An Open Letter to President Watts
My name is Danny Thompson. I founded the UAB Marching Blazers.
When I say that, I don't mean I was a member of the inaugural marching band. I mean as a student starting in 1992, I personally hounded the music department administrators for a year and a half about the football team needing a marching band. When the team was declared Division I, fellow Blazer Band member Ralph Harbison and I worked with Drs. Panion and Winter, Dr. Gauld, Coach Bartow and President McCallum to form the Recruiting Committee for the Marching Blazers and on the selection of Danny Doyle as the assistant director of bands. A small handful of us picked out the uniforms. We started a newsletter. We arranged for the Jazz Ensemble to take a tour across the state to promote the new marching band.
We took the energy and momentum we'd built turning the Blazer Band into a showstopper at basketball games (that was before your time) and crafted a first-year band 140 members strong that actually made headlines and got attention not only for the athletics programs, but for the music program and UAB as a whole. Because of my efforts in creating this band out of the ether, I was one of two or three non music majors awarded a music performance scholarship.
We had to fight the Board of Trustees every step of the way. I understand your trepidation in standing up to them. McCallum had the fortitude to do so, and was rewarded by being summarily dismissed. Several other past presidents have shared his fate. It is a frightening prospect, to be sure.
But let's be clear about what's at stake here (the fact that we all know that this is about so much more than football notwithstanding). It's not simply a matter of pride. It's not simply a matter three years of my own personal blood sweat and tears invested. There are real people's lives on the line, right here, right now if you acquiesce to the Board of Trustees’ designs.
The 85 Scholarship players will mostly be fine. They will transfer with their eligibility intact. But the rest of the team... guys who came here simply for the chance to play college ball. Not all of them will be able to go elsewhere. There are 85 Lady Blazer scholarships that were added to fulfill Title IX requirements. Those will now evaporate. Entire sports teams will vanish, and the students will either transfer or have their dreams crushed. By you. The hopes and passions of hundreds of kids who came to UAB to march, dance, cheer, spin flags, gone. At your hands.
All of those sports, used as incentives to draw not only top-notch athletes, but academic wins as well, gone. The economic impact of those students, their sports and their fans, lost. That will be a huge hit to several of the schools within UAB (not to mention a city that is struggling to make an economic comeback) from you.
UAB will have to drop out of C-USA, casting other athletics programs (assuming any survive the cut), back down to the Sun Belt (or some similar, lesser) Conference. This will cause massive headaches for C-USA as a whole (the league’s fourth largest television market, evaporating overnight, and a centrally located major team also evaporating overnight in sports across the board). They will look to pull in a similar replacement, most likely from the Sun Belt. That is two separate athletic conferences that will have to completely reorganize. Because of you.
You sit at the helm of what is overwhelmingly the largest revenue producer in the U of A system ... of the state’s largest non-military employer. Yes, your hold on power is at the mercy of the Board of Trustees. But it is YOUR power for the moment and it is substantial. You stand at the crux of one simple decision: Do you want to be the puppet of Paul Jr. and his cronies and the scapegoat for the damage that will be done no only to the football team, but UAB as a whole, Birmingham at large and two regional athletic conferences; or do you want to be the hero to the football team, to UAB, to Birmingham and to those same two conferences and tell the BoT what they can do with their control issues.
We can bombard social media. We can hold rallies and marches and gather support from here to 2016. But you, Dr. Watts. Right here, right now. You have the power to single handedly #SaveUABFootball and to #FreeUAB.
The question is, what are you going to do with it?
From SACS Principles of Accreditation:
From SACS Principles of Accreditation: 3.2.11 The institution’s chief executive officer has ultimate responsibility for, and exercises appropriate administrative and fiscal control over, the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program. (Control of intercollegiate athletics)