The man most deserving of the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year won’t be on the sidelines for a single game in 2015; nor in 2016. But, through his commitment to UAB football amid the program’s tumult, Bill Clark has proven himself a leader of award-winning caliber.
UAB announced the football program’s return from a self-imposed, roughly six-month shutdown on Tuesday, targeting 2017 for the Blazers return to competition. UAB will almost assuredly take a giant step back in that first year, especially contrasted with the positive momentum the Blazers gained in Bill Clark’s first year at the helm.
Bill Clark is essentially building a program from scratch, which doesn’t necessarily make him unique in the current FBS landscape. Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder was there from the Monarchs’ inception, and the same goes for Joey Jones right in UAB’s own state, at South Alabama. When Bill Clark and UAB return to Conference USA, they’ll share a division with Wilder’s Old Dominion team, as well as newcomer Charlotte, which ostensibly takes the Blazers’ place as the 13th member under head coach Brad Lambert. In C-USA West, UTSA has done the same with Larry Coker.
No, Bill Clark building a program from the ground-up isn’t unique. But he’s the first to do so without signing up to do so, and he’ll also be the first to dive headfirst into FBS competition. Old Dominion, South Alabama, UTSA and Charlotte all transitioned into FBS membership playing schedules heavy on Div. II and FCS competition. Old Dominion was originally built to be an FCS program, initially flourishing in the Colonial Athletic Association before C-USA came calling.
To jump directly into FBS competition is essentially guaranteeing a team will be a punching bag in its first year. Clark had already pulled UAB out of such status, and would have been justified had he opted to go elsewhere, rather than rebuild the long-struggling program from an even more dire situation.
But in turmoil unlike any a program’s faced at any other point in modern college history, UAB needed solid footing. Bill Clark is providing the foundation, as expressed in the official statement released Tuesday by UAB:
“Like our fans, I wanted to light the scoreboard much sooner, but doing it right is more important than doing it fast, and this was our best option. We want a program that is here to stay. We have to start by building a new, stronger foundation. We need to take our time to do it right, then we can compete for conference and bowl championships.”
Of course, Clark’s commitment to UAB has come with assurances from above. He was giving a contract extension earlier this summer, and UAB is working to raise funds for the new facilities the Blazers desperately need.
Committee’s first priority raise $12 million for new football complex. Private donations have hit $4 million public donations in Sept.
— Alan Collins (@fox6alancollins) July 20, 2015
My suggestion of Bill Clark for Coach of the Year will almost assuredly go unheeded, but a new home for UAB football would just as assuredly be The House Bill Clark Built.