-- BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- UAB football is coming back, a source close to the situation told ESPN.
Only six months after president Ray Watts announced that football would be terminated, the school has decided to reinstate the program. The move comes after an overwhelming public outcry, a strong showing of monetary support and a new school-commissioned study examining the financial ramifications of supporting the three programs.
On Dec. 2, Watts announced that he would disband football, rifle and women's bowling teams after a report from CarrSports Consulting found that UAB athletic expenses would grow to $38.5 million by 2019 while revenue would increase by less than $1 million. At the time, the University, which said it subsidizes roughly two-thirds of the athletic department's operating budget, said the difference over the next five years would be an extra $49 million with football, including a projected $22 million needed for football facilities and upgrades.
UAB became the first major college football program to shut down since Pacific did so in 1995. It came on the heels of the program's best record in a decade (6-6) under first-year coach Bill Clark and the team's first taste of bowl eligibility since 2004. Despite a prolonged struggle to gain fan support in a state dominated by Auburn and Alabama football, UAB doubled its average attendance in 2014 to more than 21,000 per game.
But a second report released last month from College Sports Solutions, commissioned by UAB, came to the conclusion that reinstating the three programs and continuing on without them were both "viable options." The report said the school would operate on an annual $3.165 million deficit if it brought back the programs, but noted that a return would "foster much goodwill and stimulate a substantial amount of spiritual and financial support from alumni, donors, ticket holders, friends, students, faculty and the community" in addition to "positive national attention to the University."
Justin Craft, a former UAB football player and chair of the UAB Athletics Assessment Task Force, said more than $27 million had been raised to make up for the deficit, including a $7.5 million gift contingent on UAB building a stadium on campus. In all, he said the word of mouth fundraising brought in more than 600 pledges.
"The city has rallied around the program," Craft told ESPN.com on Monday night, before a decision was reached by UAB. "It has truly become Birmingham's team. The first step is the support, but the second step is to invest."
The Birmingham City Council announced it would make a $2.5 million pledge ($500,000 per year for five years) and the UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association would make a $550,000 pledge if the school brought the football, women's bowling and rifle programs back.
Fielding a football team in 2015 is improbable, according to Craft, who said the goal will be to return to action in 2016. Craft said that Clark has expressed an interest to remain the head coach, but only if it's "done the right way."
Since the news of UAB football's shutdown, several players have transferred. Wideout Jamari Staples landed at Louisville, linebacker Jake Ganus went to Georgia and offensive lineman Victor Salako enrolled at Oklahoma State, among others.
Conference USA bylaws mandate that its member schools have an FBS-level football program. Without one, UAB would be kicked out of the conference in 2016, losing a reported $2 million dollars per year.