• We All Have A Position To Play, Don't We?

    "UAB is a national and world leader in many fields," St. John wrote. "The hospital and medical school are points of pride for everyone in our state. But in the last 10 years UAB has faced increasing challenges. In health research funding, UAB's national ranking has declined significantly over the last 10 years. The cancer and cardiology programs are no longer nationally ranked. Changes in health care funding will require intense focus and leadership to maintain the excellence we expect from UAB. I would hope that everyone who cares about UAB and the people it serves will encourage UAB to make these matters of crucial importance to its students and the state of Alabama its highest priority."

    The above is University of Alabama System trustee Finis St. John telling the University of Alabama at Birmingham to stay in its lane. Nevermind that UAB wants its own on-campus stadium to expand and further support the Blazers football team. Or that UAB is financially well-positioned to fund its construction. Or the fact that Birmingham mayor William Bell supports the effort, as do the alumni, students and prominent business figures. No, UAB has its position to play, and the folks in Tuscaloosa will be damned if they left one of their offshoots do anything to take shine off the Crimson Tide football program.

    This is about the egos lurking within the main Tuscaloosa campus wanting to be the end all/be all when it comes to college football. It's a huge and nasty turf battle that stands to stunt UAB's growth and lock it into an idea of what the T-Town trustees believe it should be instead of what it could be. It's bad enough that UAB only has minimal representation on the Board of Trustees, while UA-Huntsville appears as a mere afterthought.

    There's always Legion Field.

    A 70,000-seat stadium located miles away from the campus that's in desperate need of upgrading (or rebuilding, in my humble opinion). The Gray Lady's seen better days. In contrast, the new on-campus stadium features a more modest 30,000 seats and will most likely be better equipped than Legion Field.

    If you build it, they still won't come.

    Lack of use and lack of support, two arguments used for almost any city or county venture. It was the same talk used to discourage the city from building the infamous domed stadium. It's a general "why bother?" attitude that helps hold the city back and allows it to stagnate.

    Meanwhile, other cities in the state are allowed to grow as they see fit. It's only the Birmingham/Jefferson County area that's bitch-slapped every time it decides to grow beyond adding a few new restaurants in the Highland/Five Points South area.

    There are a lot of people out there who want to see the city of Birmingham crumble and have Tuscaloosa or Montgomery take its place. And there are a lot of people who want UAB to "play its position" and cease their silly notions of their silly football team who, mind you, is currently coached by a guy who only got his position because he was buddies with Paul "Bear" Bryant's son. And that guy has a losing streak that's a mile wide and a mile deep:

    UAB fans and boosters have long felt that Alabama Trustees were not in favor of the decision to build a football program in 1996. That suspicion gained strength in 2007 when UAB began conducting a search to replace football coach Watson Brown. UAB likely could have hired one of the hottest young coaches in the country to run the program; then-LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. A few influential UAB boosters proposed that they would assist with donations to help cover Fisher's $600,000 salary, but the Trustees stepped in and squashed the hire, claiming "financial considerations." On its face, that argument appeared bogus. Again, UAB supporters suspected that a few paranoid Trustees feared that UAB might wind up with a better coach than Alabama and that some members of the Board overstepped their boundaries and handpicked another coach, Neil Callaway, which has turned out to be a sub-standard hire.

    The reception to Callaway's hire from UAB fans was cool—and with good reason. Five years later, Callaway's record is 16-41, and for 2011, his record is a disappointing 1-8.

    He's a veritable dud. But that dud knows Junior, and Junior won't let him go anywhere. The Board of Trustees should stop playing Fiefdom Lords to the serfs in the UA system.