Bill Clark chooses UAB and Birmingham again, and everyone wins
Bill Clark left town Wednesday. It's true, but don't be alarmed. He simply took his UAB football team to New Orleans to finish preparing for Saturday night's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Appalachian State.
Simply. Consider the enormity of that word in this context.
Going bowling has become an annual and expected thing for the Blazers under Clark since The Return. This is the team's third bowl trip in three years, which may not turn some heads, but a little perspective, please. When your program made one such trip in its entire Football Bowl Subdivision existence before Clark arrived - even though that existence didn't begin until 1996 - 3 for 3 is kind of a big deal.
The bigger news for the Blazers is that Clark didn't leave town for a new job in a new home in the last two weeks, and believe me, he had options. Plural. Different people connected in different ways to a handful of SEC and AAC schools in search of a head coach reached out to gauge his interest. One school in particular was so interested, it wanted to set up a serious neutral-site rendezvous with Clark.
He considered it but politely declined.
In short, Clark chose UAB and he chose Birmingham - again - making it a win-win for everyone who cares about college football in the state where it matters most.
One of those interested observers: State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, a recent addition to the UAB Athletics Foundation board.
"People in the UAB Nation and people all over the state are so thrilled that Coach Clark has decided to remain in Birmingham at UAB," Waggoner told me. "He's a proven winner respected by so many sports fans all across this state, whether they're UAB, Auburn or Alabama fans. Birmingham and Alabama are a better place because of Bill Clark and what he's done for this community and this state."
That's a powerful endorsement that speaks to the positive impact Clark has made on the university and the community on and off the field since he arrived in 2014. Oh, and this just in: He's not done yet.
Clark didn't decline to pursue overtures from other schools to maintain the status quo, as unprecedented as it is with three straight bowl trips, two straight division titles and one Conference USA championship. Expect to see an even greater commitment from the university to give UAB football the resources it needs to keep pushing toward Clark's goal to become one of the top Group of Five programs in the country.
The introduction of brand-new Protective Stadium as the home of the Blazers in 2021 is a major part of that push. The possibility of moving to the American Athletic Conference is another reason to stay, and there are other agreed-upon incentives to benefit the overall program that will become clear in due time.
Win or lose Saturday night, UAB can celebrate knowing it has a football coach who's proven intriguing to other schools higher up the food chain - and also has proven yet again that he's right where he wants to be, as hungry for excellence as ever.