Somewhere, mostly receded into fuzzy memory, Alabama Football had a problem with UAB Football. Whatever caused the rift initially has surely receded into the terrain of ‘why does it still matter’. Certainly, the basketball programs clashed many years ago while in the pursuit of the same recruits. In a period when the state of Alabama, particularly Birmingham, produced many top players, Gene Bartow and Wimp Sanderson went toe-to-toe.
UAB started its basketball program in the 1980 season. More than once the former Memphis, UCLA and UAB basketball coach accused the Crimson Tide of cheating. Wimp’s response was equal to his most intense, sideline scowl after a bad call by a referee. UAB committed the unforgivable sin of messing with the Crimson Tide.
Just as Alabama Football and Auburn did back in the 1940s, it is time to bury a hatchet with UAB.
The Blazers started playing college football as an independent in the 1996 season. UAB joined Conference USA in the 2000 season under the leadership of the universally liked coach, Watson Brown, best known for being Mack Brown’s brother. For Alabama football fans, there was an exception to liking Brown in 1969. As Vandy’s quarterback, he led a late drive to upset the Crimson Tide in Nashville.
Brown was not able to build a winner in Birmingham. Neither did the two coaches who followed him; Neil Callaway and Garrick McGee. Bill Clark was given the task in the 2014 season, quickly followed by efforts to put UAB football out of existence. UAB did not field a team in 2015 or 2016. Since their 2017 revival, the Blazers have done pretty well. Clark has never had a losing season.
On Saturday, the Blazers upset BYU to win the Independence Bowl by a score of 31-28. UAB finished the season with a 9-4 record, its second-best season ever. Beating a respected BYU team also gave UAB its second-ever bowl win.
A hat tip from Alabama Football
Football fans everywhere, but especially Alabama football fans owe UAB a tipped hat.
In beating BYU, UAB also did college football a favor. What UAB did was an unintentional, but needed slap in the face of the PAC 12 Conference. At some point, the current four-team Playoff format will expand to eight teams or twelve. A big reason why the move to 12 teams is not already a done deal, is the nonsense about conference champion, automatic qualifiers.
The most vocal proponent of the auto qualifiers is new PAC 12 Commissioner, George Kliavkoff. Not surprisingly, Kliavoff wants a PAC 12 team in the Playoff every season. Since that cannot be assured without automatic qualifiers, Kliavkoff and the rest of the PAC 12 have their heels dug in.
There has been plenty of West Coast boasting after Lincoln Riley left Oklahoma for USC. Bold claims project Riley and the Trojans to rapidly be in National Championship contention. Many fans nationwide agree a rejuvenated USC program would be good for college football.
Just as Riley must rebuild USC, Kliavkoff needs to try to rebuild PAC 12 football. Make the conference stronger and an automatic qualifier backstop will not be needed. How far does the PAC 12 have to go?
The UAB bowl win over BYU was a victory over a ranked team and more. The Cougars were undefeated against PAC 12 teams this season. BYU beat Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State, USC and Utah. The 12-team Playoff format Kliavkoff wants would have included the Utes in the 12-team field and excluded BYU.
As the Independence Bowl result indicated, a good BYU team was not Playoff-worthy, but they were more worthy than Utah would have been. Thanks to UAB, Kliavkoff and the PAC 12 can mentally munch on that.