UAB beat Saban & 5 other things I learned from writing about the UAB football fiasco

Nick Saban, Football Coach at the University of Alabama
Nick Saban, Head Football Coach at the University of Alabama

Yes, it’s true.

On September 23, 2000 the UAB Blazers beat LSU 13 to 10 and spoiled LSU’s homecoming.  Nick Saban was the LSU Coach and Jimbo Fisher, now head coach at FSU, was an assistant.

I also learned…

It wasn’t just the termination of the UAB program that made folks angry, but how it was executed.  There are a lot of good people who were hurt by the decision, but more importantly, there was a great deal of resentment because of the way it was handled (or not handled).  Rumors swirled weeks before–then after the final game of the season the historic announcement was made.  UAB students, employees, and donors felt they were lied to and betrayed. 

There are some things I probably shouldn’t write about.  When I wrote about Dr. Watts, I focused on the decision to shut down Blazer football and didn’t take into consideration the emotion and anger by those affected and the way the termination was executed.  I apologize and I learned a valuable lesson.  This is one blog where I almost wrote a negative comment about myself.

The UA Board of Trustees may not have actually pulled the plug, but they caused the outcome.  The Board of Trustees continually made decisions to hurt UAB Football.  They nixed the decision to hire Jimbo Fisher; they wouldn’t allow UAB to build an on-campus football stadium; and they wouldn’t play UAB.

Who thinks Dr. Watts woke up one morning and unilaterally shut down the program? Dr. Carol Garrison, previous UAB President, was a huge supporter of an on-campus stadium and the UAB football program.  She was replaced by Watts.  Did that have anything to do with Blazer football?  Some people think so.

Dr. Watts is a medical man—not a college president type.  UA Trustees clearly were showing a bias towards medicine—not college life.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing—but that’s the decision they made.

Dr. Watts is a good man.  I have not changed my mind. Dr. Watts is not a murderer, a rapist, or child molester–but that is how he’s being treated.

Dr. Watts has devoted his life to helping people and he unselfishly chose to come back to Birmingham to make a difference in his home town.  The main reason I wrote about Dr. Watts is because of what I felt has been a mean-spirited lynch mob attack on a good person.  UAB and Dr. Watts may have executed poorly, but no decent person deserves this kind of rabid treatment.  It’s okay to disagree, but the way he has been attacked is nasty and unfair.

That’s why many people will not accept leadership positions.  If you make a decision that anyone disagrees with, you are attacked personally–and that’s too bad.

Birmingham and UAB will survive and prosper.  Many critics have written that this decision will wound UAB and help kill economic development in Birmingham.  That is total nonsense.  UAB has an economic impact of $5 billion annually–football is only a minuscule portion.

Positive momentum is on our side.  Life can be messy, there are stumbles along the way– it’s never straight up.

UAB is a great University and will become even greater.

Birmingham has not reached its potential yet, but a new generation will transform our city.

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 Agency 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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3 thoughts on “UAB beat Saban & 5 other things I learned from writing about the UAB football fiasco”

  1. Martin, 

    I am so impressed with your journalistic capabilities.  This is great work.   You should be very proud. 

  2. No, Dr. Watts is not a murderer (though he “killed” the football program), a rapist (though he “screwed” Coach Clark and others), or a child molester.   The way he used the consulting group as his cover; the contradictions between what he claimed about his efforts at input and data and the failure to discuss his “findings” with boosters, faculty, alumni and students; the assertion that Coach Clark knew exactly what he was getting into when he left his on the rise alma mater for a one year stint at UAB – this man clearly does not need to be a university President. 

  3. *”Dr. Watts is not a murderer, a rapist, or child molester–but that is how he’s being treated.”

    That is hyperbole at its best. No one is treating Dr. Watts like a violet criminal. People do have opinions and they can voice their opinions just as you voice yours…”Dr. Watts is a good man.”

    My own opinion is Dr. Watts is a liar. Dr. Watts stated he could not get financial support from Blazer boosters yet several boosters have been out spoken about how Dr. Watts either refused to speak/meet with them or simply turned down the money.  

    I have no doubt that Dr. Watts had the best interest of the medical school in mind when this decision was made. I also have no doubt he fully understands that UAB doesn’t have a medical school, but rather the campus houses the University of Alabama’s medical school. There isn’t a single diploma from UAB school of medicine because it doesn’t exsist.

    Leadership is not following orders blindly. It is my opinion that Dr. Watts is nothing more than the executioner for the judge that is the BOT. The BOT decided long ago to put the program to death…they finally found a rube to pull the level. Leadership is sometimes standing up for what is right in the face of powerful men.

    I am reminded of this quote about leadership…”If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leaders”… John Quincy Adams

    From my point of view Dr. Watts missed a great opportunity to show true leadership. He appears more like a lemming than a leader.

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