UAB Football Foundation leader: Feeling a 'whole lot better today'

The founder of the UAB Football Foundation said Thursday that he feels a "whole lot better today than I have in the past" after meeting with UAB president Ray Watts, according to AL.com.

Jimmy Filler affirmed to the website that Watts has yet to decide whether to reinstate the football program, which was shut down Dec. 2 because of financial concerns, as well as the bowling and rifle programs.

"Dr. Watts is still studying the numbers, and there is no validity or truth to him making an announcement this weekend," Filler told AL.com. "My meeting today was to try to convince him bringing back football is good for the city of Birmingham and good for UAB. He was very nice, responsive and understood everything that I said."

Alabama state Rep. Jack Williams of Birmingham told ESPN.com that he believes Watts was ready to announce Friday night that UAB won't revive the football program. But now Williams believes pressure from civic leaders, alumni and students -- as well as fundraising efforts to save the program -- might be enough to change Watts' mind.

"I think as pressure mounts, we're moving toward seeing a return of football if we can get through the weekend without him killing it," said Williams, who also is the publisher of a UAB site on Rivals.com, according to his LinkedIn profile. "If we can get through the weekend, I think our chances of bringing back football increase."

Watts' original decision to drop UAB's football program was followed by days of student protests on campus. Over the past few months, former UAB players, alumni, students and civic leaders have continued their efforts to try to persuade Watts to reverse his decision.

On Thursday, UAB released a statement from Watts in which he said no decision about the future of the football program has been made. Watts is expected to make an announcement about the future of the program by June 1.

"We continue to consult with various stakeholders within the UAB community and consider the findings of the CSS report, along with other important, valuable and mission-critical data, in order to make the best decision for UAB, guided by our vision, mission and strategic plan," Watts said. "We will meet with our constituent groups over the next week to receive their input as part of the decision-making process."

If UAB's program is restored, the Blazers wouldn't compete this coming season and probably would field a team in 2016.

A study commissioned by the university indicates UAB would face an annual deficit of about $3.2 million if the sports are brought back.

Williams told The Associated Press on Thursday that UAB supporters have raised pledges of about $15 million if the football program is restored. A donor was meeting with Watts to offer a $10 million guaranteed letter of credit toward a new stadium, Williams said.

UAB's National Alumni Society said in a statement Thursday that it would contribute $500,000 over the next five years if the sports are brought back. The group said in a statement that the sports are "essential" to the university and cited a recent study commissioned by UAB.

"The report clearly shows that the programs are feasible at a level that enables UAB to compete for C-USA championships and post season opportunities with the current level of institutional support, combined with the public and private support that has been and continues to be established by the Task Force Fundraising Subcommittee," the alumni association statement said. "Not only are the programs financially viable with the combined institutional and public/private support, they are vitally important to current and prospective students, our faculty and staff, and our community. Collectively, these sports are financially supportable and they are essential."

The Birmingham City Council has pledged $2.5 million over five years for UAB football if the program is restored.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.