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Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
2015 Signing Day
Hoover coach Josh Niblett speaks at signing day for his football players. Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
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Spain Park athletics
Raney scores historic win
Spain Park football coach Shawn Raney. Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
Fifty-four Alabama high school football coaches, including all of the coaches from the south of Birmingham and North Shelby suburbs, have written a letter to UAB President Ray Watts, urging him to restore the UAB football program he shuttered Dec. 2.
Watts is said to be studying a new report and will make a final decision public on June 1 by email and social media. Watts says financial losses are the compelling reason for his decision. UAB boosters have raised more than $22.5 million in an effort to persuade Watts to bring the program back.
The letter’s signees include Hoover coach Josh Niblett, who played at the University of Alabama and has coached the Bucs to a record-tying five state championships; Spain Park coach Shawn Raney; Vestavia Hills coach Buddy Anderson, the state’s all-time winningest coach; Oak Mountain’s Cris Bell; Homewood’s Ben Berguson; Mountain Brook’s Chris Yeager; Chelsea’s Chris Elmore; Briarwood Christian School’s Fred Yancey; and John Carroll Catholic’s Tim Sanders.
Other notable signees: Montevallo’s Andrew Zow, a record-setting quarterback at Alabama; and Oneonta’s Don Jacobs, who played quarterback at Alabama under Paul “Bear” Bryant. That seems to indicate that if the root of the shutdown is in part due to bitterness between the UA-dominated University of Alabama System Board of Trustees and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, these coaches have no such feelings.
At the root of their concern are the lost opportunities for local high school football players to go to college through football scholarships. The letter’s concluding statement reads, “We strongly urge you to move with great haste and reinstate football at UAB.”
The letter in its entirety:
Dear Dr. Watts:
We are writing today to express our concern over the decision to cancel the football program at UAB. As coaches in the Birmingham area we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of UAB football. We believe the decision to kill the program will do damage to UAB, to our community, and to opportunities for student-athletes in the state of Alabama.
As coaches we drill into our athletes the dangers of making mistakes and how they can kill a drive, cause a shift in momentum, or even alter the final outcome of a game. We believe dropping football is a costly mistake.
Sometimes the impact of a mistake is immediately obvious, such as a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Some mistakes are more subtle – but can be just as disastrous. For example, there is a missed opportunity when a team is driving towards a touchdown and a fumble is lost. A game with too many lost opportunities, more often than not, will lead to a loss.
We believe the missed opportunities created by this decision are so far reaching and so significant they cannot be overlooked.
From 2000-2014, UAB signed 376 young men to football scholarships. 199 (53%) were from the state of Alabama and 72 (19%) were from the Birmingham metro area. Of the remaining 177 (47%) young men who signed with UAB, many now call Birmingham home.
The typical signing class at UAB during this time period was an annual average of 13 young men from the state of Alabama (about 5 of them from the Birmingham metro area) and around 12 young men from outside the state. For some, UAB was their only opportunity to continue their education as a student-athlete. For others, UAB was their only opportunity for a scholarship, an academic opportunity that many of these good kids desperately needed.
A few from this 376 went on to careers in the NFL. Most did not become professional athletes – but one thing they all had was an opportunity. An opportunity which is now lost.
A perfect example of what UAB can mean for a young man is UAB's J.J. Nelson from Midfield High School. J.J. Nelson's only Division I scholarship offer was from UAB. This past season J.J. excelled at UAB, becoming a consensus First Team All American.
J.J. Nelson on May 2nd was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 5th round of the NFL Draft.
In addition to J.J., five other UAB players from this past year's UAB team will have the opportunity to report this year to a NFL team. Kennard Backman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Ty Long has signed with the Washington Redskins. Jimmy Jean has signed with the New England Patriots. Hunter Mullins has been invited to a tryout with the Arizona Cardinals. Diaheem Watkins has been invited to a tryout with the Detroit Lions.
We find it deeply alarming to see young men losing opportunities. For some it will prove to be the difference between having a chance to excel in college as a student-athlete, or having to get a job out of high school with little or no opportunity.
Over the years, the lack of investment in the UAB football program led many of the top athletes in the metro area and the state to pursue opportunities at universities outside of the state of Alabama. The excitement generated this season by Coach Bill Clark and his staff created a buzz among high school athletes that a reinvigorated UAB football program now had the potential for long term success.
We were all very disappointed when we learned the danger facing the football program wasn't the lack of facilities or a decent place to play – but rather an administration preparing to pull the plug just as the program was beginning to move towards its gigantic potential.
As educators we know the importance of both academics and athletics in the training of young men and women. Nowhere is this more evident than at our nation's military academies which all place a tremendous emphasis on sports as they develop our future military leaders.
Dr. Watts, we urge you to consider the impact your decision will have, indeed is already having, on young men across this state. We dedicate ourselves daily to making a difference in the lives of young men. As coaches we see first-hand how the lessons learned playing football help develop character. We see the potential for football to shape young men into leaders.
We hope you will consider these young men as you reflect on the future of UAB. There are many young men you have the opportunity to help. UAB as a university, our community, and our state will reap lasting benefits from a UAB football program which trains and graduates fine citizens and future leaders.
We strongly urge you to move with great haste and reinstate football at UAB.
Buddy Anderson, Head Football Coach, Vestavia Hills High School
Cris Bell, Head Football Coach, Oak Mountain High School
Shawn Raney, Head Football Coach, Spain Park High School
Reuben Nelson, Head Football Coach, Ramsay High School
Bennie Hall, Head Football Coach, Center Point High School
Ben Berguson, Head Football Coach, Homewood High School
Dusty Goode, Athletic Director and Head Football Coach, Mortimer Jordan High School
Tim Sanders, Head Football Coach, John Carroll High School
Matt Plunkett, Head Football Coach, Gardendale High School
Tom Causey, Head Football Coach, Pelham High School
Don Jacobs, Head Football Coach, Oneonta High School
Jason Hill, Head Football Coach, Vincent High School
James Elgin, Head Football Coach and Director of Athletics, Pleasant Grove High School
Fred Yancey, Head Football Coach, Briarwood Christian High School
Chris Elmore, Head Football Coach, Chelsea High School
Matt Glover, Head Football Coach, Pinson Valley High School
Andre Robinson, Head Football Coach, Parker High School
Andrew Zow, Head Football Coach, Montevallo High School
Chris Yeager, Head Football Coach, Mountain Brook High School
Zac Willis, Head Football Coach, Corner High School
Mark Freeman, Head Football Coach, Thompson High School
Watt Parker, Head Football Coach, Helena High School
Martez Edwards, Head Football Coach and Boys/Girls Track Coach, Bessemer City High School
Keith Etheredge, Head Football Coach, Leeds High School
Steve Davis, Head Football Coach, Springville High School
Todd Cassity, Head Football Coach, J.B. Pennington High School
Gardner Gilliland, Head Football Coach, Cleveland High School
Wiley McKeller, Head Football Coach, Calera High School
Richie Busby, Head Football Coach/Athletic Director, Fultondale High School
Ronald Cheatham, Head Football Coach, Wenonah High School
Roderick Carson, Head Football Coach, George Washington Carver High School
Cornelius Turner, Head Football Coach, Woodlawn High School
Tom Hannah, Head Football Coach, Oak Grove High School
George Bates, Head Football Coach, Minor High School
Scott Mansell, Head Football Coach, Hueytown High School
Keith Register, Head Football Coach, Hayden High School
Jerry Hood, Head Football Coach, Clay-Chalkville High School
Philip Smith, Head Football Coach, Curry High School
Steve Martin, Head Football Coach, Ashville High School
Tim Vakakes, Head Football Coach, P.D. Jackson-Olin High School
Richard White, Head Football Coach, Dadeville High School
David Powell, Head Football Coach, McAdory High School
Woody Smothers, Head Football Coach, Carbon Hill High School
Sam Adams, Head Football Coach, Hillcrest High School
Chris Musso, Head Football Coach, Locust Fork High School
Ken Adams, Head Football Coach, Susan Moore High School
Bryan Blackmon, Head Football Coach, Opelika High School
Lee Gibson, Head Football Coach, Tuscaloosa County High School
Jay Brown, Head Football Coach/Athletic Director, Moody High School
Billy Childers, Head Football Coach, Shelby County High School
Alex Wilson, Head Football Coach, Huffman High School
Josh Niblett, Head Football Coach, Hoover High School
David Partridge, Head Football Coach, Shades Valley High School
Roderick Isaac, Head Football Coach, Midfield High School
Josh Floyd, Head Football Coach, Hewitt-Trussville High School
Eric Johnson, Head Football Coach, Tarrant High School