A University of Alabama-Birmingham subcommittee looking to reinstate the school’s canceled football program has received nearly $6 million in fundraising pledges, the task force’s head announced Thursday. The pledges were considered a step forward before the submission later this month of a collegiate athletics consulting firm’s report on the program's long-term economic viability.
The UAB Athletics Assessment Task Force, which also seeks to reinstate the school’s bowling and women’s rifle programs, received the approximately $6 million through 154 pledges, subcommittee fundraising head Justin Craft told supporters Thursday, according to AL.com. The task force plans to convert the pledges to official donations, with measures in place to return the money in full if UAB fails to reinstate its football program by Jan. 1, 2016.
“I’m overwhelmed at the support,” Craft told AL.com. “This is really something people want. I think Birmingham wants this program to return.”
It’s unclear how much money the task force will have to raise to secure the football program’s future. UAB announced its cancelation last December after a school-commissioned CarrSports consulting study found it would take $49 million and a $25.3 million deficit over the next five years to keep the program competitive. UAB became the first Division I school to cut its football team since Pacific University did so in 1995. Framed by administrators as a fiscally-responsible decision, the move nevertheless outraged the football program’s members and supporters.
A subsequent study conducted by independent firm OSKR disputed CarrSports’ findings. It found UAB’s football program actually operated at a net profit, with increasing returns expected in the future, ESPN reported last month.
UAB’s task force commissioned College Sports Solutions, a collegiate athletics consulting firm, to analyze CarrSports’ initial study and the football program’s long-term viability. Due May 15, the firm’s report was expected to call for an influx of private donations to save football at UAB.