No-confidence vote for Alabama college president over football shutdown

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 15, 2015 3:28 PM

(Reuters) - The president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham received a no-confidence vote from the school's Faculty Senate on Thursday, in a largely symbolic move spurred by his decision to shut down the football program, officials said.

The non-binding vote came after UAB President Ray Watts said in December the school would shutter its football program, citing increasing costs. Watts retains the backing of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, at whose pleasure he serves.

"I'm obviously disappointed, but what this vote means to me is that I have more work to do to find common ground so we can move forward, and I am up to this challenge," Watts said in a statement.

The UAB Blazers struggled to draw fans in a state where they were overshadowed by the powerhouse University of Alabama and Auburn University football programs. Eliminating the team will free the university from spending tens of millions of dollars on the program in coming years, the school has said.

But the closure, which came after a season in which the team finished with a 6-6 record, its best in a decade, sparked a backlash among students and others.

The Faculty Senate vote was confirmed by staff member Aileen McElwain, who said it was spurred by the football decision. Saying that Watts had "failed to apply principles of shared governance," the resolution also cited changes he made in faculty benefits and academic operations.

Karen Brooks, head of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement the board continued to offer Watts "our full support and our appreciation for his hard work and continued leadership."

UAB, which has more than 11,000 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate students, will also eliminate its bowling and rifle teams at the end of the current school year, but will not cut the total amount of money it spends on athletics, the school has said.

The football team, which competed in the Conference USA athletic conference, played its first NCAA-sanctioned game in 1991, according to the school.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky in New Orleans; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)