In the fight to save UAB football, the board of trustees for the Alabama system of schools began to look like the ultimate evil, accompanied by Ray Watts, the UAB president.
But somehow lost in the debate over whether UAB should keep it’s football program or not, is the fact that the NCAA itself is as responsible for the death of UAB football as anyone else.
UAB was one of many teams in the “Group of Five” conferences. Every team in those conferences is a pariah in the Football Bowl Subdivision. In the BCS era, never once did any of those teams get consideration for a national championship.
Seven times, a “non-power conference” team went undefeated. Every single time, that team was left out of the discussion for a national title, including sometimes being left out of a BCS bowl altogether.
In the new playoff system, every team in those conferences is fighting for favor to grab one spot in the “New Year’s Six” bowls. That’s the highest pinnacle any of those teams can ever reach, is the one spot that is forcibly granted to whichever team the College Football Playoff committee deems fit to play in one.
Marshall was undefeated, and barely broke into the rankings at 24th leading up to the final week of the regular season (where they lost).
So how are any teams not in the Power Five conferences (and Notre Dame) ever supposed to compete for a championship? How come Alabama, Auburn, Samford, Jacksonville State, North Alabama, West Alabama, Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon can all legitimately compete for a championship, but UAB, Troy, and South Alabama can’t?
The playoff committee will certainly say that every team has a chance “if they are deemed good enough by our committee.”
But let’s be honest, that is NEVER happening.
So where does that leave these schools? In a championship-less purgatory in a division of football that only likes to use them as whipping boys, paying them to come get beat 99% of the time? What kind of system is that?
If you’re the board of trustees or school president making a decision, isn’t that something that crosses your mind? How on Earth is a team supposed to make any money, get any recruits, and compete on an equal level, if the NCAA is treating them like second class citizens to begin with?
Despite the other business (or personal) reasons that the powers that be have for disbanding the football program, how can the NCAA not also be at fault here? Yes, plenty of other schools are just keeping quiet and playing football in the group of five conferences, but that only helps the NCAA continue to hinder these schools and keep them from ever achieving anything in the FBS.
Football at UAB is not championship football, but only because it literally can not be. The same applies to every other school in the Conference USA, MAC, AAC, MWC, and Sun Belt.
Killing football at UAB is bringing to light something else. Despite everything else involved with the decision to end it, this is showing that the NCAA is indeed playing unfair and keeping a handful of schools from doing what other schools in the exact same division are doing – competing for a national championship.
I posed the question for almost three years – would a move to FCS make sense for UAB if they started having issues? Little did I know their issues would be a straight up death.
But the question remains now not for UAB, but every other team stuck in this purgatory known as the “Group of Five.” If you’re never going to be able to compete with the Power Five conferences – not because of skill, or financial backing, or any of those things – but rather because big money and the NCAA/CFP are purposefully going to keep you out, then why not try to make a change?
A move to FCS is obviously never ideal as it is clearly a step backwards from FBS, but maybe we should also be having the discussion of the Group of 5 separating off and having their own playoff or national championship. Keep the bowl game system in place, but let the best of the best in the Group of 5 have a chance to compete for national glory. Removing the one and only spot from the New Year’s 6 bowls and creating a system that makes G5 games mean something in the post-season can only be more lucrative for everyone.
Conference autonomy is something that has been thrown around for the last few years with all of the realignment of teams, but now is as good a time as any to get serious about it. The Group of Five being taken away from the current system would most likely help, not hurt. The teams in the Group of Five conferences could establish their own championship, and compete against each other. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, any of which are better than what they have now.
There are possibilities out there for the Group of Five schools, but as long as they stay where they are, things won’t change.
UAB might not have a football program anymore, but there are more people to blame than the Alabama board of trustees or Ray Watts. The NCAA needs to take this as an example of what happens when you treat half of the teams in the FBS like second class citizens.