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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

UAB to the AAC means beating Memphis but not being Memphis

I can taste the trophy now.

You know the one. It's the bronze slab of ribs weighty enough to turn Fred Flintstone's ride on its side, the serious hardware they hand over to the winner of the UAB-Memphis football game. The game has a name as perfect as the prize.

The Battle for the Bones.

It's happening again Oct. 21. For the first time in 11 years, for the first time in Protective Stadium, the Blazers and the Tigers will do what comes naturally. They'll compete on a football field as conference members that don't like each other very much, as God and Gene Bartow intended, this time in the American Athletic Conference.

Saturday was the first day of UAB's new life in a new league. The first sign that the AAC gets it, since inviting and accepting the Blazers, came two days earlier in a delicious tweet salivating over the return of the Battle for the Bones and "the glorious rack of ribs trophy."

The accompanying artwork contained a stamp declaring "Rivalry Renewed." No offense to Middle Tennessee, but we are here for it.

No pressure, Trent Dilfer, but you should know that UAB owns Memphis in football, 10 wins to five, every one of those victories achieved before the Blazers hired the visionary Bill Clark and got serious about that sport. Dilfer will be expected to continue the dominance in this series established by Watson Brown.

Andy Kennedy has a different task as the boss of UAB's founding program. The basketball deed in this relationship belongs to the Tigers. The teams have conducted an even 50 meetings on the hardwood, 39 of them ending with the Blazers' hope extinguished.

Why all this talk about Memphis when there are other acquaintances to be renewed in the American? To start, UAB and Memphis share a bond in their love for barbecue and Bartow. He fathered Birmingham's team and led it to the Elite Eight after leaving his mark on the Bluff City, where his legacy is topped by a trip to the national championship game.

But it's more than deep nostalgia for a great coach and a greater man whose stature and influence earned UAB an inaugural spot in the Great Midwest Conference alongside Memphis. For UAB, Memphis is a measuring stick and a cautionary tale. ...

Read the rest of Kevin's column on what the Memphis experience in the AAC might mean for UAB in its new conference home. Only in the Lede.

UAB football owns new-old rival Memphis and the glorious Battle for the Bones trophy. (Birmingham News photo)



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