bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: The death of a college football program

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Students and fans of the University of Alabama-Birmingham were dealt a tremendous blow this week when the school decided to shut down its football program. No one is more directly affected than the players and coaches, who will see the work they have done to build this program flushed away with barely a thank you. Although there was not a lot of history in this program, as it only started in 1991, the team just finished its most successful season in a decade and things were looking up.

A lot of crummy stuff had happened to this team over the last few years. Back in 2007, they nearly hired Jimbo Fisher, the current head coach at Florida State, who won the national championship last year and is in this year’s playoff. The hire was torpedoed by the school’s board of trustees, led by Paul Bryant, Jr., the son of legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant. Some believed that they wanted to leave Fisher available for the Crimson Tide to hire, as they were also looking for a coach. After two bad head coaches, they hired Bill Clark from Jacksonville State just this year to lead the team and become the first African-American head coach in UAB history. They recently completed a 6-6 season, the first non-losing season for the school since 2004.

It would appear to be money problems that led to the program’s demise. Little money had been put into building the program over the years, and so it failed to grow or improve. Imagine being one of the players, though. These kids had worked for many years to get to the point where they were playing college football in the highest division. Many of them had scholarships, allowing them to get an education they might not have otherwise been able to get. I imagine the school and the football program were a central part of the identity of most of them, just as we have seen with so many other programs. To have it all go away is rather unimaginable. A couple of years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the possibility that Penn State’s program might have been shut down for a period of time. That would have been temporary, had it happened, and I am nothing but a fan, and yet I was terrified of the idea. I really can’t imagine what these players and coaches are feeling to see the thing that was so central to their lives completely swept away.

The naysayers will talk about how college is about so much more than football, and they are right, of course. For the average student, even one that is a huge football fan, life will go on relatively unchanged. Sure, fall Saturdays will be different, and there may be less school spirit around campus, but the rest of it will still be college. The coaches, though, have to look for new jobs. Maybe they’ll find them, maybe they won’t. The players, who are obviously free to transfer without having to sit out a year, may find a school that will offer them scholarships, but maybe some of them will be unable to do so. I hate it for those kids and coaches, just as I hated to see what happened with their counterparts at Penn State when faced with what was ultimately a far better situation.

Athletics, particularly at the college level, mean an awful lot to the communities in which they exist. From three-year-olds playing soccer to grown men playing professional sports, the games and the world surrounding those games play a huge part in the lives of everyone involved. UAB may have been justified in killing football (along with a couple other sports) this week, but I am not sure the trustees and the school’s now-embattled president, Dr. Ray Watts, had any idea how big the impact would be. The fallout will continue for a long time, I am guessing.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Jayson Werth, an outfielder for the Washington Nationals, was sentenced to ten days in jail for a reckless driving conviction stemming from an incident that occurred in July. He was driving over 100 miles per hour when he was stopped.

3) Two fans of the Chicago Bears were stabbed by a Cowboys fan on Thursday night outside of Soldier Field where the Bears had just lost to the Dallas Cowboys. One of the victims was stabbed nine times.

4) The Los Angeles Kings were fined $100,000 for allowing Slava Voynov to practice with the team on Tuesday. Voynov is currently suspended by the NHL for a domestic violence charge.

5) Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, a bigot who has been outspoken in his opposition to marriage equality, took issue with being asked about his views by a local reporter on Wednesday, calling the writer a prick several times during the press conference announcing his new contract.

6) In recent weeks, there was a lot of college football talk centered around the rankings of TCU and Baylor, two Big 12 teams that each had aspirations of making the new College Football Playoff. The teams had identical records, but Baylor had beaten TCU earlier this season. Despite that, TCU was ranked higher in the recent playoff committee projections. The conference commissioner, Bob Bowlsby, insisted that the two teams be declared co-champions of the conference after they each won on Saturday. The committee, who had previously stated that a conference title would be factored into a decision on which four teams would be selected for the inaugural playoff, decided to leave both teams by the wayside and put Ohio State into the tournament. I am not sure if being declared the sole conference champion would have helped Baylor, had a head-to-head tie-breaker taken effect, but it couldn’t have hurt. As it is, both teams will watch on television.

7) Some people need to get a grip. Mike Kelly, the head football coach of Division III Widener University, saw his team crushed in the playoffs on Saturday by Linfield College, a school in Oregon. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who knows Linfield’s coach from his time leading the Oregon Ducks, let Linfield’s team practice at the Eagles facility in advance of the game. The Kelly from Widener took issue with that, ripping Chip and wishing luck to the Seattle Seahawks, who were set to play the Eagles on Sunday. It seems rather silly to have gotten upset about this, don’t you think? Since his team lost 45-7, I hardly think Chip’s nice gesture played into the result very much.

8) A big fight broke out early in Sunday’s game between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. Brandon Williams of the Panthers was ejected from the game. The fight started after a touchdown run by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who started arguing with Cameron Jordan of the Saints as soon as he scored. He did his usual stupid “Superman” bit after the argument and was shoved by another Saints player. That’s when the whole mess really kicked in. Williams was tossed for throwing punches. Hey Superman, just a thought…your team is 4-8-1. Maybe lay off the bit for a while, huh?

Good sports:

1) I always like a good David and Goliath story. The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the only team in Division I basketball not affiliated with a conference, beat 17th-ranked Michigan on the road on Saturday.

2) Jordan Spieth won golf’s Hero World Challenge in Florida on Sunday by ten shots over second-place Henrik Stenson. The field of eighteen included sixteen of the world’s top thirty players.

3) Alia Atkinson, a swimmer from Jamaica, became the world’s first black championship swimmer on Saturday when she won the 100m breaststroke event at the world short course swimming championships in Doha, Qatar.

Bonus) I always knew I liked St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher. On Sunday, he sent six players out for the coin toss before his team’s game against Washington. The six were all acquired by the Rams with draft picks they received in the trade that gave Washington the pick it used on now-benched quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Bad sports, good sports appears early each week

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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