UAB hires new sports consultant to study cutting football

The University of Alabama at Birmingham has hired another sports consultant to produce a new study about the decision to cut football, bowling and rifle. If you’re keeping score at home, it’s the same firm that a UAB athletics task force initially decided not to pick.

UAB announced Monday that its task force has selected College Sports Solutions (CSS) to produce by May 15 what figures to be a highly-scrutinized report. Because the university dropped football, UAB’s future membership in Conference USA remains in doubt. Conference USA’s presidents meet shortly after the May 15 date the report is due.

Last month, CSS lost its bid to become UAB’s new consultant to review the work by previous consultant, CarrSports. UAB’s task force announced in early March the hiring of consultant OSKR after a unanimous vote.

But UAB’s administration cited perceived biases by OSKR because of articles written by its co-founder and eliminated the company from consideration. UAB owes OSKR $22,400 for work the firm did after initially getting approval, AL.com reported. (Wes Smith, the chair of UAB's Athletics Assessment Task Force, said OSKR will be paid.)

Late last month, an Alabama state representative released documents that he says shows UAB decided to end football earlier than the university has said, and UAB used a public relations firm to mislead the purpose of the initial Carr report. UAB denied the accusations.

UAB spokesman Jim Bakken released a statement Monday from Smith that said CSS has “deep knowledge” of college sports and the necessary qualifications. CSS is charged with producing a study showing the sustainability of the three cut sports in order to be consistently competitive for conference championships in the upper half of C-USA.

Smith identified six people associated with CSS who will work on the UAB study: CSS president and former San Diego athletic director Jeff Schemmel; former Ohio State/Oregon/Minnesota AD Rick Bay; former New Mexico/Houston AD Rudy Davalos; former Washington State/Arizona/UNLV AD Jim Livengood; former Collegiate Consulting chief operating officer Heather Ould; and sports business reporter Kristi Dosh.

Dosh wrote an article for FoxSports.com in December that took a very preliminary look at UAB’s finances. She concluded that she doesn’t anticipate more football programs around the country being cut, but does think other sports teams could be cut as costs continue to rise in college athletics. Dosh tweeted on Feb. 9, “Prediction: UAB will reinstate football for 2016 and make Bill Carr the scapegoat,” in reference to CarrSports' work on UAB's initial study.

In Monday's statement, Smith said the UAB task force is “aware of, discussed and vetted its own concerns, as well as those widely reported and discussed in the media and the great community, concerning the potential for bias by CSS. The (Task Force) is very confident that there should be no concern of bias for or against the University, Carr Sports, and/or the UAB Community. The Task Force and the Task Force alone made the selection of CSS.”

Clay Ryan, a UAB liaison to the task force, said in a statement the task force members must “continue to work on a parallel track and in concert with UAB Football Foundation leaders to raise private funding needed to reinstate football, rifle and bowling. This aspect of the effort is critical and time sensitive, given our ongoing discussions with Conference USA. We continue to believe that our additional $27 million five year projection for athletics is a reasonable floor for use in fundraising efforts between now and when the new report is issued.”

The UAB Football Foundation recently paused collection of 2016 football season ticket deposits due to concerns expressed by UAB president Ray Watts. The foundation said it received commitments from approximately 4,300 people in two days.

The selection of another consultant comes as UAB has intensified its search for a new athletic director. It's possible a new AD gets named before CSS comes back with its report.

In reality, very few people privately believe UAB football will be brought back as long as Watts remains president. But where UAB plays sports in the future remains a pressing question.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jon Solomon is CBS Sports's national college football writer. A former Alabama resident, he now lives in Maryland and also writes extensively on NCAA topics. Jon previously worked at The Birmingham News,... Full Bio

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