Wade on Birmingham

To free UAB will require immense financial pressure


Ray Watts, UAB

UAB president Ray Watts shows where he had his soul
surgically removed. 

Author’s note: In the past, I have worked in my capacity as a communications consultant for the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dear Free UAB,

Only 21 months till kickoff. Without you, we would have no 2017 season for Blazer football.

Of course, Dr. Ray Watts is still president of UAB, still collecting $853,464 annually for hiding from faculty and students and performing an inept job. It was 1 year ago today that Watts and his bosses in Tuscaloosa killed three sports teams, only to resurrect them 6 months later.

The good news is that you’ve met every athletics funding deadline so far, even the ones that have been moved up in a brazen attempt to discredit you. Now that the University of Alabama System board of trustees has shifted even more of the burden usually assumed by colleges to fans and donors, it can spend even more insane amounts of money on its preferred team in Tuscaloosa.

Speaking of preferred teams, it’s nice to see the rifle team with its 2015-16 schedule intact. Sadly for the bowling team, it has had to go dark till next season (or the season after, maybe). And the on-campus stadium plan may live someday as an off-campus stadium on the BJCC property, safe from the trustees’ spiteful actions.

It’s heartening to see the students and the faculty united in its official lack of confidence in Watts. But to pry him from his cushy expensive president’s chair will take more than chants of “Fire Ray Watts” at basketball games in Bartow Arena.

Much more.

The simplest equation is to make it more expensive to keep Watts than to send him back to medicine full time with an unholy severance package. All across the South, calculators have been working overtime on cost-benefit analyses …

  • Cheaper to keep or fire Les Miles at LSU? Keep, since the PR damage alone was astronomical.
  • Cheaper to keep or fire Mark Richt at Georgia? Fire, though the numbers aren’t looking real solid.
  • Cheaper to keep or fire president Tim Wolfe at Missouri? Fire (technically, resign), because football TV cash.

Watts is an expensive hot mess, but he’s simply not costly enough (yet) to trustees. I had suggested a year ago that UAB supporters oust him and then wrest the university from the UA System for the good of the school and Birmingham.

(If it was always about football and only football, then I guess … mission accomplished? But don’t be surprised when the board takes it away again.)

What does a Ray Watts cost UAB?

  • His salary, $2,338.26 a day (and that’s if he hasn’t received a raise, oy).
  • All those pricey consultants and attorneys.
  • His security detail.
  • His president’s mansion.
  • The new secret biased report to kill football, which we’ll find out about in August 2017.
  • The $1 billion Campaign for UAB, which was on pace to reach the finish line now but has slowed so much, it may be as late as 2019 (or worse).
  • Lost tuition (plus future alumni donations) from plummeting enrollment, down 7.3 percent from fall 2014.

While all of these cost UAB money, the key to is to hit the board where it hurts most: the University of Alabama. The school is on track for another national championship, with the mountains of cash that come with it, so you must be clever and persistent in finding any financial weaknesses.

The Mizzou football team figured it out, using its leverage to force the school to act decisively and quickly on allegations of long-term racist harassment of students. Replacing Wolfe is far easier and cheaper than forfeiting to BYU.

Until you convince enough fans, football recruits, donors (individual and corporate), professors and politicians to abandon Tuscaloosa, you have no leverage. Until you steer away millions of dollars for buildings, players, coaches and research projects, you have no hope.

It may take years/election cycles. It may take scorched earth. It may take a beatdown of every board member’s company. But it can be done.

The fight has to be uglier and hit the trustees where it hurts most, right in the bank account.

Go Blazers,


1 Yip for “To free UAB will require immense financial pressure”

  1. Wade on Birmingham » #sundayread for Dec. 6, 2015
    Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 12:01 am

    […] To free UAB will require immense financial pressure […]

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