Back in Action: The Return of UAB Football

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UAB players prepare for their first Spring Game in three years. (photo courtesy UAB Athletics)

Saturday’s Spring Game Means the End of Three Years of Futility is in Sight for UAB Football

By the time UAB’s Football Team took the field for its spring game on Saturday, 854 days had passed since its last football game. In that same time frame, there were 65 coaching changes and three national champions crowned. For the Blazers it has been a difficult three years, but Saturday’s spring game gave the team a much needed since of normalcy.

A Self-Inflicted Death Penalty

Legion Field hosting another UAB Football game seemed far fetched in late 2014. In November, while the Blazers were in route to becoming bowl eligible for the first time in 10 years, rumors swirled that its school board of trustees would kill the program. Still, the team battled on hoping wins and growing attendance numbers would help its fate. They did not. On December 2nd, School President Ray Watts announced that the school would no longer field a football team, leaving the players, and the city as a whole, devastated.

Rising from the Ashes

In the midst of all the disappointment and frustration, a coalition formed. Coach Bill Clark began campaigning with former players, boosters, and even state representatives in attempts to raise money for the sport’s return. By that next May, donors had raised $6 million in support of bringing back the program. Less than a month later, the same president that axed football in December, announced that it would be returning in 2017. This return included new practice and operation facilities, the potential for a new stadium, and a five year extension for its head coach, Bill Clark.

“I am so excited that UAB Football will return to FBS competition in 2017,” read a statement from Coach Clark. “Like our fans, I wanted to light the scoreboard much sooner, but doing it right is more important than doing it fast, and this was our best option.”

The End is in Sight

The atmosphere is electric surrounding Saturday’s game. It will be the only Group of Five and first Conference USA school to have its spring game aired by the ESPN family of networks.

“We talk about making UAB a national program and things like this help accomplish that goal,” head coach Bill Clark said. “This will be great for UAB fans across the country to get a look at what we are building as we lead up to our return on September 2nd.”

September 2nd is still a little ways down the road for the Blazers, but for the first time in three years their spring game can be built toward preparing for another opponent.

“From being a player who has done it before, I feel like we are really close to fall camp. It is right around the corner,” said defensive back Jordan Petty, who was with the team when it shut down in 2014. It is definitely the real feel that the return is near. Next weekend is going to be electric. All the fans who aren’t at practice, this is going to be for them. Also having our alumni back is going to be great.”

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