Sit back and breathe a sigh of relief, Blazers fans. UAB football is returning in 2017.
“I think it means everything,” UAB football coach Bill Clark said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think just being definitive – we were waiting on the NCAA and our conference (to see) just exactly where we stood. I think after meeting with those groups – who were nothing but helpful for us – 2017 is our best option. We’re going straight back to FBS, we’re playing in our conference, we can get in a bowl – and so that, along with helping out all our other sports (and) not having to leave the conference, was the best choice. Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do to build a roster between now and then.”
The football program – as well as the rifle and bowling programs – had been shut down since December due to financial concerns. The rifle program will resume in 2015, bowling will be back in 2016 and football will be reinstated in 2017.
“I think it’s great,” Clark said. “It’s one of those stories that is emotional because it’s kind of why we do this thing we do. It’s for the love of the game and your school and your community. These people really had to step up and not quit and keep fighting and put their money where their mouth is to make it happen – and they did.”
Clark said the past few months have been difficult for him. When the decision was made to disband the program, Clark was crushed.
“I try not to dwell on it now, but it was bad,” he said. “It goes without saying that it was tough. Obviously there’s a lot of sleepless nights over that, but we’re trying to move forward and look to the future.”
After the program was disbanded, Clark’s players had to find new homes. Clark could have, too, but he elected to stay.
“I had some offers when it first started, (but) I wasn’t ready for that,” Clark said. “I knew I wanted to be a head coach at least for a while longer. I wanted to give this every opportunity.”
But why? Why was it so important to stay in Birmingham with the Blazers when there will be no football and no coaching for two years?
“Well, this is my program,” Clark said. “I think what I thought of our fans and just the love of us and our support – and this is my state. Birmingham can be just so special. This can be one of the top jobs, I think, in the country if we take these steps facility-wise and commitment-wise. That’s what I believe. That’s what I thought we were scratching the surface of last year without a lot of those aspects. So that’s what I wanted to see and do and do it right.”
The Blazers went 6-6 last year – their best record in a decade – and were bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004.