The axing last December led to a mass exodus of football players, with upwards of 55 of them moving on to various other programs all across the country. Nine of those players stayed in-state and transferred into the South Alabama program (UAB players were granted a waiver for immediate eligibility).
One such player, offensive lineman Cameron Blankenship, talked to al.com about the “bittersweet” nature of the announcement.
“To see a program that I love so much come back and have a chance at life, it really makes me happy,” Blankenship said. “But at the same time, I know I only have one year left so my best situation is probably not to go back. It hurts, but at the same time I’m elated for all my friends and family up at UAB and I know with Coach (Bill) Clark, things can only go up.”
For a player like Blankenship, coming back to UAB with just one season of eligibility remaining, even if he could get another waiver, doesn’t make much sense as the Blazers won’t take the field again until 2016 — and likely won’t be bowl-eligible until 2017. Players who transferred out, though, do have the option to return to UAB if they so desire, especially if they have more than a year of eligibility remaining.
Most, if not all, of those transfers are opting to remain at their new schools. Cornerback Kelton Brackett, who could return to UAB, use his redshirt season, then have one year of eligibility to use in 2016, is one such player taking that tack.
From the New Hampshire Gazette:
When the news broke Monday morning that UAB would bring the sport back in 2016, Brackett tweeted:
“Yo I’m 17 hours away !!! Because they cancel football program
3 days after I leave to go to UMASS THEY BRING IT BACK
My senior year tho”.
He then tweeted to a UMass fan: “@VinnyD100 I’m staying @ Umass”.
And then there’s this from Jake Ganus, UAB’s leading tackler who ended up at Georgia.
“Words can’t describe how happy I am for the Blazer Family,” Ganus wrote on Instagram. “Blessed to have been able to represent them for 3 years. Looking forward to a great last year here in Athens. #GoDawgs #GoBlazers”
There is some good news on the personnel front for Bill Clark, the head coach who eschewed other opportunities in the hopes that his program would be resurrected and will now be charged with the near-Herculean task of rebuilding his team almost from scratch. While nearly five dozen of his players moved on after the misguided presidential decision, Shaq Jones wasn’t one of them.
Like his coach, the linebacker, who did consider a transfer to Western Kentucky, remained at UAB in the hopes that the decision would be reversed and the sport reinstated. Monday, Jones’ faith was rewarded.
“Ever faithful, ever loyal,” Jones told the Bowling Green Daily News. “I’ll remain at UAB. …
“I hoped for the day that we would hear that the football team would stay. After the investigation was put in place, I decided to wait it out and see how it goes. It came out in our favor.”
When it comes to the resurrection of the UAB football program, I’ll cede both the floor and the last word to College Football Hall of Famer and Birmingham native Bobby Bowden.
“A school that has football attracts students better than one that doesn’t,” Bowden told al.com. “Kids want to go where there’s a ball team. That’s the thing I have found out. If I were a president of a school, a small school, or any school, the first thing I would do is incorporate football — because that’s something the alumni and the boosters can all rally around.
“Last year, they had the most successful year they’ve ever had in football. What an untimely time to quit. But I am one guy that’s happy to see it go back.”