If you follow college football, you’ve probably already heard that administrators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have chosen to shut down the football program.
And without a program at their university, the immediate question we’ve been asking is: What will happen to these football players?
That thought fueled senior tight end Tristan Henderson, who was caught on video speaking out against the decision, and later spoke to ESPN’s Outside the Lines about football at UAB.
More on the video, and some great analysis, comes over at SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty.
So: what will happen to the players?
The athletes will have the opportunity to transfer, without penalty, to other FBS programs. But that eligibility might come as a hollow conciliatory gesture to the student-athletes who saw an outpouring of support from NFL alumni, their booster club, and the town of Birmingham.
(Side note: We can totally help transfer students, as well as high school student-athletes to find the right program for their talents.)
For Vincent Frank over at Forbes, the decision to cancel UAB football comes from conflating amateur athletics with a business mentality.
I am not going to sit here in my office and show ignorance by asking when amateur athletics became about money and “capital investment.” This happened a long time ago around the college football world. It dates back decades, long before most of us were around. It’s a double standard that needs to be placed on the front burner in coming years, especially considering student-athletes see very little of the revenue an athletic department brings in.
Not to mention that UAB’s athletic department hardly carried the largest annual deficit in FBS schools outside the five biggest conferences. (That dubious honor goes to UNLV, with a deficit of $35.3 million, in comparison to UAB’s $17.5 million). And as Fox Sports reports, since UAB’s finances look no different from its peers, it could signal that UAB will soon be joined by those same peers.
What happened to love of the game?
Sorry, is that melodramatic of us to ask?
Because we actually do want to know. And don’t get us wrong: We can be as competitive about who wins the Rose Bowl as anyone else. But shouldn’t this be about more than just the amount of money a star quarterback or receiver can bring in? There’s so much more to the sport–to any sport–than that. There are the life experiences you have as a team. There are the experiences you’re able to bring your teamwork and leadership to off the field. There are the chances you have to empower yourself and others because of the inspiration you’ve learned to bottle up and bring every time you take the field.
That’s why we love this video from Jeff Immelt, the chairman and CEO of GE. You can’t tell us that Immelt doesn’t understand what the bottom line is. But he also knows why we want to play our sports:
When I daydream, I don’t think about powerpoint charts or deals or stuff like that. I think about football.
Everbody who’s ever played thinks they’re a football player.
We hope the guys at UAB always remember, whether they transfer, or choose to stay because they went to UAB for a specific academic program: Everybody who’s ever played is forever a football player.