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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

The Bartows and me: Happy Birthday to us

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

It's a fun fact, an odd fact and an unbelievable fact all rolled into one. More on the unbelievable fact in a minute, but first, the fun and odd fact: Gene Bartow and his son Murry Bartow share a birthday. It's today, August 18th.

Happy Birthday to them. UAB and Birmingham have been fortunate to be blessed by the presence of both men, their families and their rock, Gene's wife and Murry's mother, Ruth.

Gene, the father of UAB Athletics, would've been 89 years old today had he not been stolen from us too soon seven years ago. His legacy extends beyond these state lines, but his stature as one of the most impactful figures to call Alabama home is secure.

Without him, UAB might not have a basketball program that slayed Ralph Sampson, reached multiple Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight and has a winning record against Kentucky.

Without him, UAB almost certainly would not have a football program that's been to bowl games, won a conference championship and is undefeated against Nick Saban.

Has any one man meant more to two major sports at the same school?

Murry followed his father into the crazy, unforgiving basketball coaching profession, following him immediately at UAB and nostalgically this past season at UCLA, and he's won more than 300 games himself. Put their coaching resumes together, and father and son accounted for almost 1,000 college victories.

More importantly, Murry carried on his father's legacy of character and grace in a profession that challenges both on a regular basis.

And now, the rest of the story, which is more of a footnote that probably matters only to an audience of me, a writer who loves all sports but has a deeper affection for basketball. I moved to the Football Capital of the South at the exact right time to get to know Gene and Murry Bartow, to grow and mature from getting under their skin to calling them friends.

What makes this all kinda sorta unbelievable is that today, August 18th, is important to each of us in a personal way. Gene Bartow was born on this day in 1930. Murry Bartow and I both were born on this exact same day in 1961.

That's right. Gene, Murry and I share a birthday. Murry and I share a birthdate. We all have shared an enduring passion for an underappreciated sport in an underappreciated city, as well as an abiding respect for an underappreciated institution of higher learning that stands taller than ever today, in no small part because of them.

Miss you, Gene. Enjoy the day, Murry.

Happy Birthday to us.

Gene Bartow passed the UAB basketball coaching torch to his son, Murry. (Hal Yeager photo)


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