The rivalry began in 1984, when the two schools first met in men's basketball. The two programs are among Conference USA's strongest and the series has been highly competitive, though Memphis currently leads 30-10. The football rivalry began in 1997. Since 2006 it has been known as the "Battle for the Bones" due to its trophy, a bronze rack of ribs. The future of the rivalry is unclear as Memphis joined The American for the 2013-14 season.
The UAB–Memphis men's basketball rivalry has the longest history of all their sports, and tends to be the most intense and heated affair. The first matchup between the Memphis Tigers and UAB Blazers was played in 1984, when the teams first met in basketball. The two teams have played at least twice a year since 1992, when they both moved to the Great Midwest Conference and later to Conference USA. Over the years, Memphis and UAB have been two of the more successful teams in the conference.
Head coach Gene Bartow was influential in both programs. He coached Memphis (then Memphis State) from 1970 to 1974, and in 1978 he became the first head coach of UAB's new program, which he led until 1996. His long tenure and success with the Blazers has led to him being known as the "Father of UAB Athletics".
On February 16, 2008 during a game at UAB, the #1-ranked Memphis Tigers were nearly upset before pulling out a 79-78 win. As the Tigers were down by 8 points with 2 minutes left, they went on a 9-1 run. After the conclusion of the game, an altercation between Memphis players and UAB fans occurred. Ultimately, people in the stands began booing the Memphis players off the court and throwing drinks and shakers at them as the players were escorted off the court by local police officers.
Memphis currently leads the basketball series over UAB 36-10, including winning the last fifteen consecutive games.
The Blazers and Tigers began competing in football after the Blazers football team joined Division I in 1997. The series has been played nearly every year since, and is led by UAB with a win-loss record of 10 to 5. In 2006, the schools introduced a trophy, a 100-pound bronze rack of ribs alluding to the two cities' reputation for barbecue, and dubbed the game the "Battle for the Bones". In keeping with the theme, a fan barbecue competition accompanies the game.