The University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) was the first NCAA top-tier team in the past 20 years to terminate its football program. The final announcement came on Sunday, Dec. 7 after the UAB Blazers failed to receive a bowl bid following their 6-6 season in the East Division of Conference USA (C-USA).
UAB decided to terminate its football program after an independent financial study revealed that fielding a competitive football team would only become more costly.
According to several athletic directors across the country, the reality of the situation has become clear — college football has become a commercially driven sport suited to and dominated by big budget football schools.
What does this mean for a program such as UTSA’s?
With several of the programs in the “Big Five Conferences” — the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pacific 12 — starting to implement their own policies regarding player reform (e.g. player image rights, player compensation), programs in smaller conferences such as C-USA have little room to alter their financial landscape.
Schools in the “Big Five Conferences” use money from bowl games, major sponsorships and prime time television to compensate for changing NCAA player reform, allowing them to continue attracting top-tier talent.
The University of Texas at Austin notably proposed a $6,000,000 compensation package for its student athletes — equating to $10,000 per student athlete per year — in addition to scholarship money. The proposition comes as no surprise, as big-time football schools compete while mitigating the effects of player reform.
Football is a lucrative and competitive sport — compensation packages and scholarships will undoubtedly continue to increase. Schools such as UTSA cannot afford to compensate athletes at such a high cost.
According to a San Antonio Express News article, student athletic fees at UTSA are already at the maximum of $240 a semester and $480 a year. Student fee revenue paid into UTSA athletics over the past five years is $54,898,951. These figures show that student athletic fees make up more than half of the athletics revenue, which is $92,983,589.
With students being charged the maximum annual athletic fee, UTSA has little financial room to lure top-tier talent with compensation packages and higher scholarships.
Does this mean UTSA will go the way of UAB?
In short, the answer is no. UTSA football will continue to sustain financial stability as long as alumni keep donating and students keep enrolling.
What it does mean, though, is that UTSA football will find it hard to achieve competitive big-time football success. While UTSA football promotes school spirit and campus community, it will probably never attain the appeal of the likes of UT, Alabama, A&M or Ohio State.