotions. First and foremost, I was excited that the students, faculty, and future Blazer football players once again had a team of their own. College football, as we at The University of Alabama can attest, is a distinct collegiate experience that everyone deserves to have. A football team is a cultural rallying point that improves the well-being of the school it represents, especially in the academic and research departments, which benefit from the active alumni base and interest a football team can garner.

This good news, however, was marred by one question. Why was the program cut in the first place?

Because of the six-month absence, the team will not be able to return until 2016. Coach Bill Clark, who stayed with UAB throughout this fiasco (and no one would have blamed him had he decided to leave), will have to rebuild with new players and staff. It is disappointing— especially following a 2014 season of improvement and excitement— that the team needlessly has to start from scratch.

UAB President Ray Watts still has questions to answer, and UAB’s football program is certainly not out of the woods yet. Watts claimed the program was cut due to a lack of funding. To bring it back now and claim that “tangible commitment” from supporters is the reason seems suspect. The university recently built a soccer stadium, valued at $1.5 million. Its basketball team has been enjoying success and national attention in the NCAA tournament. To top it off, a plan to build an on-campus football stadium, funded by municipal bonds from the city, was vetoed by the UA Board of Trustees in 2011. To me and many others, it seems like Watts and others involved are actively trying to push out the football program instead of trying to save it.

Most of UAB’s financial problems probably come from the fact that they play at Legion Field, a decrepit stadium that many students do not feel safe attending. Attendance is low and interest seems low because most would rather watch the games at home than go to Legion Field. In order to become a viable long-term Division I football team, UAB needs to do something about its field situation. An on-campus stadium would do wonders for the school by giving it a greater campus identity and ensuring the UAB Blazers are a team for years to come.

The students and faculty of UAB, who are among the best and brightest in the country, deserve it.

Kyle Simpson is a junior majoring in biology. His 
column runs weekly.

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