BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - UAB President Ray Watts is bringing the football program back six months after deciding to cut three sports because of cost.
Watts told The Associated Press that he decided on Monday morning to reverse the earlier decision after meetings with UAB supporters continued through the weekend. He said donors have pledged to make up the estimated $17.2 million deficit over the next five years if football is restored.
Watts was scheduled to announce the decision to reinstate football, bowling and rifle in 2016 later Monday. He cut the programs last December after UAB commissioned a report saying it would cost $49 million over five years to field a competitive program, generating both a groundswell of criticism for the decision and renewed financial support for the Blazers program.
"Our students, our alumni, the city of Birmingham and now many community members have stepped up with commitments to cover that $17.2 million operational deficit," Watts said. "That's why we're in a position today to make this decision."
Watts said UAB has dropped an indoor practice facility from the equation since the initial report, and has raised about 10 percent of the estimated $12.5 million- $14.5 million needed for a turf practice field and new fieldhouse.
Without football, UAB would have likely not have remained in Conference USA, which has a bylaw requiring members to field football programs.
Watts said he is sending documents to C-USA and NCAA notifying them of his decision.
C-USA Commissioner Britton Bankowski said members had not wanted to change the rule because "football is something that is critical to our long-term success and part of our core as a conference."
"It didn't really come as a great surprise, but we're very pleased with the decision to bring back football," Bankowski told AP. "As a conference, we're committed to football so we welcome the good news that UAB football has been given another chance."