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UAB, Bill Clark reach agreement in principle on new contract

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Not once but twice Bill Clark has helped to resurrect UAB football.  This time, and after a couple of years of lip service, he’s being rewarded financially.

Friday night, the university announced that it has reached an agreement in principle with its head football coach to extend and enhance his current contract.  The new agreement is subject to the approval of the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, which is expected to happen at some point in the next couple of weeks.

“UAB football is enjoying great success on and off the field under Coach Clark’s leadership,” athletic director Mark Ingram said in a statement. “We are very optimistic about our future and look forward to Coach Clark being here for a long time.

“I want to thank Dr. Watts and his team and the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees for their unwavering support during this process.”

In his first season in 2014, Clark took over a Blazers team that had won eight games the previous three years combined and turned it into one that went 6-6 in that inaugural campaign.  In December of that year, president Ray Watts announced the controversial decision to axe the football program; six months later, the same administration reversed course and announced that the program would (ultimately) be reinstated for the 2017 season.

In this first year back, the Blazers are 5-3 and in line for the program’s second-ever bowl bid and first since the 2004 season.

“[Wife] Jennifer and I want to thank the Blazer students, fans, the Birmingham community, Dr. Watts, Mark Ingram, the UAB administration, the University Board of Trustees and the Athletics Foundation for their support of the return of UAB Football,” Clark said in his statement. “We also want to thank our players, coaches and staff for the hard work and commitment they have made for our program to be successful in the classroom, in life and on the football field.

“We appreciate the opportunity we’ve been given at UAB. The commitment UAB is making to us with this contract extension will allow us to continue the work that we’ve begun with this football program for many years to come. GO BLAZERS!”

Clark’s new five-year contract would extend him through the 2022 season.  The first year of the deal will pay him $900,000, up from the $630,000 he was scheduled to earn in 2017. That new figure will, along with FIU’s Butch Davis, make him the fourth-highest paid head coach in Conference USA (per USA Today) behind UT-San Antonio’s Frank Wilson ($1.14 million), North Texas’ Seth Littrell ($991,400) and FAU’s Lane Kiffin ($950,000).

In the last year of his contract, Clark right now is scheduled to be paid $1.015 million.

Matt Rhule again has Baylor run pregame ‘Oklahoma Drill’

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Matt Rhule really couldn’t care less what you, I or anybody else thinks.

The Baylor head coach came under heavy fire when, prior to the Week 3 game against Duke, he had his players run the “Oklahoma Drill,” a full-contact drill developed by the great Bud Wilkinson, as part of their pregame warmup.  Afterward, Rhule defended a drill whose use in practice settings is dwindling in this era of safety and is rarely seen in pregame.

“It’s a great opportunity to come together and establish our physicality as a team before games,” the coach said last week. “It’s something I’ve always done. We try to do it before Tuesday and Wednesday practices too.”

Prior to the game against No. 3 Oklahoma, fittingly, Rhule went back to that same well.

The Bears are currently 0-3 on the season, including a season-opening loss to FCS Liberty and one the following week to UT-San Antonio of Conference USA.  BU is one of two Power Five teams, along with Florida State, without a win this season.

Big Ten, Conference USA swapping bowl tie-in for 2017

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The middle of September isn’t typically the time that bowl arrangements are tweaked but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen.

Conference USA confirmed details of a bowl tie-in “swap” with the Big Ten on Wednesday, causing a bit of a Texas two-step in the postseason picture for both leagues in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. The move on the Big Ten’s end was originally announced back in May but it appears the CUSA end is just now being confirmed officially.

As a result:

  • A Conference USA team will now play in the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll play against Army if the Black Knights are eligible,
  • The Big Ten will place a team in Heart of Dallas Bowl against vs. a Big 12 opponent

While the exact reason for the swap is unclear, it certainly makes a little more sense for a Big Ten team to be in Dallas against a fellow Power Five conference like the Big 12. In addition, the Big Ten has not had a team filled a slot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl since 2014 and have actually never scored a victory in the game either.

There was supposed to be a B1G squad in the bowl last season but, because of shortages elsewhere in terms of eligible teams, the game wound up being an Army win over an eventual 5-8 North Texas squad.  Conference USA apparently remains contractually tied to the Heart of Dallas Bowl until 2019, just not this year.

The Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 23 in Fort Worth while the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is slated to be played on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

Houston, UTSA agree to cancel season opener that was postponed following Hurricane Harvey

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Hurricane season has forced a rash of canceled college football games and you can add one previously postponed season opener to the list.

Houston and UTSA jointly announced on Wednesday afternoon that they have agreed to cancel their game this season and not make it up. The two programs have worked together to navigate the tricky issues surrounding Hurricane Harvey and had left things a bit open-ended as to when they could play each other until the most recent announcement.

“We appreciate the support and understanding of our fans, and their concern for those who have been impacted by Harvey,” Roadrunners AD Lynn Hickey said in a statement. “We encourage everyone to consider using their ticket refund to make a donation to hurricane relief and recovery efforts. The devastation in South Central and Southeast Texas is beyond imagination, and as the Roadrunner Family we can make a real difference at this critical time.”

According to a release, administrators on both sides will look to make up the game in a future year and reschedule it when the teams have an opening in their non-conference slate. When that might be is still up in the air but the 2017 game was slated to be the first in a series of four meetings between the Cougars and Roadrunners. The next scheduled date of the series is Sept. 3, 2022 in Houston, with additional games in 2023 (at the Alamodome) and 2024 (in Houston) already on the books.

The schools also confirmed that tickets to the canceled game will be refunded.

As a result, that means that Houston’s new season opener will be on Saturday at Arizona, while UTSA kicks off the year up the road in Waco for a game at Baylor.

Houston-UTSA canceled due to Hurricane Harvey

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All Houston athletics events have been canceled for this upcoming weekend, the Cougars announced Tuesday, which includes UH’s scheduled football opener at UTSA on Saturday.

The Houston-UTSA game was scheduled to be played in San Antonio. While the game could have logistically been played — there has been no reported damage to San Antonio’s Alamodome — it is certainly understandable why the Coogs opted to focus on more pressing matters as the city of Houston deals with the aftermath of a once-every-500 years flooding event.

“Everyone in our university community, including our student-athletes, coaches and their staff, has been impacted by this incredible storm. This is a time for all of us to focus on the wellbeing of our families and neighbors and the recovery of the Houston area,” UH president Renu Khator said in a statement. “We’ll be excited to resume athletic competition, but right now our student-athletes are anxious to contribute to getting the city we love so much back on its feet again.”

“As families across Southeast and South Central Texas struggle with the catastrophic flooding and impact of the storm, our focus must be on how we all can help,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “In lieu of this weekend’s game, I urge Roadrunners, the San Antonio community and all Texans to support recovery efforts in Houston and across the region, including donating to disaster relief efforts.”

With the cancellation, Houston will now open its season at Arizona on Sept. 9. (Rice is also on the road on Sept. 9, meaning both the Coogs’ and the Owls’ first home games will come, fittingly, against each other on Sept. 16.) UTSA will now open Sept. 9 at Baylor.

The announcement stated that the two sides will attempt to reschedule the game, but the teams do not share a bye week. Houston is off on the weekend of Nov. 11, when UTSA plays a conference game against UAB. UTSA is off for the weekend of Sept. 30, when Houston plays an AAC game at Temple. Our Kevin McGuire notes that UTSA and UAB also share bye weeks, so it would technically be possible to play UTSA-UAB on Sept. 30 and move Houston-UTSA to the Coogs’ scheduled off week of Nov. 11, but the Alamodome is occupied that weekend by San Antonio’s annual Fall Home & Garden Show, which means such a reschedule would require finding a new stadium and asking three teams to give up their off weeks in an effort to get a non-conference game played.

This would leave only the weekend of Dec. 2 as open for both teams, assuming neither reaches their respective conference championship games.