Recent legislation that approved full cost-of-attendance scholarships for student-athletes reinforced UAB’s decision to cut its football program, according to school president Ray Watts.
“We anticipated that,” Watts said. “Our consultants, who are experts in NCAA Division-I athletics, had a strong feeling there we going to be additional changes and additional expenses. We took that into strong consideration in our planning, not to the full extent but partial. But, yes, I think that’s part of the overall challenge we are all facing.”
The Power 5 conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — passed a full cost-of-attendance measure on Jan. 18 meant to cover the true cost of attending college. The additional stipend is meant to cover personal and miscellaneous expenses. UAB, as a member of Conference USA, isn’t directly impacted by the Power 5 legislation, though C-USA and the majority of the other conferences have committed to also doling out full cost-of-attendance.
CarrSports Consulting, which conducted the full review on UAB athletics, determined the school would pay its student-athletes $5,422 per year to cover full cost-of-attendance and unlimited meals. At the 85 scholarship limit, that represents an annual cost of $460,870. It was one of multiple financial reasons, including a projected necessary $49 million investment over a five-year period, cited in the school’s decision to dump football.
However, the school recently announced the UAB Athletics Assessment Task Force to reevaluate the CarrSports findings and the numbers behind the school’s decision. Former UAB head coach Bill Clark told AL.com on Thursday that the review gave him a “glimmer of hope” that football could return to the school.
Watts doesn’t feel alone
When President Watts announced the school’s decision to disband its football program on Dec. 2, effective immediately, he generated national headlines. UAB was the first Division I program to drop its football program in two decades, and the fact a school in Alabama was the one involved made it an even more salacious story. How could a football program in the most football crazy state in America not survive?
Watts has become the face of a rebuke against the rising costs in college athletics. While he is a man on an island when it comes to cutting football, he believes his Conference USA peers and other presidents are also struggling to make the financials of college athletics work.
“I think everybody is facing similar kind of decisions and challenges,” he said. “We looked at the expenses of collegiate athletics across difference conferences and they are all going up. Not linear, but faster than that.”
No other school has since come out and said it was considering going a similar path as UAB, though Kent State, a member of the Mid-American Conference, recently commissioned a review of its athletic department. Multiple Conference USA athletic directors expressed disappointment in UAB’s decision in conversations with AL.com.
Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky believes the impact of recent measures like cost-of-attendance is overblown. While UAB has cited it as one of its reasons behind its decision to drop football, the commissioner calls UAB an “extraordinary situation.”
“It’s completely manageable. I can tell you that for sure,” Banowsky said about the new costs. “Our folks are not overly concerned about that and have plans to implement over time. When you look at the universities closely, what you realize is some operate at a pretty efficient level and get great outcomes. They are able to manage very well and they are not overly concerned about the changes, at least in the short run.”
This article was republished with permission from the original author, John Talty, and the original publisher, Al.com.