UAB Blazers football

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UAB Blazers football
UAB Blazers wordmark.png
First season 1991, 2017 (reinstatement)
Stadium Legion Field
Seating capacity 71,594
Field surface Field Turf
Location Birmingham, Alabama
Conference C-USA
Division West
Past conferences Independent
All-time record 118–153–2 (.436)
Bowl record 0–1 (.000)
Consensus All-Americans 2
Colors Forest Green and Old Gold[1]
Fight song UAB Fight Song
Mascot Blaze (Dragon)
Marching band UAB Marching Blazers
Rivals Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Troy Trojans
Memphis Tigers

The UAB Blazers football team represents the University of Alabama at Birmingham and compete as part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision as a member of the East Division of Conference USA (C-USA). UAB played its home games at Legion Field, which is located off-campus in Birmingham, Alabama. With a capacity of 71,594, Legion Field is the third largest college football stadium in the state of Alabama and the 40th largest football stadium in the United States.

On November 30, 2014, a day after the Blazers had become bowl eligible for the first time since 2004 when the Blazers went to their first and only Bowl game, Sports Illustrated reported that UAB was planning to fire athletic director Brian Mackin and end the football program.[2] On December 2, UAB president Ray Watts officially announced that the school would be shutting down the football program, as well as the bowling and rifle programs, at the end of the 2014–15 academic year. He stated that the main reason for the shutdown was the rapidly increasing cost to field a competitive football team. According to Watts, projected costs of a credible football program would cost the school $49 million over the next five years, over the $20 million a year already spent on the program, and that after five years this cost would likely continue to rise.[3] On June 1, 2015, Watts announced the reversal of the decision to end UAB football due to the large public opinion against the decision and the public fundraising of more than $27 million towards the program. The Blazers football program will resume play in 2017, with the bowling and rifle programs to be immediately reinstated.[4] On June 4, 2015, Athletic Director Mark Ingram indicated that the 2017 season was a more reasonable timeline to field a football team for play, due to massive transfers from the program following the termination and the NCAA's recruiting rules.[5] On June 4, Conference USA announced it would not take any action against UAB now that it has reinstated football, and the school would, in effect, remain in the conference. [6]On July 21, 2015, the NCAA cleared UAB to resume playing football in 2017, and to continue competing in FBS. [7] On January 16, 2016, the UAB football team announced its slate of non-conference opponents when it returns to play in the 2017 season.[8]


Origins (1989–1990)[edit]

UAB football began with the play of an organized club football team in 1989.[9] After two years competing as a club football team, on March 13, 1991, UAB President Charles McCallum and athletic director Gene Bartow announced that the university would compete in football as a NCAA Division III team beginning in the fall of 1991, with Jim Hilyer serving as the first head coach.[10]

Jim Hilyer era (1991–1994)[edit]

From 1991 to 1992, UAB competed as a Division III Independent, and during this period, the Blazers compiled an 11–6–2 overall record. During this period, the Blazers played their first all-time game on September 7, 1991, a 28–0 loss at Millsaps, and notched their first all-time win on September 21, 1991, a 34–21 victory at Washington & Lee.[11] After only a pair of seasons at the Division III level, a NCAA ruling resulted in the Blazers being reclassified as a I-AA team for the 1993 season.[12] The reclassification was a result of the NCAA prohibiting a school's athletic program from being multi-divisional, and since UAB already competed in Division I in other sports, the move became necessary.[12] In their first game as a I-AA team, the Blazers would lose to Troy State 37–3 before a home crowd on September 6, 1993.[13] By 1994, the Blazers would play their first I-A opponent against Kansas.[11] Following the 1994 season, coach Hilyer would resign with Watson Brown being announced as the program's second ever coach on January 2, 1995.[10]

During the 1995 season the Blazers would notch their first ever victory over a I-A opponent on the road against North Texas by a score of 19–14.[14] From 1993 to 1995, UAB competed as a Division I-AA Independent, and during this period compiled a 21–12 overall record before making the jump to Division I-A for the 1996 season.[11]

Watson Brown era (1995–2006)[edit]

Watson Brown came to UAB from Oklahoma, where he served as offensive coordinator. On November 9, 1995, UAB was officially informed by the NCAA that the school had met all requirements for reclassification, and as such the Blazers would enter the 1996 season as an I-A Independent.[15] In their first I-A game, UAB was defeated by in-state rival Auburn 29–0, and would finish their first I-A season with a 5–6 overall record. Already a participating member in other sports, on November 13, 1996, Conference USA commissioner Mike Slive announced that UAB would be admitted to the league as a football playing member for the 1999 season.[16]

Following the transition to I-A, UAB often played a couple of out-of-conference games with college football's traditional powers every year. In 2000, UAB achieved a monumental victory by beating the SEC's LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge. In 2004, UAB reached yet another milestone earning its first bowl trip in school history, to the Hawaii Bowl.

After being the face of the program for 12 years, on December 9, 2006, Watson Brown resigned as UAB's head coach to take the head coaching position at Tennessee Tech.[17]

Neil Callaway era (2007–2011)[edit]

Following Brown's resignation, UAB first intended to promote assistant Pat Sullivan, but the University of Alabama board of trustees blocked the promotion.[18] UAB then had a deal in place with Jimbo Fisher, then offensive coordinator at LSU,[18] who would eventually go on to be the head coach at Florida State.[19] The trustees again denied UAB its desired hire.[18] Following the scuttling of the deal with Fisher, some sportswriters, including reporter Gregg Doyel, noted that Alabama was also looking for a new head coach at the time, adding that Fisher had served as offensive coordinator when Alabama's top candidate Nick Saban had been head coach at LSU. Doyel postulated that because of this familiarity, Alabama may have looked to hire Fisher and thus the trustees did not want UAB interfering with the potential hire and consequently impeded their coaching search.[18]

After exhausting many options, UAB finally turned to former Alabama player and Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway, who was named head coach on December 17, 2006.[20] The hire was strongly questioned by some, as Callaway did not exactly have a history of success.[18] In his first season, Callaway led the Blazers to the school's worst record (2–10), dropping the program's all-time record under .500 for the first time in school history.

On November 27, 2011, Callaway was fired as UAB's head coach having compiled a record of 18 wins and 42 losses (18–42) during his five years with the Blazers.[21]

Garrick McGee era (2012–2013)[edit]

On December 4, 2011, UAB officials announced they had hired Garrick McGee to serve as the fourth head coach in the history of the program.[22] McGee was the only African American to ever be head coach at UAB. The Blazers posted a 3–9 record in McGee's first season as head coach and a 2–10 record in his second.

On January 9, 2014, it was announced that McGee would resign as UAB head coach to join Bobby Petrino as offensive coordinator at Louisville.[23]

Bill Clark era (2014)[edit]

In January 2014, former Jacksonville State head coach Bill Clark was hired to serve as the next head coach at UAB.[24][25] In his first season as head coach of the Blazers, the team comprised a 6–6 record, its best since 2004.

Program shut down and reinstatement[edit]

On December 2, 2014, UAB president Ray Watts announced that, after commissioning an in-depth inspection of UAB's athletic budget and revenue and how the elimination of football from the athletic program would affect those, UAB had decided to close down the football program, along with the rifle and bowling programs, in order to save money. The decision was met with great outrage and criticism of Watts as well as the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.[26] The reasons given for terminating the program were that the costs of fielding a competitive football program have been rapidly escalating in recent years, that the projected cost of keeping the team competitive would be an additional $49 million over the next five years, with the costs continuing to rise in the future. An independent task force was formed to evaluate this decision and the findings of the report on which the decision was based.[27]

On June 1, 2015 news reported that the UAB Blazers football program would be reinstated.[28] Watts announced they were beginning the process to reinstate football, and would begin play as early as the 2016 season.[29] On July 21, 2015 a UAB press release was sent out stating that UAB football would return in 2017.[30][31] The NCAA informed UAB that they would return as an FBS member and will be eligible for the Conference USA championship game and a bowl game in 2017.

Head coaches[edit]

Tenure Coach Years Record Pct.
1991–1994 Jim Hilyer 4 27–12–2 .683
1995–2006 Watson Brown 12 62–74 .456
2007–2011 Neil Callaway 5 18–42 .300
2012–2013 Garrick McGee 2 5–19 .208
2014–present Bill Clark 1 6–6 .500
Total 5 Coaches 24 118-150-2 .441


All-time bowl results[edit]

Date Bowl Location W/L Opponent PF PA
December 24, 2004 Hawaii Bowl Honolulu, Hawaii L Hawaii Warriors 40 59
Total 1 bowl game 0–1

Conference affiliations[edit]

Year-by-year results[edit]

Bowl Eligible
Year Conference Coach Conference Overall Notes
Win Loss Tie Pct. Win Loss Tie Pct.
1991 Independent (Div. III) Jim Hilyer 4 3 2 .556
1992 Independent (Div. III) Jim Hilyer 7 3 0 .700
1993 Independent (Div. I-AA) Jim Hilyer 9 2 0 .818
1994 Independent (Div.I-AA) Jim Hilyer 7 4 0 .636
1995 Independent (Div. I-AA) Watson Brown 5 6 0 .455
1996 Independent (Div. I-A) Watson Brown 5 6 0 .455
1997 Independent (Div. I-A) Watson Brown 5 6 0 .455
1998 Independent (Div. I-A) Watson Brown 4 7 0 .364
1999 Conference USA Watson Brown 4 2 0 .667 5 6 0 .455
2000 Conference USA Watson Brown 3 4 0 .429 7 4 0 .636
2001 Conference USA Watson Brown 5 2 0 .715 6 5 0 .545
2002 Conference USA Watson Brown 4 4 0 .500 5 7 0 .417
2003 Conference USA Watson Brown 4 4 0 .500 5 7 0 .417
2004 Conference USA Watson Brown 5 3 0 .625 7 5 0 .583 L Hawaii Bowl
2005 Conference USA East Division Watson Brown 3 5 0 .375 5 6 0 .417
2006 Conference USA East Division Watson Brown 2 6 0 .250 3 9 0 .250
2007 Conference USA East Division Neil Callaway 1 7 0 .125 2 10 0 .167
2008 Conference USA East Division Neil Callaway 3 5 0 .375 4 8 0 .333
2009 Conference USA East Division Neil Callaway 4 4 0 .500 5 7 0 .417
2010 Conference USA East Division Neil Callaway 3 5 0 .375 4 8 0 .333
2011 Conference USA East Division Neil Callaway 3 5 0 .375 3 9 0 .250
2012 Conference USA East Division Garrick McGee 2 6 0 .250 3 9 0 .250
2013 Conference USA East Division Garrick McGee 1 7 0 .125 2 10 0 .167
2014 Conference USA East Division Bill Clark 4 4 0 .500 6 6 0 .500
2015 No team
2016 No team
2017 Conference USA West Division Bill Clark 0 0 0 .000 0 0 0 .000
1991–2014 Total 51 73 0 .411 118 153 2 .436 1 Bowl Appearance


On August 29, 2016, UAB broke ground on a $22.5-million football operations center including a $4.2-million covered pavilion practice field with an anticipated completion date of summer 2017.


Exterior View of Legion Field from Graymont Avenue

Located to the west of campus in the Graymont neighborhood of Birmingham, the Blazers played their home games at Legion Field. Construction on the stadium began in 1926 and was completed in 1927 with a seating capacity of 21,000, and the stadium most famously served as the neutral site of the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn from 1948 to 1988, as well as the home site of a few Alabama games every year until 2004.[32] Subsequent expansions would raise its capacity to 81,000 at its peak only to have it reduced to 72,000 with the removal of the upper deck in 2004.[33] The Blazers utilized the facility for the entire existence of the football program, and played all but two home games at Legion Field. The only home games not played at Legion were a contest at Lawson Field (in Birmingham) in 1992, and a contest at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (in nearby Hoover) in 1998.[34]

The prospect of constructing an on-campus stadium was debated throughout the existence of the football program. By 1999, former head coach Watson Brown stated that UAB would eventually need to construct a facility comparable to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium at Louisville.[35] On February 3, 2011, university officials announced that UAB would be moving forward with plans to build a horseshoe-shaped stadium on campus with an estimated seating capacity of around 30,000 as part of a new campus master plan.[36]

On September 16, 2011, UAB vice-president Richard Margison outlined preliminary plans for the proposed on-campus football stadium to the University of Alabama board of trustees. The plan called for a horseshoe stadium that would seat 27,511 with an additional 2,500 lawn seats in one end zone. It also would have included 33 suites and 24 loge boxes. The proposed cost for the stadium complex was $66 million with a total project cost of $75 million.[37] On November 1 of that year, the trustees killed the stadium proposal, citing a failure to generate sufficient revenue or attendance to justify the cost. According to the board, "The UAB football program has not generated sufficient student, fan or financial support to assure the viability of this project."[38]

Following the UAB football program's shutdown and subsequent reinstatement, city leaders and the local business community joined together in an effort to pursue a new open-air stadium in downtown Birmingham adjacent to the BJCC. It is expected that the new stadium could be completed in time for the team's return to the field in 2017, though the completion could be delayed to 2018.

Attendance records[edit]

Top 10 Home Football Attendance Records
Opponent Attendance
1 Southern Miss (2003) 44,669
2 Mississippi State (2006) 36,104
3 TCU (2004) 33,280
4 Troy (2006) 32,818
5 Virginia Tech (1998) 31,897
6 Southern Miss (2005) 31,363
7 Kansas (1998) 30,543
8 Alabama A&M (2014) 29,604
9 Troy (2012) 28,612
10 Houston (1999) 28,573

Current NFL players[edit]

Name Position Team
Matt McCants Offensive Lineman Oakland Raiders
Joe Webb Quarterback Carolina Panthers
Roddy White Wide receiver Free Agent
Chris Hubbard Offensive Lineman Pittsburgh Steelers
Darrin Reaves Running back Kansas City Chiefs
J. J. Nelson Wide receiver Arizona Cardinals
Kennard Backman Tight end Green Bay Packers

Future non-conference opponents[edit]

Announced schedules as of January 16, 2016
UAB will not play football in 2016

2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
vs Alabama A&M at Coastal Carolina at Akron vs Akron at Tulane
at Ball State vs Tulane vs South Alabama at South Alabama
vs Coastal Carolina at Texas A&M at Tennessee
at Florida



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  19. ^ Goldenberg, David (December 5, 2014). "Why UAB's Football Team Couldn't Even Last 20 Years". Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
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  31. ^
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