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

20 Comments

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.

Former five-star WR Demetris Robertson tweets transfer from Cal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

One of the top players in the Class of 2016 is on the move.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday afternoon, Demetris Robertson announced that he has “decided not to continue my education and football career at UC Berkeley.” The Cal wide receiver said he made his decision to leave the football program because of unspecified personal matters.

Robertson will have to sit out the 2018 season if/when he transfers to another FBS program.  He would then have two years of eligibility at his disposal beginning with the 2019 season.

A five-star member of the Golden Bears’ 2016 recruiting class, Robertson was rated as the No. 1 receiver in the country; the No. 3 player at any position in the state of Georgia; and the No. 13 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Robertson’s initial recruitment was an unusual one as he didn’t sign until May 1, nearly three months after National Signing Day, and then stunned the college football recruiting world by picking Cal over Notre Dame and home-state Georgia.

Given the fact that he’s from the state and described “personal matters” as his reason for leaving the Golden Bears, the Bulldogs will likely be viewed as the initial favorite to land one of the fastest players in college football.

At Cal, Robertson, at least initially, lived up to the recruiting hype as he was second on the team as a true freshman with 50 receptions for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.  His 15.3 yards per catch were tops on the team.  After catching seven passes for 70 yards the first two games of the 2017 season, however, he was sidelined for the remainder of the year by what turned out to be a season-ending lower-body injury.

Lane Kiffin pushed back against wearing bulletproof vest in return to Tennessee as Alabama OC

Getty Images
Leave a comment

College football, y’all.

Suffice to say, Lane Kiffin‘s departure from Rocky Top after one season as head coach at Tennessee for the same job at USC left a bad taste in the mouth of many members of Vols Nation.  How bad of a taste?  From ESPN.com in January of 2010:

But the real trick for Kiffin was figuring out a way to leave the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center late Tuesday night in one piece.

Groups of angry students and fans began surrounding the football complex after the news leaked that Kiffin had taken the USC job. Eventually, it evolved into a mob-like scene, with police moving in and barricading Johnny Majors Drive in front of the football complex.

Every time a car moved anywhere in the vicinity of the complex, the mob ran in that direction, shouting and chanting, “F— you Kiffin!

Fast-forward nearly five years, and Kiffin made his return — a triumphant, winning return as it turned out — to Neyland Stadium as the offensive coordinator at rival Alabama in October of 2014.  Ahead of that return, security was fearful for Kiffin’s life.  So fearful, in fact, that they wanted the former Volunteers head coach to wear a bulletproof vest into the famed stadium.

At least that’s what the current Florida Atlantic head coach claimed on Marty Smith‘s podcast, by way of 247Sports.com:

It’s crazy. They were literally talking about like — from the bus in — a bulletproof vest. I’m like, ‘Come on, guys. This is football.’ They said, ‘No, really.’ They had security with me the whole way, even walking on the field and stuff like that,” Kiffin said. “I’m just like ‘I’m not wearing a vest, guys. All right?’ That’s a little bit over the top. It was all in fun. There was a lot of mean words said — four-letter words. That speaks of Tennessee’s fans, just how passionate they are. I think Phillip Fulmer said it the other day, ‘We have the most passionate fans in the country.

Of course, all that angst and anger had waned by the time UT’s next search for a head coach kicked off as a small but very vocal portion of the fanbase actually wanted the one-time Knoxville pariah to replace Butch Jones late last year.  Hell, it was even reported that, in the midst of what was a circus of a search, “Lane is definitely on board if Tennessee gives him a call” about returning as head coach.

Ah, what could’ve been…

Nebraska transfer QB Patrick O’Brien officially lands at Colorado State

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In mid-April, Patrick O’Brien took to social media to announce his decision to transfer from Nebraska.  Earlier this month, the quarterback announced his new college football home.  Wednesday, said new college football home confirmed O’Brien’s addition.

In a press release, Colorado State acknowledged that O’Brien has indeed joined Mike Bobo‘s football program.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the 6-4, 230-pound O’Brien will be forced to sit out the 2018 season.

However, beginning with the 2019 season, he will have two years of eligibility that he can use moving forward.

A four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2016 recruiting class, O’Brien was rated as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback that year.  It’s that pro-style of play that led him to transfer away from Scott Frost and Nebraska after the new regime’s first spring practice came to an end earlier this offseason.

As the primary backup to Tanner Lee last season, and after redshirting his true freshman season, O’Brien completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and an interception.  He also ran for four yards on 14 carries.

Oregon student charged in death of former Ducks LB Fotu Leiato

Getty Images
Leave a comment

An arrest has been made in connection to the death of a former Oregon football player, the Eugene Register-Guard and The Oregonian are reporting.

Ex-Ducks linebacker Fotu Leiato was found dead early Friday morning as the result of what was described as a single-car accident. Pedro Chavarin Jr. was the driver of a vehicle that rolled over and crashed in Eugene; at the time, the 22-year-old UO student told police that he was the only occupant of the vehicle.

While Chavarin was initially charged with DUII, one count of first-degree manslaughter has since been added as Leiato’s body was found hours after the crash.  According to police, the 21-year-old Leiato had been a passenger in Chavarin’s Kia sedan at the time of the wreck.

According to The Oregonian, Chavarin faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if convicted of first-degree manslaughter.

Leiato played in 37 games the past three seasons for the Ducks.  He was dismissed from the football program in April after the second of his two arrests this offseason.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Fotu, and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” a statement from the university at the time of Leiato’s passing began. “He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him.”