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You’ll Never Guess Who Just Bought Half of UAB’s Football Tickets

  |   By: Dave Folk     |   Opinion

Birmingham’s City Council was half of UAB’s football attendance last year.

No lead, no joke, just this: Birmingham City Council spends close to a quarter of a million dollars each year on UAB season football tickets for city employees, neighborhood associations and youth groups. Does anyone really want to see UAB football? No, and that is counter-intuitively the reason that City Council spends $225,000 each year on 5,000 season tickets.

UAB averaged 11,587 fans in 2013, meaning that the bloc of tickets that Birmingham bought from UAB makes up nearly half of the school’s attendance. Let that sink in, almost half of UAB’s attendance are free tickets handed out by the city council and mayor. If all those free tickets are actually taken up that means that only an average of 6,587 people bought tickets to UAB football games last year.

There are high schools that draw a higher attendance than that (and none that are helped out by the city). The Minor League Baseball team, the Birmingham Barons, is crushing UAB’s non-city attendance, at a baseball field.

So Birmingham is spending close to a quarter of a million dollars each year on free tickets to hand out. That is money that could be used to clear out dilapidated houses, used as grants to attract businesses downtown. That is money that is being instead spent on watching an awful football team, and it is money being spent because they are an awful football team.

You see, the NCAA wants butts in seats. They want butts in seats because the NCAA is an oligopoly (a subject for another time). So the NCAA imposes attendance minimums on schools to make sure that the money is freely flowing into the pockets of administrators and NCAA officials. That minimum is 15,000 people per game. UAB needs help reaching that minimum because they aren’t good at football, and there are two other schools in Alabama that demand our residents’ attention on Saturdays.

If UAB doesn’t meet that minimum they could risk losing their Division 1 FBS distinction. Losing it would cost UAB money, and gain them bad PR. It is in UAB’s vested interest to maintain that attendance minimum. It is in Birmingham’s best interest to keep UAB happy (since it owns a fair amount of property downtown).

So to get UAB off the ticket bubble, Birmingham purchases 5,000 season tickets each year. I understand this is the second or third time I explained what is happening, but that is because I am struggling so much to understand how something so stupid could happen for so long.

If UAB needs to get people to attend games then it is on them to invest in the team, and to market themselves better. City Council has far better things to worry about then whether Legion Field is empty on Thursday nights in the fall. That money could be spent in a thousand different ways to actually help the citizens of this town.Go Blazers!

Follow Dave on Twitter at @davefolk

Dave Folk is a yankee transplant living in Birmingham, Alabama.