Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) needed money to fund its expensive capital projects, ornamenting its gated “hilltop in the hood,” as some occasionally called it. 

SEE ALSO: Conner Hayes: The men who murdered Birmingham-Southern College, part I

Where was BSC going to come up with the money to augment its campus in order to entice potential students and bolster enrollment? Its campus was already mortgaged; its tuition was pledged to secure its revenue bonds. Except for a line of credit with Regions Bank, the assets in the endowment were the only funds available.

The BSC board decided to gamble the funds in the endowment. This decision, as we all now know, proved to be a most damning one.

Many of the capital expenditures BSC made between 2004-2010 turned out to be deceitful detritus. The lake proved to be an egregiously exorbitant mistake. Cost overruns were incurred in building the football stadium. Ironically, Regions Bank never made good on Dowd Ritter’s promise to foot the bill for the football stadium’s construction in exchange for the stadium’s naming rights.

The financial crisis of 2008 saw a $25 million dollar loss in the value of the endowment’s assets invested in securities. By 2010, the endowment’s unrestricted funds were nearing depletion. 

BSC’s annual budgets under Pollick were the fateful vehicles that thoroughly drained the endowment. Pollick’s administration was depleting the endowment with its eyes wide open, knowing full well what it was doing. Unfortunately, there were no alarms letting the board know this, again showing us the calamitous effects of autonomous presidents acting with few checks and balances to prevent catastrophe.

In 2010, the board approved a budget with an approximately $14 million deficit. Then Regions Bank called, informing the college that it had overdrawn its credit line. 

The credit line agreement with Regions Bank stipulated that two signatures from BSC officials were needed to draw funds. Without anyone’s consent or knowledge, the CFO had withdrawn funds from the credit line, representing on the green sheets that the drawn debt was revenue in an unethical attempt to make up for the loss of tuition from the excessive athletic discounts. These unscrupulous actions ballooned BSC’s budgeted annual deficit from $14 million to $18 million.

The board never sued Regions over the improper disbursements. At the time, Ritter was the CEO of Regions Bank. Ritter was also the chairman of BSC’s board of trustees. Conflict of interest or mere coincidence? 

Pollick took the fall and was promptly fired, but his contract provided a large buyout. The board wanted to get out of this buy-out and investigated whether Pollick had committed malfeasance or had misappropriated funds. But when a lawyer was hired to do a forensic audit, he concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing on Pollick’s part. Pollick walked away with a substantial payoff which many trustees and members of BSC’s community resent to this day. 

Post-Pollick, BSC witnessed a slew of presidents as it headed to its deathbed. Each tried (and ultimately failed) to stabilize the sinking ship. Even Marine Commandant General Charles Krulak and Wall Street financial guru Daniel Coleman could not save the day. 

Enrollment was already low when COVID struck, but the federal government’s relief funds kept BSC above water for a while longer. Yet when BSC looked to the State of Alabama for more COVID relief funds, the request was rejected – the first slight against BSC by the state. 

BSC then sought a loan from the state, and with the help of State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), a BSC alumnus, BSC was able to get “The Distressed Institutions of Higher Education Revolving Loan Program” passed in the Alabama Legislature, providing up to $30 million in loans to financially distressed educational institutions.

This lifeboat, however, had a fatal flaw: it left the ultimate decision to grant/deny the loan to the state treasurer. 

Again, we see complete power in one man’s hands, with little to nothing in the way of checks and balances. Men killed BSC, not public sentiment, not policies, not impersonal institutional forces without a face. 

Enter Young Boozer III, a curmudgeonly, callous figure now publicly reviled by many for denying BSC the lifeboat loan, the last man to murder BSC. 

Berte and Pollick systematically maimed BSC (perhaps past the point of repair), but Boozer actually pulled the trigger, the last to hold the smoking gun. 

A mercy kill or murder? 

After leading BSC on for months, assuring the college that it would receive the loan fashioned specifically for BSC’s desperate situation, Boozer rejected the loan request based on his opinion that BSC was not offering sufficient security for the loan and did not have a viable repayment plan. Boozer deemed BSC “a terrible credit risk.”

Blindsided and betrayed, BSC sued Boozer to force him to disperse the loan, but the court held that it could not force the state treasurer to make the loan as the Act gave Boozer full discretion to grant or deny loan requests. Scrambling, BSC next tried to revise the Act in order to grant the Alabama Department of Education the power to grant/deny the loan request rather than the state treasurer. This revision passed the Senate but died in the House.

BSC, declared dead, was now DNR (do-not-resuscitate). 

With no other options on the horizon, the BSC board of trustees voted to close the college on May 31, 2024.

In the case of BSC’s apocalypse, there were three, not four, horsemen. Dr. Neal Berte was clearly the first man to hurl BSC on its harrowing crash course with doom in the late 1970s. Dr. David Pollick sealed BSC’s fate during the 2000s. But Boozer pulled the trigger in 2023. 

Money, as we all know, always has a paper trail. 

Justice may never be dealt to the crooks, criminals and fools who led BSC to its long, slow, asphyxiating death. We may never get the chance to hold these men’s feet to the fire so they can pay the price of their crimes. 

We may, even as we follow the paper trail of damning decisions, financial malfeasance, and fraud, never truly understand how such a historic, precious, important place such as BSC could be damned and discarded. 

The situation is surreal to all those close to BSC. The brightest light in Birmingham has been eclipsed out of existence. But we - the proud, pained alumni of this magnificent little college - will not go quietly. We will “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

We will continue to demand answers. We will never forget or forgive this crime. We will hold those responsible accountable. 

Works cited: Birmingham-Southern College - My View

Conner (CR) Hayes is a small business owner based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a 2017 alum of Birmingham-Southern College and a screenwriter, novelist, and poet. CR Hayes is published in various mediums, including academic articles, journalism, prose, and poetry.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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