The University of Alabama at Birmingham, which six months ago dismantled its football team to cut costs, plans to reinstate the program for the 2016 season.
UAB President Ray Watts said at a news conference Monday that the school’s bowling and rifle teams also would be reinstated. Donors have pledged to make up an estimated $17.2 million deficit from football over the next five years, he said.
“A public-private partnership like this for university athletics is unprecedented and is the result of a lot of hard work, study, input and commitment from many,” Watts said. “We gathered input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, city and government officials, and business leaders in the community.”
Watts in December said the three sports would be discontinued, making UAB the first school at the top level of college football to drop a team since the University of Pacific in 1995.
His initial decision was widely criticized on campus and in the Birmingham area. UAB faculty and student government associations drafted no-confidence resolutions against him and, according to AL.com, 53 nearby municipalities passed resolutions seeking football’s return.
A review of the three sports completed in November and cited by the school upon its initial decision said the athletic department would require an additional $25.3 million investment in annual operating revenue over the next five years.
A separate study released in April by an independent economic analysis firm concluded “that the three sports were effectively break-even to slightly positive.”
UAB is a charter member of Conference USA, which said it wouldn’t amend its bylaws to allow UAB to remain in the league without a football program.
The Blazers went 6-6 under first-year coach Bill Clark in 2014. Fifty-five players had transferred to other schools as of mid-March, according to SB Nation.
“The athletic department staff and I will work closely with Conference USA to set in motion the steps necessary to reinstate these athletic programs as soon as possible,” UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram said.