Former UAB player Byrd talks Blazer shutdown

Published: Dec. 17, 2014 at 5:02 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2014 at 5:02 AM EST
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Former Albany Indian Roscoe Byrd says his college football career changed in a matter of days.

"A few weeks ago, I possibly getting ready for a bowl game. Now I have folks calling my phone every other day, trying to get me in school," he says. "Just yesterday I was a Blazer. Now it's over with."

Two weeks ago, UAB announced the school would shut down it's football program, citing financial reasons.

It was an unpopular decision with students and alumni, but no more unwelcome than with the players.

"That was a very bad, sad day," Byrd says. "It's even hard to still talk about it."

Scenes from Birmingham included students marching on campus trying to save the Blazer football program, then tearful players exiting the football office after learning their team was no more.

But the most poignant scene possibly comes from a video shot on a cell phone as Blazer football players emotionally voice their opinion to university president Ray Watts.

Even today, Byrd says the feelings toward Watts aren't civil ones.

"Personally, I don't believe I'd have a conversation with him," Byrd says. "He let people down. Not only the players, but the coaches and their families. Those people invested so much with the players, and for him to just shut it down, I probably wouldn't be able to talk to him."

The toughest thing for Byrd is seeing a program he felt had so much promise end.

Under first year head coach Bill Clark, the Blazers went 6-6 to reach bowl eligibility for only the third time in school history. Attendance at UAB home games rose dramatically, and Byrd says he could feel the support for the football team.

"We were on the mountain top, and had the chance to do something that had never been done before, to be the first team to win a bowl," he says. "We did beyond what believed we could do. It just took the world from under us."

The holiday season has been a hectic one for the former Albany Indian.

The NCAA has granted all UAB players the ability to transfer to any program that will have them without having to sit out a year. That's important for a rising senior like Byrd, who has spent the last weeks trying to find a new home.

He tells WALB he is looking at five schools- Georgia Southern, Troy, South Alabama, Western Kentucky, and Middle Tennessee- and hopes to decide where he will finish his college career by next Monday.

No matter where he ends up though, Byrd makes one thing perfectly clear: he will be a UAB Blazer for life.

"What I did with this team, nothing can take that away from me. Even with them shutting this program down, they can't take what we did," he says. "Wherever I am, I'll be whatever that is at that time. But inside I'm always going to have that Blazer fire inside me."

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