By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, March 19 UAB Athletics made national headlines with its men’s basketball team’s shocking closing seconds victory 60 to 59 over highly ranked Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
UAB athletics super fan and State Representative Jack Williams (R from Vestavia) submitted a bill in the Alabama legislature demanding that the Board of Trustees maintain a football program at the University of Alabama campus in Birmingham for as long as they maintain one in their flagship Tuscaloosa campus.
Rep. Jack Williams announced on Facebook on Thursday: “This morning at 11:40am, I introduced three bills to the House:
• HB339, with 63 co-sponsors, calls for ethics training for public university board members
• HB340, with 41 co-cosponsors, calls for a restructuring of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.
• HB341, with 38 co-sponsors, calls for returning football to UAB.”
The Synopsis of HB341 reads: “Existing law does not require the University of Alabama System to establish and maintain intercollegiate football at its campus located in Birmingham. This bill would require the University of Alabama System, so long as it has a football program at its Tuscaloosa campus, to establish and maintain intercollegiate football at its campus located in Birmingham.”
The bill requires that the, “The intercollegiate football program maintained at the Birmingham campus shall be funded at an appropriate level to participate in the Football Bowl Series Division, or its successor. It shall not be a requirement that the football program participate in a Power 5 Conference, but shall at the university’s option participate in the same conference as all other intercollegiate sports offered at the university.”
HB340 is an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901. It renames the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama to the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System. It also revises the makeup of the board to include additional members from areas of the state in which a campus of the university system is located. It also decreases the number of consecutive six-year terms of office a member may serve from three to two, and specifies where the office for the system and the chancellor of the system may be located.
According to HB340, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees shall be comprised of all of the following members: “(1) Two members from each congressional district in the state, an additional member from the congressional district which includes the site of the first campus of the university, the superintendent of education, and the governor. (2) One member from each congressional district in the state in which a campus of the university system is located. (3) One member who is appointed by majority vote of the governing body of any municipality in which a campus of the university system is located. (4) One member who is appointed by majority vote of the governing body of any county in which a campus of the university system is located. (5) One member representing the alumni of each campus of the university system who is appointed by the Governor from a list of five names submitted by each of the respective campus alumni associations. (6) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. (7) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (8) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (9) The State Superintendent of Education. (10) The Governor, who shall be ex officio president of the board.”
The current members of the board of trustees would be allowed to continue to serve until their terms expire under existing law and their successors shall be elected and confirmed. “The committee shall ensure that appointments are solicited from all constituencies, are inclusive, and reflect the racial, gender, and economic diversity of the state. (h) No trustee shall receive any pay or emolument other than his or her actual expenses incurred in the discharge of his duties.”
The bill also requires that: “The office of the University of Alabama System and that of the Chancellor of the University of Alabama System, should a chancellor be employed, shall be located in the largest municipality within a county in which a campus of the university system is located.”
The final bill, HB339, “Would require currently serving and future trustees to complete mandatory training on the State Ethics Law, board governance, and relevant accreditation standards. This bill would also subject currently serving and future trustees to the State Ethics Law and would require each to annually file a statement of economic interests with the State Ethics Commission.”
Tuesday, December 2, University of Alabama in Birmingham announced that the football team was being shut down along with the ladies’ rifle and bowling teams.
University President Ray Watts said at the time, “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.”
Watts said that the 2014-2015 academic year was the final season for UAB football, bowling and rifle. President Watts 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.”
President Watts said that investments in football were unlikely to produce a sustainable return relative to the required investment. President Watts claims that UAB already subsidizes $20 million of the roughly $30 million annual Athletic Department budget.
Currently the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville all share a Chancellor and a Board of Trustees with the original University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.
Rep. Jack Williams said at the time, “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.” “The negative repercussions of this day will be felt on the UAB campus and in the Birmingham community for generations to come.”
President Watts said that UAB can not be competitive in the rapidly evolving NCAA landscape and the soaring costs associated with maintaining a competitive team. President Watts’ decision was based on a Carr and Associates study that Free UAB activists have disputed.
UAB’s basketball team will play UCLA on Saturday Morning, March 21. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16.
Hash Tags: UAB, Birmingham, football, UAB athletics, sports, University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, lack of leadership, Rep. Jack Williams