Charlotte’s a city on fire, but the first words out the President’s mouth were, “We don’t have anything like UAB.”
Can you believe a great city like Charlotte is jealous of us?
But it appears by recent events we may be taking UAB for granted.
It’s been a few weeks since UAB decided to retain its football program, so I thought it might be healthy to take a moment to reflect.
UAB’s decision to terminate football, how that decision was implemented, and how it was communicated was a complete and total disaster. In fact, it could be a Harvard case study on how to totally screw up the implantation of a business decision.
But let’s take a moment to drag ourselves away from the topic of football or even UAB’s administration.
We’re going to discuss UAB’s relationship with our Birmingham community and what we’ve learned that could propel Birmingham and UAB forward.
Birmingham could not exist without UAB and UAB could not exist without Birmingham. Take away UAB’s 100 square blocks, 23,000 employees, and 18,000 students–and Birmingham would be irrelevant.
UAB and Birmingham are friends who are totally and completely dependent upon one another.
Good friends support one another during good times and bad. Cities and people are imperfect and will make mistakes. It’s how you treat your friends during difficult times that prove your friendship.
UAB made a misstep and some in our community went crazy. Social media ran wild and traditional media piled on. It was ugly and mean spirited.
UAB is a lot more than football. Where were the voices of support for UAB–our friend?
A decision was made by UAB or indirectly by the UA Board of Trustees. Maybe it was right—maybe it wrong, but I promise it wasn’t 100% one way or the other. But our Birmingham community left UAB hanging.
You couldn’t tell from the Internet or from the media, but there were many people who thought UAB made a rational decision. Of course, no one would speak out for fear of being overrun by a mob that would not tolerate an open discussion.
One of several private e-mails I received during the controversy followed this line of thinking…
“Historically, UAB has generated a 14x (NOT 14%) return on its investments in research. If we were to invest the approximately $10,000,000 a year savings from athletics that is projected in the CarrSports report, into research, and earn our historical return, it might generate $140,000,000 a year that would be invested in our community. Imagine the impact on our economy that would accrue from hiring world class researchers to highly paid teams to Birmingham and for them to buy houses, food and clothes, go to movies, and eat in our restaurants?
Or we could spend $10,000,000 a year to provide pretty decent but not great football for the less than 1,000 students who bought tickets to attend our last home game. I am baffled. Why isn’t the Rochester community boycotting the Mayo clinic for not having a football team?”
UAB supporters claimed that 55 cities voted to reinstate UAB football. I bet none of them except the City of Birmingham will actually cough up money. It has been announced that the Birmingham City Council has promised $500,000 a year to Blazer football—but I hear there may be some second thoughts.
It’s critical that UAB football prosper. It’s important to Birmingham and it’s important to everyone who put their heart and soul into keeping it alive.
Amazingly, however, everyone got what they wanted–and we may likely have a happy ending.
Blazer supporters got football reinstated and UAB got an unexpected bonus—the opportunity to revive football with others paying for it.
But, most importantly, we in Birmingham learned a valuable lesson.
Lesson for Birmingham
No one ever thought UAB would resurrect its football program—but a group of highly committed UAB supporters and donors did the unimaginable.
Next time someone tells you we as individuals are powerless, please remember what was accomplished.
We in Birmingham have the power—if we care enough to fight for our future.
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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).