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)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

More Ray Watts Shenanigans

By Ralph Harbison

Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, UAB released a demand that the initial payment on pledges to restore UAB football, rifle, and bowling, shortsightedly killed by Dr. Watts, be made by Sept. 1, 2015, and the 2016 and 2017 payments be made as soon as possible.

Basically, UAB supporters were given a three week notice, at the time of the year when most households are paying for the “back to school” time, to put up the first payment and an additional nine months to pay the next two years. This was in opposition to the original promise deadline of Dec. 31, 2015. Before we get into this issue, let me say that needing an accurate accounting of the money before the start of the fiscal year is logical and required. I cannot fault that. I can however find many serious issues with this letter and, as always, the way UAB is handling this entire event.

First, while I have no issue granting the need to have the money for the budgeting, why was the announcement made when it was made? In the world of public relations (looking at you, Mr. Bakken) a press release like this is made on a Friday so that it will be lost and ignored. This was not done on a day when it could be discussed by the media. And why was it done three weeks before the deadline? Why was it not announced on June 2, when the announcement was made that the sports would be returned? This reeks of an attempt to design failure.

Second, what is the amount needed? How much has been raised? What are the goals? Where did the numbers come from? Are these critical questions ignored for a reason?

Third, and this one is longer term, why should we trust UAB under Ray Watts with the 2016 and 2017 money so far in advance? Will the money be set into a trust? Are we creating the UAB Athletic Department Endowment Fund? What if the department has a budget over-run or shortfall? Will the money for future seasons be raided to sustain the current years? If football winds up not being restored, will the donations be refunded?

Fourth, why are pledges not good enough to figure the budget? That is how the rest of the university and all of the universities in the world work. In fact, everything works by budgeting based on projected income, not on current holdings. Even your personal household budget assumes that you either keep your current job or maintain the current income level. That is why most families are three missed paychecks from bankruptcy. I understand that Dr. Watts has spoken with the authority of Paul Bryant Jr. himself that no more university money can be used, I do, but this change is counter to everything that exists in the world today, and particularly counter to how things work on every other public college campus.

All of that said, the attempt to hide the demands, the lack of a goal or current progress towards it, the fact we are still waiting on a contract for Coach Bill Clark that demonstrates the University is moving forward in good faith, the requirement that we trust the untrustworthy with money in advance, and the new love for cash in hand budgeting, we have no choice but to donate as much as we can now.  Send something now and send more later. This is a call for all of those who support UAB. We must play by the rules of those who seek to destroy us.

For now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

UAB administration again proves it is incompetent and full of liars

Once again, the UAB Adminstration has proved to be liars and thieves. Football supporters were asked to make pledges over three years to support the return of UAB Football, with the first payment due by Dec. 31 of this year. We did that. Now, we are being told those three-year pledges need to be honored within nine months, with the first payment due by Sept. 1. Don't believe me? Here's the letter, delivered by email late Friday. Aug. 14, 2015:

To the UAB community, alumni and friends,

As we announced on June 1, unprecedented pledges of support from private individuals, corporations and government entities have enabled the university to work toward restoring our rifle, bowling and football programs.

We are firmly committed to this process and greatly appreciate the community's support, because as we also announced, UAB's substantial investment in Athletics cannot be increased but will be maintained.

We now are finalizing budgets for our upcoming year, which begins October 1. Prior to that date, we must have a balanced budget proposal for each part of the university, including Athletics.

We now must get pledge payments in hand. We are already working with many of our donors and supporters so we can cover the expenses associated with the restoration of the three sports on schedule. As indicated at the news conference in June, the necessary funding for these programs is critical to support multi-year commitments to our student athletes and coaches. We'd like to get ahead of the curve and stay there. Specifically, we request that donors make initial payments on their pledges by September 1, 2015. In addition, we will be seeking advance pledge payments on January 15, 2016, and July 1, 2016, for those who are able to help us stay ahead of the curve.

We are grateful for the City of Birmingham's efforts to move forward with honoring its commitment of $500,000 to support restoration of these programs at UAB. We will be asking the many municipalities that also passed resolutions of support last spring to join the City in making a financial commitment.

We have made good progress since June 1, working with Conference USA to ensure we remain in that competitive league and with the NCAA to nail down return dates for each sport's seasons, with rifle coming back this year, bowling next and football in 2017. We also are working on a contract with Coach Clark to ensure he continues leading our football team to winning seasons.

To continue this progress, the time is now. A member of the fundraising team will be or may already have reached out to those individuals who have made pledges. For those of you who have not yet made a contribution, please consider a gift. These pledges are above your current level of Blazer Boosters annual support. You may contact UAB Athletics at (205) 996-9969.

Your enthusiasm, loyalty, pride and support are what make this University great.

Go Blazers,
Hatton Smith
Hatton Smith,
Chair, UAB Athletics Campaign Committee

Mark Ingram
Mark Ingram,
UAB Director of Athletics

Ray Watts
Ray Watts, M.D.,
UAB President

Once again, UAB has proved its leadership is monumentally incompetent, and cannot be trusted. By anyone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The F Word at UAB isn't what you think

By Ralph Harbison
Mr. UAB 1992

In my last post, I introduced many of you to the fact that UAB was named one of the top 150 universities in the world, and the strange truth that the UAB administration is making no efforts to promote that fact. To recap, using a system that factored in accomplishments by faculty and alumni, UAB was ranked as better than 99.4 percent of the universities world-wide.

Fewer schools are ranked between UAB and Harvard (the No. 1 school) than between UAB and the next closest school in the state (the University of Alabama ranked just out of the top 400). The administration has ignored this fact, as has the illustrious University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

The director of public relations for UAB is a University of Alabama alumnus and basketball letterman and is 100 percent loyal to his alma mater and the UA Board of Trustees, to the detriment of UAB. Now, from this starting point, I want to introduce you to the F word and another part of why those in charge are not proud of this ranking.

This word, as it is used by the UAB administration, is as vile and reprehensible a word as is any in the English language not related to a racial, sexual, or other epiteth. Before you dismiss this as a tad too much hyperbole, let me explain the rational for this statement in both what is meant and what should be.

UAB Forward, as it is used by the UAB administration, is a designed plan to shift as many students as possible to online classes. These students will pay extra fees for online access and require less student services and student activities. Take note: This is not a plan to maintain or increase on-campus enrollment while at the same time increasing online enrollment.

The plan to is move students from brick and mortar classrooms to virtual classrooms to reduce the need for campus services, all while charging more for a diminished product. As the on-campus student base shrinks, there will be less need for tenured faculty. To be blunt, non-tenured and non-tenured-track faculty do little to no research, have fewer, if any, peer review articles, and are cited less in other research. For a research-heavy campus, this is a kiss of death.

Slowly, one of the top 150 schools in the world will be reduced to a small, local or regional school, a Troy with a medical school at best, a West Alabama with a medical school at worse. The student enrollment might actually increase greatly during this program, and that will be hailed as proof of its success, as the undergraduate side of campus becomes an online degree mill, losing the characteristics that made UAB one of the best values in education. UAB Forward, in a nutshell, is a deLorian with a flux capacitor, ready to go Forward to the Past, when UAB was an extension center for those unworthy of Tuscaloosa for financial or sociological and ethnic reasons.

And as UAB goes, so goes the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. As the Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area goes, so goes the state. The end result of UAB Forward will be a crushing blow to the economy of central Alabama and the state as a whole. One of the poorest states in the Union will hit the bottom and start to dig.

Now, please, for one minute, cast your memory back to the early 1960s. If you were alive then and can remember, please play along, if not, invoke your knowledge of American history or just imagine for a minute. The United States had the post-World War II high flow into the 1950s, the time of “Leave it to Beaver” as the Baby Boomers passed through childhood. Americans were at the top of the world as far as they were concerned. Life was a Norman Rockwell Painting and it was a good one (note: exaggerated for a reason, again, play along).

Suddenly, a small piece of Soviet equipment started pinging from orbit, and we learned that the USSR had been able to put a satellite in space, then a dog and a monkey. They had developed nuclear weapons a decade before. According to some, they were poised to put nuclear missiles on the moon and end the amazing dream of the American Founding Fathers.

The United States elected a young war hero and senator from New England as president. In April of 1961, the Soviets had a man orbit the earth, and the United States followed with a man in sub-orbit. We were way, way behind and not even close. That young president, in 1961, stood before the American people and stated, no, proclaimed, that it would be the unified goal of the United States to put a man on the moon and safely return him to earth BEFORE THE END OF THE DECADE. We were not ready for this challenge, but it did not matter. Mr. Kennedy had set the bar high, very high, and challenged the people to answer his call.

They did. In July of 1969, the United States had men walk the face of the moon and return safely. This was leadership. This was vision. This was what “Forward” SHOULD mean.  The era under JFK as president was known as Camelot, the mythical kingdom under King Arthur, where it never rained until after sundown and there was no better place for “happy ever aftering.”

The city of Birmingham is on the verge of its own Camelot. The city proper is actually growing in population for the first time since the 1960s. We hosted the Dali Lama. The metro area is surging as well. We have more attractions than ever, from a revitalized water park to a world-class race track, world class dining in categories other than deep fried and barbecue (although we still have that), and every other indulgence your heart could want from music to art and more. To be honest, there is a chance that the Birmingham-Hoover Metro area could reclaim best city in the south from whoever has it today.

UAB, too, should be riding that wave, surfing on the combined crest of that resurgence and the recent events that have galvanized the #UABFamily in ways that we have never seen before. This is what UAB Forward should be. We invest in student life. We invest in the best faculty in the world. We expand on-campus offerings. Yes, we also expand on-line learning, but not at the cost of our ranking.

If UAB had true leadership, a JFK of its own, that president would proclaim, loudly and without compromise, that by 2025, UAB will be one of the Top 100 Schools in the World.

In the next stage, by 2050, UAB would be one of the Top 50 Schools in the World. By 2075, UAB would be one of the Top Ten Schools in the world. That is what UAB Forward SHOULD BE. That is the desire of the #UABFamily. That is what the state of Alabama needs. That is what the world needs. We must demand that from the UA Board of Trustees. We must demand that from UAB. WE MUST HAVE UAB ALWAYS PUSHING TO BE MORE THAN ORDINARY.

I want to address the University of Alabama Board of Trustees directly. Right now, there is at least one member of the Board who has donated to UAB. That is a rarity. I know for a fact that there are Board members who are heavily invested in the Birmingham-Hoover Metro Area. I ask of them: why are you not encouraging UAB to strive to be better? What is it in UAB that prevents you from standing up and making UAB reach its full potential? Take that stand. I will back you. All of us will. The #UABFamily will welcome you and stand with you, side by side.

If I could, if I had the power, I would stop Watts and his owners from using UAB Forward. I would ensure that UAB Forward would be associated with another F Word: FREE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Shocking (to some) Truth About UAB Academics

By Ralph Harbison
Mr. UAB 1994

It is assumed by many that UAB is not nearly as good a school as the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa or Auburn University. After all, the enrollment is a lot lower at UAB and has not changed as much over the last two decades as it has at the other two schools. Plus, if UAB was a better academic school, UAB would have a better football team that was supported by the fans.

According to many, that is 100 percent fact. UAB needed to drop football and focus on academics and research, per several members of the illustrious University of Alabama Board of Trustees and many of its sycophantic followers.

At UAB, we (students, faculty, staff and alumni; not necessarily administrators) value academics. More than that, we value the ability to research and separate fact from fiction. In doing some research and separating the fact from fiction, one of the multitude of #UABFAMILY on Twitter shared a link to the Center for World University Rankings for 2015.

According to its system, UAB is ranked 146th in the WORLD. Consider that for a minute. There are only 145 universities in the world ranked higher. To put that into other terms, if universities were companies, UAB is a Fortune 150 firm. That is a HUGE deal. The much higher quality schools in Tuscaloosa and Auburn were 409 and 549 respectively. Again, those are not bad rankings, but it does show how wonderful a degree from UAB actually is.

An excellent question is why is UAB not blowing the roof off of the urban myth of UAB being a second class institution? Since the UAB director of media relations is a University of Alabama graduate, letterman in basketball, and sits on of the advisory board of one of the schools at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, I know the reason and now you do, too.

The ranking was based upon several criteria, which are listed below from the CWUR website:

CWUR uses eight objective and robust indicators to rank the world's top 1,000 universities:

  1. Quality of Education, measured by the number of a university's alumni who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals relative to the university's size [25%]
  2. Alumni Employment, measured by the number of a university's alumni who have held CEO positions at the world's top companies relative to the university's size [25%]
  3. Quality of Faculty, measured by the number of academics who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals [25%]
  4. Publications, measured by the number of research papers appearing in reputable journals [5%]
  5. Influence, measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals [5%]
  6. Citations, measured by the number of highly-cited research papers [5%]
  7. Broad Impact, measured by the university's h-index [5%]
  8. Patents, measured by the number of international patent filings [5%]

These criteria are actually a fair way to look at the schools. First, the schools are judged by the readiness of the graduates to perform in the world and to excel. Second, faculty are judged both by peer recognition and by output of research. This means that a school that is research heavy (like a UAB) is not judged only by the business school and a school known as a business school (like the University of Alabama) isn’t hurt by its lack of research. Yes, it does favor schools that do both, such as Harvard, Yale, and Oxford, but is there really any doubt that those are among the best schools in the world, anyway?

This is a huge deal for a school like UAB, a school that is abused and mistreated by its Board of Trustees and unappreciated in its home state. By the criteria used here, which are fair criteria, UAB is an excellent institution and provides an amazing opportunity, and a far better academic experience than either Tuscaloosa or Auburn.

But the UAB administration is not interested in letting people know that, especially the members of the Board of Trustees. The fact that the director of public relations is not on every news network and posting on every website about this is particularly telling. Does he not care about UAB’s reputation as an undergraduate university? Does he have an interest that lies elsewhere that prevents him from promoting UAB to the fullest level? Can we trust him to “sell UAB” at all times and in all ways?

Dr. Ray Watts and his owners were correct about one thing: there is a school that needs to stop worrying about football and focus on academics. They were incorrect about which school it is.