On the morning of June 24th, UAB Blazer soccer followers awoke to information they possible weren’t anticipating to listen to for a very long time. Invoice Clark, undeniably this system’s most profitable head coach, had introduced that he was retiring because of long-lasting continual again points.
“Retiring because the UAB head soccer coach is the toughest determination I’ve ever needed to make,” Clark wrote in an announcement, “however my future well being and well-being rely on it” (Scarbinsky).
Clark, who had compiled a file of 49-26 (65.3% profitable proportion) throughout his time commanding the Blazers, gained a number of convention championships and bowl video games, two distinct achievements followers had been craving for 12 months after 12 months (UAB Sports activities). For the reason that Blazers joined the category 1-A classification in 1996, this system struggled to realize relevance and routinely put collectively disappointing season after season. Every little thing modified when Clark left Jacksonville State to take the reins in 2014. Underneath Clark, UAB turned a Group of 5 energy, even hanging worry into the occasional SEC workforce that may dare schedule them. The query now’s easy: how does UAB keep the relevance they’ve gained underneath Clark with out him?
The Pre-Clark Period of UAB Soccer
Between the 1996 reclassification and the 2014 arrival of Invoice Clark, head coaches Watson Brown, Neil Callaway, and Garrick McGee led this system. Throughout these years, the workforce sulked to fifteen dropping seasons throughout 18 years and solely appeared in a single bowl sport, dropping to Hawaii within the Hawaii bowl again in 2004 (Wikipedia). Not solely was the workforce abysmal, however attendance was a yearly frustration too.
Rock-bottom and Re-birth
Shortly after reclassification, the Blazers skilled fluctuations in attendance because the workforce went by means of the rising pains most new I-A groups initially undergo. In the beginning of the 2010s, this system skilled a major downturn in attendance. 2013, most notably, noticed a mean attendance of practically under 10,000 followers per dwelling sport. Nevertheless, Clark arrived on the scene in 2014 and immediately turned the workforce right into a aggressive product, going 6-6 in his first season. The response to the Blazers’ improved play was the very best common dwelling attendance since 2006 and the third-highest since reclassification. Nevertheless, the bowl-eligible workforce obtained stunning information from faculty president Ray Watts that the soccer program was being shut down.
“When contemplating a mannequin that finest protects the monetary future and prominence of the Athletic Division, soccer is just not sustainable,” Watts acknowledged in December 2014 (Chicago).
After an uproar from the fan base and metropolis of Birmingham, Clark and the Blazers got a second likelihood at life. In 2017, this system was again on the sphere, selecting up proper the place it left off in 2014. The workforce improved to an 8-5 file and reached their first bowl sport in 13 years (Wikipedia). Attendance since Clark’s arrival in 2014 has seen regular development because the on-field product has drastically improved. The Blazers’ success and revamped vitality across the program helped spearhead the all-new Protecting Stadium within the coronary heart of downtown Birmingham. Along with attendance, social media engagement has seen a gentle uptick over the Clark period.
The Instagram deal with @uab_fb was created in 2014 on the onset of the Clark period and struggled to realize traction as most posts didn’t surpass 100 likes. Nevertheless, after this system’s revival, social engagement elevated considerably and has continued an upward development by means of the 2021 season.
The place does the Program Flip With out Clark?
The general development this system has seen underneath Clark is simple, however the place do the Blazers flip with out him on the helm?
Rent throughout the program
Thankfully for the Blazers, offensive and defensive coordinators Bryant Vincent and David Reeves have coached with Clark since 2014. Due to their historical past, each coaches actually perceive of the tradition Clark has been in a position to implement over his six seasons with this system. As spectacular as Vincent has been working the offense for the Blazers, Reeves must be the selection the athletic division rolls with for the 2022 season. Throughout Reeves’ time with the workforce, he has been a two-time Broyles Award nominee and has led UAB’s protection to 3 top-10 finishes in complete protection from 2018-2020 (UAB Sports activities). If there may be anybody who can decide up the place Invoice Clark is leaving off, it must be Coach Reeves.
Use Protecting Stadium as leverage and improve scheduling
Protecting Stadium formally opened in October 2021 for its inaugural UAB soccer sport vs. Malik Willis’ Liberty Flames. The end result wasn’t fairly, however the lights shining down over the town of Birmingham actually stole the present. Protecting Stadium is likely one of the latest soccer venues within the nation and rests in a singular spot. With views of the skyline and airport flight path, Protecting affords followers of all groups, even Alabama and Auburn, a particular alternative to observe soccer in the course of a downtown space. This system ought to benefit from this comparatively distinct scenario and market Protecting’s distinctive location. Moreover, this system ought to push so as to add an additional Thursday or Friday night time sport to their annual schedule. This manner, followers of different massive groups within the state of Alabama can come to help the Blazers with out having to choose and select what to do on their Saturday.
Use Birmingham as a recruiting software
It’s no query that the town of Birmingham has been on the rise over the previous few years. The sports activities business has been thriving with the addition of Protecting Stadium, the Birmingham Squadron, the renovations to Legacy Enviornment, the 2022 NCAA Event, and particularly The World Video games 2022. In line with AL.com, The World Video games 2022 are projected to have an financial affect of $256 million on the town of Birmingham (Wright). The thrill round sports activities in Alabama is already at a fanatic temperature when you think about the affect of Alabama and Auburn followers, however now with Birmingham taking sports activities to a brand new degree, recruiting highschool gamers to the town ought to develop into progressively simpler. If this system can make the most of the sports activities development within the native space by means of the pitches they make to incoming freshmen, they are going to be placing themselves relating to luring high-profile gamers away from greater caliber groups.
The lack of Invoice Clark actually stings, however there are a lot of causes to stay excited concerning the trajectory of this program. With attendance and social engagement on the rise, UAB finds itself in a greater scenario than most groups who lose their beloved coach.