UAB to reinstate football for 2017 season

The UAB Blazers announced Tuesday that the school will bring back its football program for the 2017 season.

Athletic director Mark Ingram said the NCAA informed UAB that football play can resume at the Football Bowl Subdivision level beginning with the 2017 season. UAB would be eligible for postseason bowl competition, should it meet qualifying standards, as well as Conference USA championships.

The program -- as well as the rifle and bowling programs -- had been shut down Dec. 2 because of financial concerns.

"I am so excited that UAB Football will return to FBS competition in 2017," football coach Bill Clark said in a statement. "Like our fans, I wanted to light the scoreboard much sooner, but doing it right is more important than doing it fast, and this was our best option.

"We want a program that is here to stay. We have to start by building a new, stronger foundation. We need to take our time to do it right, then we can compete for conference and bowl championships."

The rifle program will resume in 2015, while bowling will be reinstated in 2016.

The NCAA won't subject UAB to FBS requirements for three academic years beginning with 2015-16.

In early June, UAB president Ray Watts said changes in private support through individuals and the business community made reinstatement possible. An estimated $27 million had been raised at that point through the UAB Football Foundation, the city of Birmingham and the UAB Undergraduate Student Government Association.

"The biggest single difference is we now have tangible commitments for additional support that we have never had before," Watts told reporters in June. "Without that additional support, we could not have maintained a balanced budget moving forward."

The school said in a release Tuesday that it is working with those donors "to enable the programs' return without impacting the school's budget beyond its current subsidy."

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said Tuesday in the school's statement that he's been working with UAB on the reinstatement process.

"We particularly appreciate the role the NCAA has played in helping ensure that UAB will be able to maintain its status as an FBS institution," Banowsky said. "Regarding their timeline, we have said all along we want them to restore football but to do it the right way and be fully committed.

"We truly hope UAB is aspirational and that their plan intends to realize the wonderful opportunity they have going forward," Banowsky added. "If playing a conference schedule in 2017 makes the most sense for the ultimate long term success, then we will continue to work with them toward that goal."

Watts had announced in December that he was disbanding the three programs 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 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.

Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com contributed to this report.