University of AlabamaUAB MascotIn a moment I’m going to disclose some shocking numbers that tell the perverted story of UAB and the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

If you think about these numbers, they make sense, but no one seems to have put them together.

The University of Alabama was founded in 1831.  UAB and UAH—afterthoughts—were created many years later.  It’s easy to understand that since UA is the father—and UAB and UAH are the children, why the father would want to maintain his parental control.

But what happens when your children grow up?

Something remarkable has occurred since UAB became the University Extension Center of the University of Alabama in 1936.

UAB now dwarfs UA.

Here are the operating and non-operating revenues of the University of Alabama and UAB*:

UA        $903,893,251

UAB   $2,816,955,642

UAB’s revenues are triple UA’s.

In fact, UAB’s revenues are much larger than the total revenues for The University of Alabama, UAH, and Auburn combined.  (UAH $216,841,929; Auburn $926,457,772)

UA Trustees control all three campuses, and are self-selected (like minds) and self-perpetuating.  These unelected men and women make decisions which have a huge impact on three cities and the entire state.  To date, their decisions have interfered with the natural organic growth of both UAB and UAH, and this group has even approved capital expenditures to build enterprises which compete directly with both the UAB and UAH franchises.

UAB often  is powerless.

UAB represents two of the fifteen seats on the UA Board.  That is not reasonable or fair.

Instead of us beating up UAB for being a servant to the University of Alabama—we should stand up for UAB and demand one of the following:

  • Stronger board and campus representation
  • Elected board members
  • Independence

A reasonable approach would benefit UAB, UA, UAH, and our entire University of Alabama System.

*Revenue numbers copied directly from each University’s website.  Click link under revenue numbers to view.  UAB revenues include UAB Hospital and Kirklin Clinic.

Disclosure:  AmSher, a company in which I am a shareholder, is a vendor for Kirklin Clinic.;UAB Hospital saved my wife’s life from breast cancer; all my doctors and my wife’s doctors are at UAB;  my daughter works at UAB; I’m a University of Alabama graduate.  It’s impossible to live and work in Birmingham and not be touched by UAB and the University of Alabama.

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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22 thoughts on “Shocking numbers UA & UAB—THE TAIL’S WAGGING THE DOG”

  1. *The numbers reveal that UAB does not even need the services of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees to be overseeing UAB.  UAB needs to completely break away and become completely independent and form/elect their own UAB Board of Trustees.  That seems to be the most practical and reasonable solution.

  2. David,

    Thanks for the article. I appreciate you being willing to listen to UAB supporters and dive deeper into the subject with an open mind.

    UAB is so important to Birmingham and deserves to be governed by a local board that looks out for its best interests. Any other option would be limiting the tremendous growth potential of UAB.

    I urge to support Jack Williams’ bill for Board of Trustee reform in the upcoming legislative session and use your influence to get others to do the same.


  3. *UAB is a leading positive influence to the state of Alabama and a financial basis for the Birmingham area and the University of Alabama.The state legislator must insist on equal control for UAB!!!!

  4. *This situation will ONLY BE RESOLVED by having UAB become totally independent of Tuscaloosa. The UABoT’s past lack-luster initiatives towards undergraduate growth on the campus here in Birmingham drastically detail their hidden intentions for this cities development. Take a look at any of the undergraduate facilities and notice how they pail in comparison (by quantity and size) to the top notch facilities occupied by our medical students. Possibly because the cost of a medical students tuition is far more lucrative venture that an ordinary undergraduate type. They really don’t want our students in this city to enjoy the most illustrious college experience, therefore kids may continue to desire the lure of T-Town. We should really know and understand our pride in achievement as BLAZERS, as our players, coaching staffs, students, and faculty members have consistently demonstrated the ability, to not only overcome the negligent and domineering lack of support from UABoT, but go on to achieve astounding results, despite the odds! Simply put, “WE AS BLAZERS”  manage so much more, when given so much less to work with! Let us see any Tuscaloosa Athletic Staff come to Birmingham and work under our current conditions for 1-5 years, and see what they can come up with. On the opposite side of that coin, let us build a Birmingham Campus (that neatly folds Tuscaloosa up, and puts it in its respective pocket, like a memory) and work with it for 1-5 years. Let’s see then where the Tide ranks in this state and who is then BLAZING they way. That’s what they fear… I’m just saying…

  5. The expenses at UAB are indeed much larger. The budget calls for about 2.2 billion in spending. The hospital system runs without profit.  UAB without the medical center still brings in around 1.3 billion. The money that UAB brings in in excess of the budget actually gets redirected almost entirely to Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa needs UAB much more than UAB needs Tuscaloosa. They bank on the name for research credibility, and literally bank on the finances to fund their campus.

  6. *Regardless of where your football loyalties lie, regardless of where you earned your degree, this is an issue that is paramount for anyone who lives in the Birmingham metro area. After all, UAB and Birmingham are inextricably linked, and UAB’s success is critical to Birmingham’s economic future. 

    So when you realize that trustees who outside of Birmingham, some even hundreds of miles from our city, have extraordinary impact on our economic future, it is really sobering. In truth, it’s a problem the city has always contended with. From the exploitation of the steel and coal bosses to the Alabama legislature to the Alabama Board of Trustees, outside forces have always seen the people of this city as a source of revenue while investing as little as possible. 

    Does anybody remember how Birmingham was the last city in the state to have a functioning interstate system? Or how many times local efforts have been thwarted by the Alabama legislature? The Alabama BoT is pretty much operating in the same way.  

  7. *David, who do you think was responsible for the growth of UAB? The same Board that you criticize now has been leading the growth and development of UAB from the beginning! All of this talk about separation sounds like a spoiled teenager whose parents have done everything to insure the success of the child only to have that child conclude that they are “stupid” and “a burden” when the child begins to achieve success. Allan

    1. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. UAB develops and operates itself. The BOT simply rubber stamps what UAB’s administration advocates.

  8. *Your analogy would be perfect if when the child achieved success, the parents took all of the money and rewards received for the child’s succeed and conclude it was “owed to them” and the child should be “thankful to have them as parents.”

  9. *

    I have not been responding to many of the items I see on the Comeback Town, as most I think avoid most of the real issues that need to be addressed like education and security. However, the UAB and University of Alabama revenue comparisons seem devoid of reality. There is no mention if the UAB numbers include the medical facilities? If that is the case, the comparisons make absolutely no sense. Also, maybe the reason UAB has done well is because of the decisions the Trustees have made and not in spite of the decisions. It appears the value of an education from The University of Alabama and UAB has only increased in value since I graduated in 1975, and received my MBA from UAB in 1981. I am not sure I would qualify to enroll in either school today.  


    The real reason I am responding is the idea of electing trustees. Based on the leaders we usually elect and their ability to run “any organization” should scare any responsible person about turning over the reins of the state universities to an elected board. Do you think we could elect a board as good as the Birmingham Board or Education? That would be great!


    Everyone is willing to swoop in and take credit and demand control of any organization after the “heavy lifting” is completed and it becomes successful. Very few acknowledge the countless hours and difficult decisions that were required to get there. This is true in any organization. Amsher looks great now, but I am sure you had some sleepless nights when you were growing the business.


    I know many are still upset about the UAB football program termination and want UAB to be independent. As I have heard many times “be careful what you wish for”. IF UAB could not raise enough donations to fund the football program, how successful would they be in raising money for endowments and a world class educational institution. Would they expect the University of Alabama just to give all of the properties to UAB or would UAB purchase them? What if the University of Alabama wanted to keep the Medical School?


    I am proud of my undergraduate degree from  The University of Alabama and my MBA from UAB. Both have served me well and as I mentioned, increased in value. I think the “real tail” that tries to wag the dog is the City of Birmingham and UAB. Birmingham would be a shell of city without UAB. I somewhat discount the students that demand independence, as many have no concept of what it takes to run a major university. They only know what they want, just as we all did at that age. If UAB really wants to be independent, why doesn’t some of the outspoken “demanders” raise some money and begin preparing a feasibility study and plan to make it happen? I think we both know why that does not happen. Because that is hard work and requires individual responsibility. Easier just to complain and demand.




    Larry Mathews

  10. *





    David, now you’re talking! I think everyone, even our status quo
    business leadership, is finally beginning to see how damaging it is to
    Birmingham to have these Tuscaloosa-lovers make decisions irrespective of the
    negative effect it may have on the trajectory of our Magic City. I heard a statistic
    recently that said for every 1,000 undergraduates added to an urban university,
    it adds another $5 million to the local economy. Do we have a stake in UAB
    growing to 30,000 students? Does a full undergraduate student life experience
    matter to the growth of UAB’s undergraduates? Oh hell yes. Keep up the good
    work, Tom Cosby 

  11. What about this? University of Birmingham. (see: Cincinnati, Louisville, Houston, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Chicago, et al.)

    Can that happen?

    Steve Chiotakis, Proud UAB grad 

  12. *Illumination is a powerful thing, eh, Dave?! (wink, wink!) Superb article, David…Thanks, man…I’ve been saying for the longest that there are forces that don’t reside in Birmingham that don’t and won’t hesitate to lob a grenade over their political shoulders from their ivory towers in the distance if it will hinder or destroy any kind of progressive momentum Birmingham stands to gain, especially where the culture of football is concerned. This is one battle that Birmingham and UAB cannot afford to lose, support the efforts of people like State Rep. Jack Williams, the Birmingham City Council, and countless municipalities in and out of Jefferson County that have unanimously passed resolutions in support of UAB and restoration of our lost athletic programs (ssure, this is more than just about football, but the Blazers football program was the primary target in this dastardly scheme) with efforts of your own, we all have a contribution.This is a good fight! Get in it! Free UAB & UAH!

  13. This is a great! I find it hard to find nice things to say about the Crimson Tide, but if we could all get behind equal representation (or separate governance) it would go a long way towards healing the wounds.

  14. UAB’s trustee dilemma is just one more case documenting the fact that the Birmingham metro area is America’s largest COLONY.  City and county officials can’t govern without approval from the state legislature. Our so-called local newspaper is run by an out-of-state corporation that cares little for us except the profit they derive from their seriously downgraded product, leaving us without a regional voice or rallying point.  Our largest employer, UAB, can’t chart its own destiny without permission from a conflicted board that seems committed to keeping UAB, and the Birmingham metro area, in colonial captivity.  There’s little to turn this situation around in the absence of local leaders who refuse to stand up and fight — for home rule, an independent UAB, and a local daily newspaper worthy of a region of more than a million productive people.  

  15. Separate boards is the only fair way to handle this situation. Only then can each university and respective athletic programs ever be fairly evaluated. David, we are back in agreement.

  16. Football was killed solely because a few powerful members on
    the BOT didn’t want UAB to have a football team—period. Everyone knows this is
    the truth. It is not a rumor. It is a fact. Ray Watts is a liar and a puppet. 

     In 1969, UAB was founded as an autonomous
    university, and UAB presidents; Joseph Volker, S. Richardson Hill,  Scotty McCallum, Ann Reynolds, and Carol
    Garrison acted accordingly, to make UAB as great as it could be.  Today we
    have, in Ray Watts, a UAB president who is directed by those who are UAB’s enemies! UAB needs to stand up now to the tyranny of the BOT and seize control of its
    own destiny, or UAB’s future is bleak. 

    Let us hope
    all this pain and suffering eventually leads to a great and self-governing
    comprehensive university with a world-class medical center. 

  17. * Many excellent points have been raised in this discussion. Brick and mortar universities are and will continue to experience disruptive technology particularly from online education and the growth of skill-based and documented certificates that will replace usual non-specific college degrees with inflated GPA’s. Smart states are breaking down silos between state universities to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies e.g. offering the same courses at all schools. University budgets are threatened by many changes (e.g. cuts in state support, federal research funding and healthcare revenues) along with increasing administrative costs. The outcomes of these changes are excessive increases in tuition and student fees making college education further unattainable for low income students . Campuses must specialize and play to their strengths to survive. Also they must collaborate in a network to eliminate bloated administrations and enhance the overall quality of their educational offerings. UAB continues to face educational challenges as demonstrated by a 51% six-year graduation rate and a national ranking 100’s of places below UA and AU. Those challenges require innovative strategies based on collaboration and not further silo-building.

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