How badly is the Univ. of Ala. hurting Birmingham?

I graduated from U of A, love Bama football, and wish I could be paid a dollar every time I yell, “Roll Tide!”

Many of my friends are just like me; except the ones that do that “War Eagle” thing.  Living in Birmingham is all about the Tide and the Tigers.

I believe it’s written in our State Constitution somewhere in one those 860 amendments that when a new comer moves to our State he must choose between Alabama and Auburn.

This is great fun and we all enjoy every minute of it.

However, as an advocate for our Birmingham region, I worry about how supportive the University of Alabama is of Birmingham.

Certainly in sports, U of A has been a questionable friend:

  • Years ago Birmingham had a chance to get an NFL team—rumor says Bear Bryant stopped it.
  • Alabama played football in Birmingham and then moved its games to Tuscaloosa.
  • Alabama refuses to play UAB in major sports (which hurts UAB’s athletic program).
  • Last year U of A Trustees killed UAB’s plan for an on-campus football stadium.
  • U of A (and Auburn) pilfered the State Super Six High School Football Championship from Birmingham.
  • Birmingham continues to fight Alabama and Auburn’s attempt to steal the Alabama High School Basketball Playoffs.

It’s clear that Birmingham’s future is much more closely aligned to UAB than to Alabama or Auburn.

Can you even imagine a Birmingham without UAB?

What would Birmingham look like without the 86 square blocks occupied by UAB?

Where would our people work?  UAB is the largest employer in the State with 18,000 employees–and that doesn’t count the tens of thousands of people and businesses that support UAB.

People from all over the world travel to UAB for healthcare–we are minutes away.

Eighteen thousand of our students depend on UAB for their education.

UAB has an economic impact of  over $5 billion a year.

If Alabama and Auburn doubled in size and UAB folded, our Birmingham region would be devastated.

In recent years, Birmingham’s lost many public and S&P 500 companies, and in my opinion, will continue to do so.  UAB is a rock.  It’s not going anywhere.

We should keep trying to recruit new businesses to Birmingham, but we might get a better result by putting all our efforts into growing UAB.

Birmingham is UAB and UAB is Birmingham.

The University of Alabama, as it should, is looking out for itself and its home in Tuscaloosa.

We in Birmingham should do the same for ourselves by supporting UAB any way we can.

Let’s turn Birmingham around.  Click here to sign up for our newsletter.  There’s power in numbers. (Opt out at any time)

David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP). 

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17 thoughts on “How badly is the Univ. of Ala. hurting Birmingham?”

  1. I understand your points and completely agree that UAB is vital for Birmingham and the region. However, I feel that your first two bullet points are a bit unfair. If bullet #1 is based on a rumor, I don’t think it’s fair to use it as proof that the University of Alabama has it in for Birmingham. In regards to point #2, I don’t think UA stopped playing games at Legion Field in order to hurt the city of Birmingham. Rather, it probably had more to do with the location of Legion Field and the fact that Bryant-Denny Stadium was increasing its seating capacity through various expansions. I can’t argue against your other bullet points.

    1. Clint, your points are well taken.

      Please note I labeled item #1 as a rumor.

      I didn’t mean to insinuate that Alabama is hurting Birmingham intentionally. U of A is acting in its own best interest. My point is that we in Birmingham should act in our own best interest. Supporting UAB is certainly in our own best interest. Please continue to give feedback.

  2. *Anybody who works in the UAB Athletics Department can tell you that the Board of Trustees does everything it can to stifle UAB’s athletics program, diverting everything related to growth to the UA program.  Each campus of the UA System needs an autonomous board of trustees if we are to avoid the conflicts of interest which now exist.

  3. *If U of A took their medical schools to Tuscaloosa then UAB would shut down.  UAB is nothing without the support that U of A lends through its medical programs. 

    The bullets about the Super Six and basketball being pilfered or stolen by U of A and AU is nothing more a lie covered with hyperbole.  The Super Six was bid out to any city with the site capacity and resources, just as it was done in the mid 90’s.  Birmingham and Legion Field could no longer compete with progressive and technologically advanced cities and sites.  If you have been to Jordan Hare or Bryant Denny in the last 15 years then you know each is a far better facility and each town is far better suited to host guests than Legion Field and Birmingham.  Legion Field had part of its upper deck collapse for goodness sake.

    The real truth is that U of A has helped prop up UAB and Birmingham for far to long.  It is funny how you never mention about all the money U of A has pumped into Birmingham’s economy over the years by playing football games or placing their medical schools in Birmingham.

    There are some folks in this world who feel like everybody owe them something.  There are some folks who feel like schools an hour away owe something to Birmingham.  Let’s face it, you are pushing Birmingham into the welfare queen status of cities, where everybody and every town owe them something.

    Good Luck with that.  

    1. John, I obviously upset you and I apologize for that. Your points are well taken. I featured Un. of Ala., but the sole purpose of this piece is to encourage us Birminghamians to stand for ourselves. Your feedback is welcome and appreciated.

  4. You know, if I hated Birmingham this much, I really think I’d move to Auburn or Tuscaloosa where everything is oh so perfect. Dude, UAT does not exactly lend its support by somehow allowing Bham the use “its” medical programs. Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce raised the money to recruit the medical school from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in the 1940s and it was in this city that UAB Medical School made its move from nothing to world class medical prominence. It’s ludicrous to think that the medical school could possibly pick up and now move to Tuscaloosa, of all places. 

    In my opinion, Bham helped UA football far more than it ever took. It not only hosted the first Ala-Auburn game, but gave UAT a platform conducive to full recognition by the national media with a decent airport, hotels and a larger venue than Bryant Denny for years. And yes, the Iron Bowl is no longer the Iron Bowl except in name only, as its not in Bham (the “iron” city) and its not a “bowl” type game any longer with equal distribution of tickets. I don’t know if its  fact, but I’ve also heard for years that the UA trustees torpedoed the recruitment of Jimbo Fisher as UAB’s head coach so UAB could never really get off the ground.  

    What I think is the unanswered but fascinating question in front of us now is will new President Ray Watts continue his predecessors’ attempts to create at UAB a UCLA-type relationship to U. Cal Berkeley-type mother campus (which apparently got Ann Reynolds and Carol Garrison thumped by the UA trustees) — or does he see our path more akin to maybe UAH, a grad school on steroids?

    But to your point that UAT has helped prop up Birmingham – don’t make me laugh. No, on second thought I will. Ha, ha, ha. 

  5. Wow.  If Birmingham actually had a chance to get a real sports team, and some amateur football coach scuttled it, that is truly sickening.  I had never heard that rumor before.

  6. I love Bama and will not hide the fact. But as a few people pointed out I think this is an unfair to single out Alabama. 

    rumor of Bear Bryant stopping the NFL? Since he is not longer alive how is the NFL not in Birmingham now? I guess Bull Connor and George Wallace had nothing to do with the NFL not showing up in Birmingham?

    You say Bama pulled games out of Birmingham, but leave out the fact that Auburn used to play games in our fair city. I don’t blame either school for pulling out, even back when I would go to XFL CFL etc games that stadium was falling apart, concessions (ran by Bham) was always running out of food and lines were terrible, bathrooms were always nasty and parking was terrible.

    Bama not playing UAB, is an opinion that it hurts UAB. I personally would not mind stomping UAB each year. Why can’t UAB play Ohio State, FSU, Oregon, Va Tech and make a name for themselves?… you know like Miami and Florida State did before them… If they play all of the big boys they will make their own name, not having to rely on Bama or even Auburn to make their name.

    UA killing UAB’s stadium is Bama’s fault? UAB draws realistically 8 to 10k fans a game, and how many of those are paid?  A football team needs to make money and be self sufficient. If UAB was making money I would be in your corner. I would like to point out you are kind of arguing against yourself with complaining Bama left Bham for its own stadium yet you want UAB to leave Legion Field also for its own stadium.

    Bama and Auburn stole the state championships? The last time I checked Bham did not own the state championships and the 2 schools through competition outbid and won the rights to host the championship. Why did Birmingham not put together a better package? Or are to accept the subpar job Bham has done with the state championships and not expect any better? Have you compared the experiences of the 3 ? Bama and Auburn both put on first class events. Bathrooms were clean and well stocked, I ordered food and food was actually there that was on the menu. Legion Field runs out of hotdogs around half time. There was not a soap dispenser in the mens room at legion field, luckily I had hand sanitizer.

    As for the last point, if Bham gets its act together and puts together a better package than Bama or auburn then it will have no worries that the Basketball playoffs will be stolen. I havent been to the BJCC since the steeldogs were in town but they did do a good job at that place. 

    In conclusion I do see some of your point, but instead of blaming Bama or Auburn for Bham’s woes, Bham is responsible for its own woes. Instead of crying that Bama won’t play at a dilapidated stadium, build a better stadium and they will play there. Bama goes and plays at the good stadiums. Just look at the Georgia Dome, Jerry world, there are even rumors they will play in Ireland. I do miss going to Bham to see them play. But I don’t miss the crappy facilities their. BDS is much nicer and I can get food on the menu(crazy about those dreamland nachos) and soap in the mens room.

    God Bless and enjoyed the article 

    1. *It’s easy to say UAB should play Ohio State, etc. to build a name for themselves. I guess LSU, Nebraska and Florida State don’t count (UAB has played them) and Alabama paying Georgia State and Western Carolina to play in Tuscaloosa is an example of their desire to play top-caliber competition. Why not UAB and keep the money in state? the answer is obvious: recruiting. It also amazes me that a university with over 18,000 students doesn’t have an on-campus stadium. It seems that smaller colleges such as Jacksonville State, West Alabama, North Alabama and Troy can have them but UAB is too small? If Legion Field is too run-down for Alabama to play in, why is is sufficient for UAB? Once again, the answer appears to be the Alabama board of trustees and their seeming fear of a successful UAB athletic program. Such short-sightedness is endemic to this state and one of the reasons I am sure this blog exists. The state of Alabama benefits from a world-class medical center in Birmingham and I have no doubt it would benefit from one more outstanding athletic program – it might even help keep more students in state. 

  7. *Strong work on this article. It spoke the absolute truth, and IMO, was not “seeking out” Alabama. Their track record of obstruction & oppression of UAB athletics & the city of Birmingham is a matter of record (Super 6, Jimbo Fisher/Neil Callaway, Mike Anderson, Justin Knox, On-Campus Stadium). I remember an article written by a former Post-Herald columnist covering the issue about Bryant’s alleged interference with the city’s NFL dream in the late 80’s. The then-owner of the team, & very good friends with Bryant, the late Hugh Culverhouse, was quoted, if I recall correctly, as saying that if his great friend didn’t want pro football in Birmingham, then he didn’t. The rest is history, & I believe it to be true that Bryant flexed his clout and ego because he felt threatened by the NFL’s presence, that it would take away from his “precious” crimson tide – please….

    Cities like Birmingham only get so many chances to grasp the brass ring, and when they fail, they find themselves co-dependent upon the very people and forces that conspired to stagnate & minimize your city’s progress in the first place. Sure, the CrossPlex and Regions Park are significant accomplishments, and if they don’t signify that a 27,500 seat on-campus football stadium for UAB wouldn’t enjoy the same level of success and patronage as the aforementioned venues, I can’t imagine what can or will. What happened to that stadium proposal by UAB in November of 2011 was pure, outright sabotage. What good is being part of a system, when the system is clearly not in support of you??? A collaborative effort between students, fans and the Board Of Regents at Charlotte University (a new member of Conference USA, by the way) culminated into a brand new, 15,000 seat on-campus facility for the 49ers before they’ve so much as played a down of football, & guess what? Season tickets are sold out for the inaugural season…If UAB athletics had a board of trustees as open-minded and supportive as the ones in Charlotte, the Blazers would be this city’s premier sports presence, something that obviously, this board of trustees does not want to have take place. Think that modern facilities don’t matter? Look at our UAB Softball team, once forced to play in that cesspool of a complex called Green Springs, since getting a first-class complex of their own on-campus, they have appeared in 3 consecutive NCAA Regionals, and this past season, won their first Conference USA regular season title. Yet a football stadium for UAB is “not in the best interest of the UA system or the state of Alabama”….Is that multi-million dollar waterfall they approved for the crimson tide football locker room in the best interests of the same?! It is what it is, ignoring the obvious has been nothing short of perilous to the UAB Blazer Football program. Why are they being forced to settle for decrepit, obsolete, devoid of essence, desolate & embarrassing Legion Field???!!!

    Time to turn the page, and waiting on a dome that is never going to be built is ridiculous! Why does UAB have to be the only division-1 football program in this so-called football hungry state to settle for rental facilities instead of having a place of their own on-campus! There are high schools in this city & state with better resources than UAB,  and I can’t imagine a Blazers fan that finds this acceptable. One should have nothing to do with the other, build them both and watch them both flourish.

    How much longer before “compromise” becomes surrender? Go Blazers!!! #FreeUAB!

  8. Let’s go one step further and ask that the U of A system adopt the same nomenclature as the University of California (UC) system.  UC Berkeley is “California” for sporting events, but UCLA and the other 8 UC campuses get their own identity.  UA-Tuscaloosa would still be “Alabama” of course, but doesn’t UA-Birmingham brand our city in a better light than the 3 letters U A and B?  Yes, UCLA is Los Angeles, but no one would ever attribute “B” to our fare town. 

    Give UA-Birmingham and UA-Huntsville a fighting chance to be recognized.

  9. David…I co-host a periodic sports conversation program at on the UAB campus called “Unleash The Dragon.” The inclination to have this topic discussed on the air has been strong for the longest, I’m glad that you had the courage to convey your feelings on this issue in this fashion, and would like to invite you to either come by the station in person or we can dialogue by phone on the date that we plan to do our next broadcast, which hopefully, will be one week before UAB kicks off the new season of football against Troy. Please let me know by contacting me at the above posted email address. If you could find it to stop by the station to take some questions from myself and perhaps some of our listeners, that would be great. I appreciate your indulgence, David.

  10. *David, can we talk this evening or tomorrow perhaps? I’m making some headway on getting that BlazeRadio sports chat broadcast on track to happen in the next 2 weeks, and I got some guests lined up for discussing this on-campus stadium issue, and I’d still like to have you in the studio. We got a new place temporarily, but it looks to be larger and in a nice part of town right across the street from UAB Highlands Hospital. Would love to have you on with us, how about it?

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