UPDATE: UAB athletic director doesn’t commit to Blazers football over long haul

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We can all fondly remember Roddy White, Darrell Hackney and Joe Webb making plays on the football field for the UAB Blazers.

No, not all of us?

Well, some of us remember those quality players bringing some excitement to Blazers football. Unfortunately, the legacy they tried to build in Birmingham, Ala. may never be realized.

After starting the program in 1991, the Blazers fell on hard times recently and haven’t won more than five games since 2004. Despite new head coach Bill Clark having the program pointed in the right direction with a 5-4 record this season, it may not be enough amid growing concerns the school will cease football activities in 2016.

UAB president Ray L. Watts felt the need to address the rumors Thursday by releasing a statement clarifying the school’s plans and confirm no decision has been made regarding the football program:

“More than a year ago, UAB began the most comprehensive campus-wide strategic planning process in our history, calling for the 10 schools, College of Arts and Sciences, Honors College, Information Technology, Research Administration, and other units to develop individual strategic plans, set priorities and implement long-term goals.

“Within that framework, the Athletic Department is conducting a full strategic review of its programs. The Athletic Department has engaged outside experts and is exploring a full range of options – not all of which will be implemented – to reach its desired results of sustained excellence.

“Not surprisingly given the size of the program, one area of focus involves evaluating the investments in football and the resources necessary to achieve and sustain excellence now and into the future. We’ve been working for many months on this data driven process, and it would be counterproductive and inappropriate to speculate on outcomes based on an incomplete process — not just related to athletics, but across the campus.”

The one point Watt didn’t address was the future of the program. He simply remained non-committal.

Everything currently points toward the university ending football operations. After all, Clark’s contract only runs through 2015, and the athletic department has yet to schedule a non-conference game for 2016 and beyond.

Blazers faithful may need a Hail Mary to keep the program alive.

UPDATE (9:00 p.m.):  First, UAB president Ray L. Watts felt the need to address growing rumors that the university will end its football program in 2016. A day later, UAB athletic director Brian Mackin was compelled to do the same in a statement, via Al.com:

“Like all areas across our campus, the Athletic Department is working on a strategic plan to maximize our resources and drive excellence.  This process is critical to ensuring the best days of UAB Athletics are yet to come for our students, alumni, fans and community. Coming out of this process, we will know what it takes — from the institution, as well as supporters including our donors — to best support our programs. My staff and I, and our consultants — Carr Sports Consulting, a trusted adviser and expert in college athletics — have invested a great deal of care in undertaking a department-wide strategic plan.  As we close in on completing this initiative, we will make informed decisions that are supported by data and expert analysis.  It would be premature to speculate about pending results, but I firmly believe this approach will lead to the most exciting era in UAB Athletics.”

Like Watts, Mackin never committed to the football program. In fact, his most telling statement was mentioning the school is “working on a strategic plan to maximize resources.” Since the school received a $1.5 million from BBVA Compass to build a new soccer stadium on campus, it doesn’t bode well for the football program.

LSU officially welcomes new Mike the Tiger to his new habitat

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LSU is keeping the tradition of a live tiger mascot alive with the announced addition of Mike VII. The new Mike the Tiger has moved into his new spacious digs and is already having football fans and animal lovers fall in love with him.

The newest addition had to be checked to make sure he was qualified to be released into LSU’s special habitat that has been the home for previous tigers. Mike VII will not be making appearances at Tiger Stadium on game days as has previously been a tradition. Instead, Mike VII will be able to roam a recently updated and renovated tiger habitat in style and root on the Tigers from the comfort of his new home.

Mike VI died of cancer last October.

Utah’s surprise QB announcement tabs Tyler Huntley as starter

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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham made one of the more surprising decisions on Monday. Instead of naming the senior captain as his starting quarterback, Whittingham chose sophomore Tyler Huntley to be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1 against North Dakota.

The decision to go with Huntley means Troy Williams will be reduced to backup duty. Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman will also be sitting down on the depth chart, which is another mild surprise from Salt Lake City.

Williams was Utah’s quarterback last season when the Utes made a push for the Pac-12 South Division before falling just short of the Pac-12 championship game. Williams passed for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams also rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns for the Utes.

As a freshman, Huntley appeared in six games and attempted just seven passes for 60 total yards. It would seem Huntley has done a lot to impress the coaches to earn the starting nod over an experienced starter and the transfer option. His improvement in the offseason and athleticism are said to be fueling his rise as a quarterback, so we’ll see how that pays off on the field once the games begin.

Jim McElwain says Florida is heading to Texas to “beat the heck out of Michigan”

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It goes without saying that coaches will say what coaches say. Suggesting their team is on a mission to score a big win in front of fans clad in the school colors should not be taken for anything more than simply aiming to get a rise out of the fans. Mission accomplished for Florida head coach Jim McElwain, but possible bulletin board material for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Speaking before Florida students over the weekend, McElwain laid it out there by saying his Gators were looking to do one thing against Michigan; win with authority.

“We’re heading to Dallas here in a couple weeks to go beat the heck out of Michigan, and then come back to you guys,” McElwain said, according to SEC Country.

The Gators are opening the college football season next week in Arlington, Texas against the Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten. Florida will be a bit undermanned with the recent suspension of seven players, including star wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Michigan also won the most recent meeting between the two schools, with Harbaugh’s Wolverines dominating McElwain’s Gators in the Citrus Bowl two seasons ago (41-7).

Michigan will be looking to reestablish its identity with a good amount of roster turnover this season, but the depth hit from the recent suspensions in Gainesville may help give Michigan an edge. Either way, we can only look forward to seeing how Harbaugh potentially responds once this claim from McElwain makes its way to Ann Arbor.

Roll Tide! Alabama tops preseason AP Top 25; OSU, FSU, USC receive first-place votes

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For the fourth time under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama Crimson Tide will begin a college football season as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press Top 25.

The defending SEC champions received 52 first-place votes from the AP voters, easily pulling away from No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State. Both the Buckeyes and Seminoles received first-place votes, as did No. 4 USC. But none of those schools received more than four first-place votes from the voters. Alabama and Florida State meet in Week 1 next week in Atlanta.

Defending national champion Clemson was left without a first-place vote, but still starts the year highly-ranked at No. 5. They are followed by Penn State, fresh off a Big Ten championship from last season. Defending Pac-12 champion and College Football Playoff participant Washington starts the year at No. 8, one spot behind the defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners with a first-year head coach in Lincoln Riley. Oklahoma travels to Columbus, Ohio to play Ohio State in Week 2. Wisconsin and Oklahoma State round out the top 10 in the preseason AP poll.

The lone Group of Five team in the preseason top 25 is USF, with new head coach Charlie Strong taking over the Bulls. Strong’s new team is ranked No. 19, a few spot s ahead of his old program, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns (now coached by Tom Herman).

The SEC leads the country with six teams appearing in the preseason AP Top 25, followed by the ACC and Big 12 with five ranked teams each. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have four schools represented. No independent teams appear in the preseason top 25.

And here is the full AP Top 25 preseason poll, with first-place votes noted);

  1. Alabama (52 first-place votes)
  2. Ohio State (3)
  3. Florida State (4)
  4. USC (2)
  5. Clemson
  6. Penn State
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Washington
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Oklahoma State
  11. Michigan
  12. Auburn
  13. LSU
  14. Stanford
  15. Georgia
  16. Louisville
  17. Florida
  18. Miami FL
  19. USF
  20. Kansas State
  21. Virginia Tech
  22. West Virginia
  23. Texas
  24. Washington State
  25. Tennessee