The Blazers are back.
Six months and millions of dollars later, UAB finally announced the reinstating of its football program on Monday. President Ray Watts claimed that the program would resume on-field play as soon as possible, and although there is still a long road ahead, UAB is one step closer to getting rolling again.
But the silver lining is clear. It will take a long, long time for UAB football to become a successful program, and it may never reach that point. The damage has been done, and regardless of what people say, the rebuilding process may never end.
The Blazers aren’t starting from scratch—far from it, actually—but it would probably be easier if they were. They have a decent coach in Bill Clark (who went 6-6 in his lone season in Birmingham), but the last six months left him with little to work with.
The majority of his staff bolted for other opportunities after program’s fold, as did all 56 scholarship players. Furthermore, his previously shallow fanbase got even more torpid and now have a strong disdain for the university’s administration.
On top of everything, Clark is still working under the same athletic department and university president that shut down the program in the first place. There is nothing to prove that Watts won’t decide to again eliminate football down the road, which leaves Clark’s job in jeopardy.
With only a few coaches, no players and a shaky program under his feet, Clark has a tough climb ahead. Recruiting will likely be his first task, but it will be difficult to find players who want to come to UAB.
What recruit, with offers to other Division I schools, would choose to go to a practically first-year program? No one knows if UAB will field a decent team in the next decade, or if it will again be shut down by then.
Regardless of what the future holds, though, it won’t be an easy road for the Blazers. Despite being in college football’s home state, UAB consistently fails to attract 20,000 fans to games, and has little support outside of the university’s community.
“No one cares (about UAB football),” said ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. “But nobody in the media has the guts to say the truth. In the state of Alabama—that loves football more than any other state—nobody went to their games.”
President Watts confidently believes that alumni, fans and supporters will gather donations to cover the $17.2 million required to revamp the program. But what happens when that money dries up? Who will be funding the program at that point? Any university that drops its program in the first place probably isn’t willing to sustain it for forever.
If Watts and his administration had enough reason to drop football in the first place, what changed to bring it back? Of course, gaining monetary pledges from the fanbase helps, but when you don’t have much of a fanbase in the first place, that won’t buoy the program for long.
Resurrecting UAB football wasn’t a miracle. Most people thought it would happen at some point. But being successful, and maintaining the funding and support to do so, may be.
Samuel Benson is a contributor to FanRag Sports and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.