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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

UAB football's Return is now a work of art

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Football is different in Alabama, and not just because we win more than you do. When we secure a particularly compelling victory or witness an especially iconic moment, we want to hold onto that memory, savor it and take pride in it for the rest of our days.

Maybe even hang it on the wall to remind us of the best of us.

So we don't just paint the town red for a night. We make an actual painting of the occasion. In crimson and white. Or blue and orange.

And now in green and gold.

You haven't fully arrived as a football program in this state until you've delivered a memorable moment and a decorated artist has captured it on canvas. UAB delivered the moment when it won the 2018 Conference USA championship in just its second season back on the field after the painful shutdown. World-class local artist Steve Skipper is capturing that moment for posterity with "The Return."

The finished painting will be unveiled at a June 20th event at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Skipper said "The Return" will be the first sports painting to hang in the museum. (Editor's note: The unveiling event has been moved to July 28th.)

The artist's preliminary sketch, based on an actual photograph, shows UAB Coach Bill Clark raising the C-USA Western Division championship trophy, surrounded by his players and other members of the UAB family, unrestrained joy splashed across their faces.

That team put so many smiles on so many faces, a mere four years after so many faces around here were stained with tears.

Why choose that moment when the team won a bigger title, the program's first league title, the next week at Middle Tennessee? Because the Blazers clinched the division at Legion Field, and there's a special bond between this program, this university and this city.

"It encompasses everything that's happened the last two years," Clark said. "It's real history." Which he appreciates as a history major.

Skipper first mentioned to Clark the idea of honoring UAB football with a painting after the 2017 season, which was memorable in its own way. Clark wanted to wait until the Blazers accomplished something bigger. Mission accomplished - and quickly.

Skipper, a Birmingham native, called the opportunity to create UAB football's first limited-edition fine-art painting "one of the greatest honors I've ever received."

This painting will help spread the word about the special story ongoing on the Southside. You'll be able to see a print at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and, hopefully, another at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Skipper said a print also will be displayed at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, where you can find other works he's done.

There's no telling how many UAB fans and families will add a print to their homes and offices.

This work of art was inspired by more than success on the field, by more than a school-record 11 victories, the program's inaugural conference title and its first bowl win. It'll stand as a powerful reminder of the power of Birmingham and its flagship university. To overcome odds. To refuse to be restrained by cynics, skeptics or history. To work together for a common cause and see that work rewarded.

At Thursday's press conference announcing the painting, Birmingham City Councilor William Parker captured that synergy.

"UAB is Birmingham," Parker said. "We embrace UAB football. We embrace UAB as a whole. We're partners."

If a picture's worth a thousand words, this one can be summed up with these: Our team. Our town. Our time … with no end in sight. Or as Skipper said, "This painting is the first in a series. This championship is nowhere near the last."

For more information on how to pre-order a print of "The Return," go to



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