- Associated Press - Monday, March 23, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama lawmaker released documents indicating that UAB may have been prepared to announce the shutdown of three sports, including football, more than two months before university President Ray Watts ultimately made the decision public.

The documents released by state Rep. Jack Williams on Monday include a “task list” compiled by a public relations firm working with the university that referenced a Sept. 30 announcement date. Another document mentioned a Sept. 17 announcement.

Watts announced the decision to end football, bowling and rifle on Dec. 2 citing the financial costs of maintaining competitive programs. He said that call had been made “in recent weeks.”

Williams and the UAB National Alumni Society Past Presidents and current board of directors called for the immediate resignation of Watts on Monday.

“Using a scheme developed by this New York P.R. firm, Dr. Watts and key administrators spent months lying to members of the board of trustees, coaches, faculty, staff, student-athletes, the student body and members of the local community,” Williams said at a news conference. “Dr. Watts on numerous occasions told the media, local businesses, local political leaders and the UAB Faculty Senate that a study was underway and no decision had been made regarding the future of football and would not be made until the data-driven process was complete.”

A statement from the alumni group cited the documents released by Williams “as well as the voices of our alumni.”

“UAB’s mission has been compromised during this crisis and should now take priority,” the alumni leaders said.

Williams said the documents, which included a report from Bill Carr’s CarrSports Consulting dated Sept. 3, came from an anonymous source within the UAB administration through a third party. He said he didn’t know the source’s identity.

Watts denied Monday that a decision was made before the season, calling Williams’ claims otherwise “reckless and untrue.”

“I made that final decision in November and felt it was appropriate to wait until after the regular season to tell the team and the UAB family,” Watts said in a statement.

He said CarrSports didn’t make a recommendation on the football program’s future. Watts said the documents are consistent with any big organization preparing to communicate different possible scenarios publicly.

Watts cited a report from Carr dated Nov. 18 in making his decision, saying fielding a competitive football program would cost some $49 million over five years including facility upgrades. The two reports appear to be nearly identical.

The Blazers had just completed a 6-6 season that marked their best record in a decade. It was the first season under coach Bill Clark.

Since then, faculty and student groups have issued no-confidence votes against Watts citing his handling of the football situation and other issues. The measures are largely symbolic because only the trustees can fire the president.

Williams operates a Rivals Web site dedicated to UAB sports. Watts became president in 2013 after serving as senior vice president and dean of the College of Medicine.

In a Sept. 5 memo to Jim Bakken of UAB’s public relations and marketing department, Carr said he was preparing a summary report that included “studying possible elimination of football, women’s bowling and rifle.” Carr recommended waiting until after the season for an announcement. He cited the possibility of athletes choosing not to finish out the season but also wrote that “the university is now determining its course of action.”

A task force was formed to hire a firm to re-evaluate Carr’s numbers.

Cutting football also raised issues about UAB’s standing with Conference USA, which requires its members to have football.

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