In an NCAA filled with controversy over autograph signings and illegal benefits to players, a story has come out which can be celebrated instead of berated. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazer football team was reinstated by President Ray Watts. At the conclusion of the 2014 college football season, the president was forced to terminated he UAB football program. The decision was not easy, but seemed necessary as the school had a lack of funds that were needed to keep the football program intact.
Imagine the devastation that set in for the players in the football coaches, as well as the coaches and families of the players. One minute you are a hard working student- athlete playing Division 1 football and the next you are stripped of football at no fault of your own. The passion of these student- athletes is extraordinary and it had to have been incredibly difficult for these players to deal with the termination of their beloved football program.
The heartbroken football players of the UAB Blazers could have easily just accepted their inevitable fate of either transferring schools or even worse, not being able to play football. But this resilient group of men banned together to make sure UAB football would not be taken off the gridiron for good.
It all started with graduating senior Derek Slaughter, who sparked a fire underneath the Blazer football charge to reinstatement. The UAB Class of 2015 graduated back in April and Derek Slaughter decided to do an extremely bold thing. As most everyone knows, students wear their graduation caps along with their gowns during the senior graduation of college. Well, Derek Slaughter had different plans as he decided to wear his football helmet to the UAB graduation in April. Slaughter proudly strutted across the stage of the auditorium stared deep into the eyes of President Watts and exclaimed how much the Blazer football program had meant to him and how much he believed the program should continue. After walking away from the president, Derek lifted his football helmet into the air with pride o show his support for UAB football. The feelings of Derek were representative of the entire football program and created a revolution to bring back football to UAB.
After the team made it clear that they did not want to lose their football program, the lack of funds for the program quickly diminished as the people surrounding the program pitched in heavily. The City of Birmingham, Alabama, The Student Government Association, prominent UAB booster Jimmy Filler, and other private contributors were able to raise $27 million for the reinstatement of the football program. Absolutely amazing.
Derek Slaughter and the UAB football players could have easily rolled over and given up on their football program. The hard work and dedication that was put into every practice and every game translated to using that same effort to bring back football to UAB. The Blazers will not suit up for another game until 2016, but when they do, they most certainly will not take it for granted.