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.
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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).