The University of Alabama-Birmingham is taking steps to reinstate its football team.
School president Ray Watts made the announcement during a Monday press conference. AD Mark Ingram said Monday that the school would like to have the team playing as soon as possible, and that 2016 might be the earliest it will return to competition.
The move is a surprising reversal, as school officials announced in December that the football team was being dropped due to financial concerns. The decision sparked an outcry from UAB players and fans, as well as pledges of financial support from backers of the program. Donors have pledged $17.2 million to cover operational costs for the football program, but another $13 million is needed for improved facilities, Watts said.
The school plans to stick with head coach Bill Clark, a local high school legend who guided the team to a 6-6 mark last season, and remain a member of Conference USA.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is the most prominent NFL player to hail from UAB and had voiced his disappointment with the decision to drop the program. UAB had two players selected in the 2015 NFL Draft -- wide receiver J.J. Nelson, a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals, and tight end Kennard Backman, a sixth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers.