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Rogers Says UAB Decision to Kill Football Program will Fuel Effort to Separate School from UA System

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley, Bill Britt, & Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, December 2, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced that the football was getting the axe, along with the rifle and bowling teams.

University President Ray Watt announced in a Tuesday press conference that UAB’s football team has played its last game at any level.

President Watt said in a statement, “More than a year ago, UAB began the largest, most comprehensive strategic planning process in the university’s history. Designed to identify areas of excellence and set priorities for investment and growth, this strategic review has empowered leaders across campus to think critically about how to best invest resources and position UAB as a premier and sustainable institution for the future.”

Watt said that the 2014-2015 academic year will be the final season for UAB football, bowling and rifle. This season ended for the football team on Saturday with a win to become bowl eligible. Unless UAB gets and accepts a bowl invitation there will never be another UAB football game played.

President Watt said that UAB will honor scholarships for those on scholarship athletes who choose to stay at UAB beyond this season, and will honor the coaches’ contracts. Watt said that, “When a program is discontinued, per NCAA bylaws, players who decide to leave UAB to play elsewhere will not be required to sit out of competition the following season.”

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President Watt said that investments in football were unlikely to produce a sustainable return relative to the required investment. President Watt claims that UAB already subsidizes $20 million of the roughly $30 million annual Athletic Department budget.

The Alabama Political Reporter spoke with State Representative John Rogers (D – Birmingham) about the situation. A defiant Rep. Rogers vowed, “We are going to try to free UAB.”

Currently the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa all share a Chancellor and a Board of Trustees with the original University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. UAB supporters claim that the Birmingham campus, its on-campus medical school, and University Hospital actually generate more revenue than the Tuscaloosa Campus which is best known for its law school and perennially ranked college football team.

Rep. Rogers said that this is bigger than the football team. Rogers said, “Football is what you see; but we catch grief on everything we do down here like wanting to build a dormitory, they want to take the business school now.”

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Rogers said, “We are going to try to separate UAB from the University of Alabama.”

State Representative Jack Williams (R from Vestavia) said in a written statement, “The battles fought by Dr. Ann Reynolds and Dr. Carol Garrison make today’s announcement no surprise. These two iron-willed women never succumbed to the unrelenting pressure the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees brought down on them to destroy UAB athletics. Those battles and the pressure sustained over the years makes our current lack of leadership regrettable, but understandable.”

Rep. Rogers said, “Every president we have had in the past has stood up to them and they got rid of them. They have finally found a president that will play ball with them.” Rogers said, “I have called all of the Republicans trying to get them to fight with me. I think they will. So far, everyone has said they will stand up with me.” Rogers is expected to introduce legislation to separate UAB from governance by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

Rep. Williams said, “Today is a sad day – but for those of us who love UAB – we cannot quit. We must be even more vigilant because today’s surrender has signaled to the Board that they can strip away from this campus whatever they desire. Others must stand and fight before this great university is reduced to only a medical school and an extension center. Our community must not lose sight of UAB’s potential greatness – even if those at its helm seem to lose heart.”

Rep. Rogers said, “The football program is making progress now. We have contributors donating money to the program now. So why do they want to do this to the program now?…They are trying to do this because of Bear Bryant, Jr. and Clive St. John and the Board of Trustees. Every high school in the state has a stadium. When we had the money to build a stadium they wouldn’t let us build a stadium. Everything we try to do they block us.”

Rep. Williams said, “The negative repercussions of this day will be felt on the UAB campus and in the Birmingham community for generations to come.

President Watt said that UAB can not be competitive in the rapidly evolving NCAA landscape and the soaring costs associated with maintaining a competitive team and already has the fifth-largest budget and subsidy in Conference USA.

UAB is the first FBS level school to drop the sport of football since Pacific in 1995.

Rep. Rogers said, “They tell me there are going to be 10,000 students in the streets tomorrow,” protesting the decision.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Vaccines should protect against mutated strains of coronavirus

Public health experts say it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Multiple vaccines for COVID-19 are in clinical trials, and one has already applied for emergency use authorization, but how good will those vaccines be against a mutating coronavirus? A UAB doctor says they’ll do just fine. 

Dr. Rachael Lee, UAB’s hospital epidemiologist, told reporters earlier this week that there have been small genetic mutations in COVID-19. What researchers are seeing in the virus here is slightly different than what’s seen in the virus in China, she said. 

“But luckily the way that these vaccines have been created, specifically the mRNA vaccines, is an area that is the same for all of these viruses,” Lee said, referring to the new type of vaccine known as mRNA, which uses genetic material, rather than a weakened or inactive germ, to trigger an immune response. 

The U.S. Food And Drug Administration is to review the drug company Pfizer’s vaccine on Dec. 10. Pfizer’s vaccine is an mRNA vaccine, as is a vaccine produced by the drug maker Moderna, which is expected to also soon apply for emergency use approval. 

“I think that is incredibly good news, that even though we may see some slight mutations,  we should have a vaccine that should cover all of those different mutations,” Lee said. 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found in a recent study, published in the journal Science, that COVID-19 has mutated in ways that make it spread much more easily, but the mutation may also make it more susceptible to vaccines. 

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In a separate study, researchers with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation found that while most vaccines were modeled after an earlier strain of COVID-19, they found no evidence that the vaccines wouldn’t provide the same immunity response for the new, more dominant strain. 

“This brings the world one step closer to a safe and effective vaccine to protect people and save lives,” said CSIRO chief executive Dr. Larry Marshall, according to Science Daily

While it may not be long before vaccines begin to be shipped to states, public health experts warn it will be some time before vaccines are available to the wider public. Scarce supplies at first will be allocated for those at greatest risk, including health care workers who are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients, and the elderly and ill. 

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR last week, urged the public to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing for many more months, as the department works to make the vaccines more widely available.

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“Just because the first shots are rolling out doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing everything we’ve been trying to get people to do for months. It’s not going to be widely available for a little while,” Harris said.

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Tuberville looks forward to public service “probably for the rest of my life”

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

Brandon Moseley

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Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville during an interview with Sean Spicer on Newsmax.

U.S. Senator-elect Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, told Newsmax’s Sean Spicer that he looks forward to the opportunity to give back to this country.

“After winning this and after being up here a couple of weeks and seeing how much of a difference we have made just to this point in the Senate has been gratifying,” Tuberville said. “I look forward to doing public service probably for the rest of my life.”

Tuberville said that he was 18 years old when the Vietnam War was coming to a close and then got into coaching so never served in the military and looks forward to the opportunity to give back to the country.

“As I went around the state of Alabama for those two years though I learned the respect of the people and how much that they want this country to remain the United States of America that we know and grew up in to go by the Constitution and those things. As I went through the campaign I got more and more fond of that I want to give back,” Tuberville said.

“I never served, I never gave back, but God was so good to me and my wife my family,” Tuberville said. “Giving back means so much to me after I was given so much for many, many years.”

Tuberville said that education will be a priority for him, getting education back to fundamentals like reading, writing, history and math. Tuberville said that unless the country gets back to fundamentals in education, “This country is not going to make it. We have got to get back to fundamentals and we are getting farther and farther every day.”

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Tuberville was the only Republican on Nov. 3 to defeat an incumbent Senate Democrat when he unseated Sen. Doug Jones.

“I want to be the voice for the people of Alabama,” Tuberville explained. “The previous Senator was a voice for his party, the Democratic party.”

Tuberville, a career college football coach, reiterated his position that we should play sports and send kids back to school despite the coronavirus global pandemic.

“I think we are doing a lot better in sports than we are doing in a lot of other areas,” Tuberville said. “I was keeping my fingers crossed back in August that we would let our young kids go play high school sports, number one, and then we get into college sports. There are so many people throwing negatives on why we should not do that. But I can tell you, you can see many more positives if we go back to school and we play sports. It’s important that we attack this virus as it has been attacking us. If it gives us an inch, we gotta take it.”

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Tuberville reiterated his opposition to shutting down restaurants, schools and businesses to fight the virus.

“We have to get back to everyday life,” Tuberville said. “You can’t keep shutting people down. Freedom is a power that we have. A power that we have earned because of our forefathers. We can’t give that up.”

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He was the head football coach at Auburn University where he won an SEC championship, Ole Miss, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. Prior to that, he was a national championship defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. He was also the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

Tuberville’s term as senator will begin on Jan. 3 when the 117th Congress is sworn in.

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UAB cancels third game

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The UAB Department of Athletics on Thursday announced that it is canceling its final home game of the season. UAB was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi on Friday at Legion Field, but the game was canceled due to continuing problems with COVID-19.

UAB has said that it will “continue to work with Conference USA on the remaining regular-season schedule.”

The only remaining game on UAB’s schedule is a game at Rice on Dec. 12.

UAB currently has a record of just four wins and three losses.

A win at Rice would guarantee the Blazers a winning season, but in this COVID altered season, a four and three or four and four record is probably good enough to be bowl eligible.

Southern Miss has had a dreadful season. They are two and seven and have two remaining games, against UTEP and Florida Atlantic. Both of those games were postponed from earlier in the season.

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Unless the season is extended a week to the 19th, there is no way for UAB and Southern Miss to make up the canceled game.

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Official state Christmas tree was delivered

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

Brandon Moseley

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The 2016 state Christmas tree in front of the state Capitol.

Alabama’s official Christmas Tree was delivered to the state Capitol this week.

This year’s tree was donated by Robbins Taylor Sr. It is an Eastern Red Cedar that was grown in Letohatchee, Alabama.

The approximately 35-foot tree will be displayed on the front steps of the state Capitol building.

The tree will be adorned with lights and decorations ahead of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Friday, Dec. 4. Gov. Ivey’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol in Montgomery.

Alabama became the first state in the nation to make Christmas an official government holiday in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.

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