Shhh. Listen. Do you hear it? That sound echoing from Connecticut all the way to Birmingham?
It's opportunity. It's knocking for UAB.
Just when you thought conference realignment wasn't going to be reawakened for a few years until the next major round of television negotiations, boom. Here comes the news that UConn is about to leave the American Athletic Conference to return to the Big East.
The Big East doesn't play football - neither does UConn, at least not well - but it seems highly unlikely the AAC would allow the Huskies to remain as a football-only member. That would leave the AAC with an unbalanced lineup of 11 football schools.
Anyone know an up-and-coming football program/athletics department/internationally renowned research university and academic medical center that would be a perfect fit to join the likes of Central Florida and South Florida, Memphis and Cincinnati, Houston and SMU?
I do. It's UAB. It's the right school at the right time.
It's the No. 1 young university in the nation. It's an athletic department that's constantly improving facilities - with the crown jewel of a new football stadium in the works - and just signed a well-earned, much-improved multimedia rights deal with Learfield IMG College. It's a better-than-ever football program vindicating its Return daily, coming off the best season in school history, which included its first conference championship and its first bowl victory.
None of these accomplishments has been lightning in a bottle. They're the logical result of hiring and retaining the right people, like football coach Bill Clark, and giving them the support they need.
Nothing against Conference USA, which gave the Blazers vital support during the shutdown and #TheReturn, but UAB has more in common with the universities of the AAC. They are true peer institutions.
What's good for UAB is good for Birmingham, and competing in the AAC would only add to the continuing buzz around the city. The return of old rivalries with more high-profile opponents would increase attendance in multiple sports, which would mean more visitors and a greater economic impact. It also would mean added TV exposure, which would help tell the exciting story of Birmingham's growth to a wider audience. The AAC recently inked a lucrative new media rights deal with ESPN.
Nothing is easy or guaranteed when it comes to changing conference homes, but with the news of UConn's impending departure from the AAC, it appears a golden opportunity has presented itself. No one knows how this will play out, but it's encouraging to know there are plenty of UAB people with the vision to see what's best for the future and the wisdom to make it happen.
This is no time to dream too little dreams.