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University of Alabama blasts son of former Bucs owner Culverhouse

Florida Football Insiders

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The son of the late original Buccaneers owner, Hugh Culverhouse is front and center in a multimillion-dollar controversy with the University of Alabama. And after Hugh Culverhouse Jr wrote his side of the story in the Washington Post on Friday, the school responded in a scathing press release Sunday afternoon.

At the heart of the dispute is Culverhouse Jr.’s claim that the school removed his name off of the Alabama School of Law, because he spoke out about the state legislature’s new abortion law, recently. Alabama lawmakers passed House Bill 314 on May 14th. It’s also known as, “Human Life Protection Act,” and bans most all forms of abortion in the state. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the Bill into law on May 16th.

The school announced that they were also refunding Culverhouse Jr.’s $21.5 million-dollar donation to the law school, as part of removing any connection from him to it.

After the very public PR nightmare over the past week, Culverhouse Jr, who is a now a mostly retired real estate attorney in Miami, wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. On Friday he condemned the state for the passage of the law and the actions of the school against him. It said in part,

“I am proud to have been born and raised in Alabama. My family’s roots run deep in the state and, for decades, we have been honored to celebrate that heritage by supporting the University of Alabama. It’s where my father learned to practice law, which gave him the tools to succeed in America along with a strong understanding of right and wrong.

Over the past 30 years, we have chosen to repay that debt and make use of our good fortune by supporting the university financially. I’ve long believed that the school served the public good by training the next generation of leaders and, last year, I made the decision to donate $26.5 million so that those leaders could flourish just as my family has.”

Culverhouse continued,

My love for Alabama is exactly why I was so horrified to watch its lawmakers trample over the Constitution last month. The ban on abortion they passed wasn’t just an attack against women, it was an affront to the rule of law itself. Part of being an American is engaging in public debate, and we can disagree over this issue. But the courts settled this matter a long time ago: Abortion is legal. So it was shocking to see legislators ignore this and pass a bill that turned women and health professionals into criminals, and it felt important to say so publicly.

I expected that speaking out would have consequences, but I never could have imagined the response from the University of Alabama, which on Friday said it would be returning my gift and removing my name from the law school. This decision will hurt future students. Less money will be available for scholarships, and there will be fewer resources for the school to use to educate young minds and help them grow. 

Well, as is always the case, there are two sides to every story and Sunday afternoon the University of Alabama came back at Culverhouse Jr. “with both barrels loaded.”

The school clarified through a statement their real reasons they say that they removed Culverhouse and refunded his donation. Including, that they had voted to do this and notified him in the days before he spoke out the state and school’s stance on the abortion bill.

The statement on behalf of the Alabama University System from media contact Kelle Reinhart reads:

“Our decision was never about the issue of abortion. It was always about ending the continued outside interference by the donor in the operations of the University of Alabama School of Law. As the attached emails factually establish, the donor attempted to influence:

  1. Student Admissions;
  2. Scholarship Awards;
  3. The hiring and firing of faculty and
  4. The employment status of the law school dean.

These emails also clearly establish the Chancellor (Finis) St. John’s recommendation to refund all monies came on May 25 — four days prior to any public comment by the donor about abortion. The donor’s continuing effort to rewrite history by injecting one of society’s most emotional, divisive issues into this decision is especially distasteful. These facts should finally set the record straight.”

They then attached numerous emails totally debunking the younger Culverhouse’s position in the op-ed, including the timeline that he was told about the removal and return of his gift from last fall. The dates and times are clearly before he spoke out about the law change.

Culverhouse Sr. was the original owner awarded the Buccaneers franchise in the mid-1970s. They began play in 1976 and promptly lost every game their first season and the first 12 games of the 14 game schedule in year two. However, Tampa Bay coach John McKay turned everything around in year number four, won the NFC Central and a playoff game behind quarterback Doug Williams and all-world defensive tackle Lee Roy Selmon.

The Bucs largely languished as a laughing stock to the 1980s and early 90s, and Culverhouse was regularly ridiculed for being too miserly with his money, as an owner. This was also prior to NFL free agency and the Buccaneers repeatedly blundered draft picks and player moves.

This included, not re-signing Williams when he became a free agent in 1983, and Williams going on to lead the Washington Redskins to a Superbowl win. It also included the team drafting Heisman Trophy winning running back Bo Jackson with the first overall pick in 1986, but he refused to play for them and chose to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals instead.

Culverhouse Jr. and his sister Gay, both had administrative roles with the team under their father’s ownership. However, Culverhouse became very ill in 1993 and died of cancer in 1994. At which time, the trust he had set up to control the team sold it to the current ownership group, the Glazer family, in 1995.

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