Alabama-Birmingham President Ray Watts said Monday he is bringing the university’s football program back in 2016, reversing a decision to shut it down because it was too expensive.

Watts cited renewed financial commitment from supporters, students and the city as reasons for the change of heart.

He said donors have pledged to make up the projected $17.2 million deficit over the next five years if football is restored. Watts told the Associated Press he decided Monday morning to reverse the earlier decision after meetings with UAB supporters continued through the weekend.

“Our students, our alumni, the city of Birmingham and now many community members have stepped up with commitments to cover that $17.2 million operational deficit,” Watts said. “That’s why we’re in a position today to make this decision.”

Watts cut football in December after UAB commissioned a report saying it would cost $49 million over five years to field a competitive program, generating both a groundswell of criticism for the decision and a rallying of financial support for the Blazers program.

Without football, UAB likely would not have remained in Conference USA, which has a bylaw requiring members to field football programs.

 

SOCCER

Valcke tied to $10M payment

The high-ranking FIFA official who allegedly made a $10 million payment central to a U.S. probe into soccer corruption is believed to be Sepp Blatter’s right-hand man, Jerome Valcke, the New York Times reported.

American law enforcement officials believe Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, transferred the money in 2008 to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, the former CONCACAF president and FIFA vice president who faces corruption charges in the U.S. The Times report cited unidentified law enforcement officials.

American investigators believe the money was paid as a bribe in exchange for Warner and others voting to give the 2010 World Cup to South Africa.

The Times said Valcke said in an e-mail that he did not authorize the payment and did not have the power to do so. In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said the payment was authorized by the then-finance committee chairman, per FIFA regulations. The chairman, Julio Grondona, died last year.

The payment is at the heart of a probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that led to seven FIFA members arrested last week and a total of 14 people named in a racketeering indictment accusing soccer officials of accepting more than $150 million in bribes.

 

COLLEGE SOFTBALL

Gators take opener vs. Michigan

Lauren Haeger’s three RBI helped Florida beat Michigan 3-2 in Oklahoma City, moving the Gators within one victory of a repeat Women’s College World Series title.

Michigan (59-7) saw its 28-game win streak end. The teams will meet again Tuesday in the best-of-three championship series.

Haeger opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, her third home run of the World Series. In her next at-bat, she doubled in a run to give Florida (59-6) a 3-0 lead in the third inning.

Michigan’s Abby Ramirez singled in the sixth to score Olivia Richvalsky and Kelsey Susalla and cut Florida’s lead to 3-2. The Wolverines had runners at first and third with no outs in the seventh against reliever Delanie Gourley, but did not score.

 

GOLF

Champions Tour adds Wisconsin

The Champions Tour will stop at the University of Wisconsin’s University Ridge Course starting in June 2016, the PGA announced. Wisconsin native Steve Stricker will serve as host of the American Family Insurance Championship.

“This has been a dream and development ... to get an event and get professional back to Wisconsin,” Stricker said.

The last regular date in Wisconsin was the PGA Tour stop in Milwaukee that ended in 2009 following a 42-year run.

Stricker, 48, will host the inaugural tourney next year before becoming player-host in 2017. Madison’s Jerry Kelly would also be eligible to play at the new stop in a couple years.

 

AROUND THE HORN

 

College baseball: Seven of the eight national seeds in the NCAA baseball tournament advanced to the super regionals, with No. 1 UCLA playing Maryland in the regional finals late Monday. No. 2 Louisiana State, No. 3 Louisville, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Miami, No. 6 Illinois, No. 7 Texas Christian and No. 8 Missouri State all won regionals and moved to the round of 16. Winners of the best-of-three super regionals go to the College World Series in Omaha, starting June 13.

College basketball: North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he hasn’t seen what’s in the notice of allegations from the NCAA in connection with the school’s academic fraud scandal. The school said May 22 it had received the notice of allegations and would release it publicly after redactions to comply with privacy laws.

College golf: SMU’s Bryson DeChambeau won the NCAA individual golf title in Bradenton, Fla., and Illinois topped the eight team match-play qualifiers.

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