The UAB basketball team won nine straight home games, triumphed in the Conference USA Tournament, and captured a cherished birth in the NCAA Play Offs. But as the clock counted down in the final moments of the Conference USA championship game, some UAB fans broke into the all too familiar chant, “Fire Ray Watts!”
I completely understand why many UAB fans are upset. Last fall the plug was pulled on UAB football and the decision and announcement was totally mishandled. We must blame someone.
I’m not going to take up for Dr. Watts or the public relations department at UAB, but I contend that the decision to shut down UAB football was made when the on campus stadium was nixed by the University of Alabama Board Of Trustees. If UAB had been allowed to build its new stadium, neither Dr. Watts nor anyone else would have been in a position to close the program.
Birmingham desperately needs a new sports facility
We have a right to be angry, but we should be angry that we have allowed Birmingham to have such poor sports facilities. If UAB is not allowed to build an on-campus stadium, then maybe we should build a state of the art field and arena at the BJCC.
Early round NCAA Basketball Tournament games were played in Dayton, Jacksonville, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Portland, Charlotte, Columbus, Omaha, and Seattle. Birmingham was never considered and will never be a possible NCAA Tournament site with our existing facilities. Nashville played host to the Southeastern Conference Basketball Championship. Please review the list of host cities and you see many towns that used to be similar in size to Birmingham: Jacksonville, Louisville, Charlotte, and Nashville (by the way—all have consolidated county/city governments).
Birmingham needs a great UAB and UAB needs a great Birmingham. It can’t help our national reputation to air our dirty laundry on national television.
As the clock counted down in the final moments of the CUSA Tournament and I looked down at the triumphant UAB basketball players with the words “Birmingham” plastered prominently on their jerseys, I wished the chant was not “Fire Ray Watts,” but “One great Birmingham!”
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12, a division of Intermark Group, and co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).