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U-WIRE: U. Alabama-Birmingham may eliminate athletic department

By Jon Paolone
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 30, 2002

Kaleidoscope (U. Alabama-Birmingham)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Will the University of Alabama-Birmingham still have an athletic program two years from now?

As reported in the Kaleidoscope on April 23, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees issued a statement on April 15 saying that, in effect, UAB's athletic program would have to show a profit, or the entire department would be eliminated.

At the announcement's onset, the athletic program was approximately $7.6 million in debt, a third of which was attributed to the football team.

Former UAB baseball player Brian Mackin was hired as senior associate athletic director as part of a stipulation in the trustees' resolution.

"I saw several of my alum friends who were upset," Mackin said of the initial reaction. "I couldn't understand why that couldn't be handled. I wanted to help any way I could. I was shocked, I guess."

Mackin's mission was to take charge of fundraising, marketing and promotions for the athletic program.

The two biggest pieces to this puzzle are decreasing the athletic budget and increasing revenue.

According to interim athletic director Watson Brown, the budget can't go any lower.

"Our sports programs are at the bottom of C-USA in funding, and that's not just football, that's every sport," Brown said.

"I don't say that in a negative (way) because, really, I think it's been a positive that we can have really small budgets and win games. But I don't think we can go much further with budgets. Our issues now are revenues."

Both Mackin and Brown stressed the point that only about 20-30 university athletic departments, of 117 Division I-A schools, are making profits.

"This is not a state of Alabama problem, this is a national problem. No one in our conference as a football-playing school is making money," Mackin said.

"It's magnified a little here because the press jumped on this," Brown said.

However, that doesn't change the fact that the trustees want to see Blazer athletics self-sufficient in two years.

Another obstacle is reducing the $7 million deficit, and the primary focus is increasing revenue.

While complete figures are not yet available, both Mackin and Brown are upbeat about the situation.

"As far as I'm comfortable to say, we are ahead of our revenue from last year, in football," Mackin said.

Brown reiterated that he is "very positive" about the progress that is being made, especially in fundraising.

"I got in the community with Brian; we saw 40 corporate places in August."

According to Brown, they were greeted with a responsive attitude and a willingness to help now or in the near future.

Steps being taken to increase revenue are focused on fundraising and ticket sales.

"Since I've taken over, we've raised quite a bit of money just in a couple of months' time," Brown said.

Brown said they hoped to increase the number of Golden 100 and Team UAB members, as well as up the number of tickets sold.

According to Mackin, the goal for ticket sales is to make between $450,000 and $500,000 more than last year.

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