We stand behind our numerical work as honest, sincere, conservative, and certainly not biased in favor of maintaining the football, bowling, and/or rifle programs. It's just that the unbiased numbers happen to support that outcome. —California-based consultant OSKR
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — UAB's decision to cut football, rifle and bowling "was ill advised from a net cash-flow perspective" and the three sports essentially broke even last year, according to a new study funded by UAB boosters.
The study was conducted by California-based consultant OSKR, which had initially been hired by a task force to reevaluate the report UAB cited in dropping the sports. UAB then fired OSKR citing critical articles from co-author Andrew Schwartz on the decision and hired another firm.
Schwartz and Daniel Rascher said UAB supporters, who weren't identified, paid $20,000 for them to complete the 156-page study but that "no conditions were placed on our work from these donors other than a commitment to work diligently to get the results out to the public expeditiously."
"We stand behind our numerical work as honest, sincere, conservative, and certainly not biased in favor of maintaining the football, bowling, and/or rifle programs," the authors wrote. "It's just that the unbiased numbers happen to support that outcome."
UAB said in a statement that a report from the firm hired to replace OSKR, College Sports Solutions, is expected in May.
"The Dec. 2 announcement to discontinue football, bowling and rifle was based on the best information available at the time, but a thorough review of the data used to make that decision is important to the UAB community," the statement said. "UAB leadership looks forward to revisiting the decision with community input after the completion of the College Sports Solutions review, due May 15.
"It is the intention of UAB leadership to make the most informed decision possible based on an objective review of actual numbers."
Cutting the programs stirred an outcry among fans, and student and faculty groups have issued no-confidence votes against President Ray Watts.
Watts has said there will be no football team in 2015 whatever the study commissioned by UAB finds. Prospects for a football revival beyond that are unclear.
The OSKR study was titled "The Incremental Benefits and Costs of Football, Bowling and Rifle at the University of Alabama at Birmingham."
UAB had cited a report from CarrSports Consulting indicating it would cost $49 million over the next five years to field a competitive football program, including facility upgrades.
Schwartz and Rascher cited projected increase of football ticket sales after a 6-6 season and said revenue from the new College Football Playoffs and Conference USA would lead to a $500,000 annual surplus in the sports despite an estimated $580,774 expense with the cost of attendance stipends and unlimited food for athletes. They also said football, rifle and bowling generated some $78,000 in revenue after expenses in 2013-14.
Rascher and Schwartz also said UAB owes them $22,400 for work done before the university fired them.
Here are some of the factors cited in the disparity from the Carr Report:
— The OSKR study projected the actual cost of athletic scholarships would be 65 percent less than the earlier $3.75 million estimate, or about $1.5 million.
— UAB will receive $2.4 million less if it loses its Conference USA membership and has to join a league without football, according to OSKR. That affiliation is in jeopardy since C-USA requires members to field football programs. The study also cites potentially higher travel costs for athletic teams in a new conference.
"The question of C-USA membership is thus the most critical pivot point for deciding whether UAB's financial health is maximized with or without football," the study found. "Even joining a well-respected non-football conference will not come close to fully mitigating these losses."
— It projected a $620,000 decrease in donations to the athletic department without a football program.
Rascher and Schwartz suggested UAB donors contribute $1.2 million annually to cover the cost of attendance stipend and pay off "a substantial portion" of debt service for facility improvements.
"Because of the causal link between FBS and revenue, the university will be worse off, on a pure dollars and cents basis, without these three sports than with them, even after accounting for offsetting downward effects," the new study said.