Superlatives get tossed around rather loosely in the world of sports commentary, sometimes to a degree that they lose meaning. That said, I feel confident UAB football coach Bill Clark accomplished a feat we will never again see in the sport.
For his efforts, Bill Clark is the only logical candidate to win National Coach of the Year.
I have been banging the drum for Clark’s candidacy a while now — all the way back in the summer of 2015, in fact. It was then that the long road to the 2017 season began for the UAB Blazers when, shortly after the Alabama Board of Trustees announced the closure of the university’s football program, public outcry brought it back. Bill Clark signed on to remain Blazers head coach, meaning two full years in which he wouldn’t actually coach a single game.
Clark led UAB to bowl eligibility in 2014, though the Blazers did not receive an invite. That roster was stocked with talent, a good portion poised to return. The program’s initial closure, however, began an exodus out of Birmingham. Jordan Howard landed at Indiana before heading to the NFL. Jake Ganus was a difference-maker for Georgia in 2015. A team that could have contended in Conference USA sat dormant.
But while UAB football was shuttered on game days, Bill Clark went to work. He maintained a staff, recruited players both old and new for #TheReturn. Because Div. I programs do not just cease operations then reinstate their existence in the course of a few months, what Clark did will never be replicated.
Further, we are in the midst of college football’s “Silly Season;” that time of year when coaches move around in a proverbial game of 3-Card Monte. Coaches with a single season of experience at their current stops are hot names for other jobs. For Clark to remain at UAB without even taking the field for two years is truly remarkable.
On its own, all those factors make Bill Clark’s situation extraordinary and worthy of awards. But for the Blazers to put together the best season in program history? Clark’s nomination is a no-brainer.
UAB went 8-4, landing just the second bowl invitation in program history. The Blazers face Ohio U. later this month in the Bahamas Bowl.
While UAB waited 13 years and a two-year dormant period to get back to the postseason, Clark has the program positioned for long-term success. Standout running back Spencer Brown, who rushed for 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns, is a freshman. A host of others transferred into UAB for 2017, and have eligibility remaining.
This group blended well with veterans who remained committed to the Blazers during the dormancy. Linebacker Shaq Jones, who has 12 tackles for loss and three sacks; defensive back Darrius Williams, who has five interceptions; even wide receiver Collin Lisa, who spent 2015 at Buffalo but returned to UAB for 2017, were holdovers from the 2014 team.
Bill Clark and Co. have built something for fans to invest in, right down to offering up a product for home games that delivered a perfect 6-0 home record in 2017.
The case for Clark is unprecedented — but don’t just take my word for it. Fellow Eddie Robinson Award nominee and Conference USA counterpart Lane Kiffin threw his support behind Clark, too.
— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) December 5, 2017
At a time when superlatives lose meaning, what Bill Clark accomplished at UAB is very much once-in-a-lifetime.