Photo via uab.edu
Sports are about scores. Sports are played in order to determine a winner.
However, sports are also about stories. Nothing can hook sports fans more than a great story. An impactful and feel-good story that not only captures fans for the particular team the story is about, but also fans from other teams.
The UAB Blazers football team lost 49-6 in the Conference USA Championship game to the Florida Atlantic Owls this past Saturday. In this sense, sport meets score.
Sport meeting story, though, shows something about this team that could pass as a good sports flick on its worst day and a universal box office hit on its best.
UAB’s football program was born in the early 1990s when it started out as a club sport. After a couple years in this capacity, it evolved into a Division III program. After a couple seasons there, UAB was promoted again, this time going all the way to the Division I-AA level. At this point, it was becoming a predictable cycle, with the Blazers completing the journey to end up as a Division I-A team by 1996.
The story would continue for the Blazers, as they would make their first bowl game in 2004, where they were defeated by the University of Hawaii 59-40.
Like any great story though, the main character has to deal with adversity. In this sense, the adversity UAB had to deal with were the sub-.500 records for the majority of its seasons. Its best record was 7-4 in 2000, with their signature win coming in Death Valley where they beat the LSU Tigers 13-10.
A highlight win for the program, no doubt. Even still, the Blazers were never able to take the next step. The adversity persisted.
The adversity would hit its crescendo in 2014 when it was determined that the football program would be eliminated due to financial concerns. For the next couple seasons, Blazers football was gone.
However, with adversity in the story comes the tipping point and the climax of the story that gives the main character what it needs to overcome the antagonist at the end of the day.
In UAB’s case, the climax came when fundraising brought the program back from the dead. During its inaugural season back in the FBS in 2017, the Blazers finished at 8-5 under head coach Bill Clark. For Clark, it was a return to UAB after leading them to 6-6 before the program went away for two seasons. For Blazers football, it was its first year toward phenomenal success.
In 2018, the Blazers would finish with eight wins, its most in program history. In 2019, they would finish 11-3 and win its first ever conference championship, overcoming the Middle Tennessee State 27-25. The Blazers would also capture its first bowl victory, beating Northern Illinois 37-13 in the Boca Raton Bowl.
And now, with the 2019 regular season concluding, the success continues. With a defense that is only giving up 20.8 points a game (26th in the entire FBS), the Blazers sit at 9-4 with a chance to capture its second consecutive season with double-digit wins, and its second season ever with double-digit wins.
The Blazers are scheduled to face Appalachian State in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 21st. The Blazers are set to face a team who has never lost a bowl game and beat Conference USA rival and 2018 championship runner-up Middle Tennessee in the same bowl last year by a score of 45-13.
However, the story of Blazers football, from being a club sport, less than 30 years ago, to a program that was eliminated entirely, has been a phenomenal ride.
For some, it is just another main character finally succeeding and coming out on top. For others, it is the impactful story of the UAB Blazers football program. It is what defines UAB. It is what makes UAB Blazer football one of the best stories to ever traverse the annals of college football.
People should be here for it.