December 2, 2014, was a sad day for anyone associated with UAB football. It was that day that marked what appeared to be the end of Blazers football. Heading into 2016, Blazers fans now have a lot to celebrate as the school, which reinstated the football program last June, released its 2017 non-conference schedule.
The Blazers will return to the Conference USA’s East Division and will face Alabama A&M, Ball State, Coastal Carolina, and SEC power Florida in non-conference games in 2017. Head coach Bill Clark, who led the Blazers to a bowl eligible 6-6 record in his first season in 2014, will return to lead the program.
Who's ready from some football!? 2017 can't get here fast enough. #theReturn pic.twitter.com/mRMxqnenal
— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) January 15, 2016
UAB president, Ray Watts, issued the verdict on that December day that the football, rifle, and bowling programs at the university would be disbanded. Watts had commissioned CarrSports Consulting to examine the impact of the three sports on the school’s athletic expenses. It was estimated that athletic expenses at UAB would rise to $38.5 million by 2019 while the department’s revenues would expand by less than $1 million.
The reinstatement of the program came after efforts by a fundraising committee helped raise over $30 million to offset the expenses of running the UAB football program. Former Blazer player Justin Craft helped raise over $15 million and Birmingham businessman Jimmy Fuller pledged $7.5 million to offset the cost of an on-campus stadium.
UAB became the first school since Pacific in 1995 to shut down an FBS football program. The Blazers program is relatively young having started in 1989 when the school fielded a club team. The school began play as a Division III independent in 1991 and became a full-fledged Division I member in 1996.
Clark has reassembled a full-time coaching staff and continues to rebuild the program. In December 2014, it was estimated that the Blazers roster numbered 120. A year later, that number was just over 30. Clark and his staff continue to recruit and add players to the roster. He will have another year to put the pieces back together before UAB takes the field against Alabama A&M in 2017.