MONTGOMERY — The presidents and head football coaches of traditional rivals The University of Alabama and Auburn University joined Wednesday to announce the formation of the Alabama-Auburn Alliance in support of fair funding for higher education.
“The renowned rivalry between the two flagship institutions of higher education in this state, The University of Alabama and Auburn University, exists on football fields, basketball courts and baseball diamonds,” AU Interim President William F. Walker told a news conference in Montgomery. “But we have a shared commitment to the economic future of our state. Our only rival in that game is an uneducated work force that chokes the development of our state.”
Walker and UA President Andrew Sorensen called upon Alabamians who support Alabama and Auburn athletic teams to join their plea for fair and equitable funding for education.
“Whether your blood runs orange and blue, crimson and white, or another set of collegiate colors, I think we can all agree that supporting higher education is a most worthwhile cause,” Sorensen said.
“We are putting in a special plea for higher education as we face the threat of bearing a disproportionate share of the state’s funding problems. More importantly, we support adequate funding for all of education in Alabama from pre-school to post-doctoral education.”
The two university presidents noted that Alabama’s institutions of higher education provide an excellent return on the state’s investment. Their contributions range from aiding industry recruitment and job creation to conducting medical research that saves lives to providing top quality education.
UA head football coach Dennis Franchione and AU head football coach Tommy Tuberville joined their presidents in announcing the Alabama-Auburn Alliance at the Montgomery news conference.
“This alliance is not about football, and we coaches usually leave the funding and legislative matters to our presidents, but if our presence here today helps mobilize Auburn and Alabama supporters around the state, it is most certainly worth our time,” Tuberville said.
Thanks to fan support, the athletic programs at both UA and AU are self-sustaining and use no state dollars. Fans support the athletic programs through ticket sales and private donations.
Noting that he is new to Alabama, Franchione said he has been overwhelmed with the state’s support of football, but has been surprised at the lack of support for education.
“I like to tell our recruits about the wonderful academic programs at The University of Alabama — programs that I hope will be around for a long time to come. Our faculty want our universities to be the best public universities in the country. That can’t happen without fair and stable funding for education,” Franchione said.
Tuberville said that he understands the needs of both K-12 and higher education first hand because his son is a second grader. “It’s within this state’s reach, and certainly its responsibility, to give all our students what they need,” he said.
Under the banner of the Alabama-Auburn Alliance, representatives of the two universities plan to travel around the state in the coming weeks, meeting together with alumni and civic groups to carry the message of equitable and adequate funding.
University of Alabama, Cathy Andreen, (205) 348-8322
Auburn University, Pete Pepinsky, (334) 844-999
Auburn University, Bob Lowry, (334) 844-999
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.