With Hurricane Irma rapidly approaching the Florida coast this week, the final piece of the puzzle in the state’s football scheduling conundrum fell into place on Wednesday afternoon when it was announced that Florida International’s game against Alcorn State is being moved to Birmingham, Alabama.
Kickoff is slated to be Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with the Panthers serving as the home team at UAB’s Legion Field.
“We have decided to relocate a number of our teams to Birmingham, Alabama,” said FIU AD Pete Garcia said in a statement. “I want to thank UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram, the University of Alabama Birmingham and the Birmingham community for their tremendous help and assistance. The UAB family has gone above-and-beyond to make us feel welcome.”
With the announcement that FIU’s game is being moved, that just about completes the rash of rescheduled and cancelled games from the teams in the Sunshine state. To recap:
— Miami cancelled their game at Arkansas State on Saturday and will not make it up.
— Florida State announced their contest against Louisiana-Monroe will take place in Tallahassee on Saturday, but has been moved up to a noon ET start time.
— Florida is also moving up their home opener to noon ET, against Northern Colorado.
— South Florida will play at UConn on Saturday, but the game has been moved to a 10:30 a.m. ET kickoff.
— Florida Atlantic remains set to play at Wisconsin as scheduled, though getting home appears to be the biggest challenge for Lane Kiffin’s Owls.
— The NFL also announced Wednesday that Sunday’s regular season opener for the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Bucs will be moved to Nov. 19.
In what could be a precursor to the Heisman finalist announcement, the Walter Camp Player of the Year award announced Wednesday two defensive players among its five finalists.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and Michigan linebacker/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers join Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson as the 2016 finalists.
Browning ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency, hitting 65 percent of his throws for 9.6 yards per attempt with 40 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Watson ranks 14th nationally with 34 touchdowns against 14 picks, while Jackson ranks second nationally in total offense at 4,928 yards with 51 total touchdowns.
Allen is the bell cow of the nation’s best defense, collecting 52 tackles with 11.5 TFLs and seven sacks. Peppers ranks second at Michigan with 71 tackles and ties for the team lead with 15 TFLs while also posting 3.5 sacks, one interception, 167 rushing yards and three touchdowns, one punt return touchdown and a 26-yard kickoff return average.
It’s worth nothing that the Walter Camp is not afraid to differ from the Heisman as naming its player of the year. Notable recent departures include Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (instead of Heisman winner Tim Tebow in 2007), Colt McCoy in 2008 (Sam Bradford), McCoy again in 2009 (Mark Ingram), Andrew Luck in 2011 (Robert Griffin III) and Manti Te’o in 2012 (Johnny Manziel).
The last three years, though, the Walter Camp has served as a pre-cursor to the Heisman.
The winner will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 8 edition of SportsCenter at 6 p.m. ET. He will be honored at a Jan. 14, 2017, banquet, at the Yale Commons in New Haven, Conn.
You know how that old saying goes: if you can’t beat ’em, invade their own recruiting backyard.
With the NCAA rescinding its previous ban on satellite camps late last month, coaching staffs from all over the country have been fanning out to vast expanses of the nation to ostensibly teach young prospects at such camps but, more to the point, increase their recruiting coverage. Chief among the fanners is Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, who have a camp schedule that, for the moment, includes 26 stops both inside and outside the continental United States.
Like last year, one of Harbaugh’s stops will be in Alabama; unlike last year, the Crimson Tide will be able to return the favor as, al.com reported, UA will be represented at the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy’s camp in Detroit on June 9-June 10. Nick Saban won’t be in attendance, though, as his special assistant, Bobby Williams will represent the Tide.
Williams took over as Michigan State’s head coach when Saban left for the LSU job, and maintains deep ties in the state. Alabama rarely pulls recruits from that area of the country, although the football program’s first Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, hails from the state.
Arguably the best part of the Tide heading north of the Mason-Dixon Line? Several Big Ten schools are expected to be a part of the Detroit camp — including Harbaugh and his UM staff.
The UAB Blazers are scheduled to return to the football field in 2017 after shutting down its football program at the end of the 2015 college football season. Getting back to business will be a challenge for the Blazers, but it looks as though they may have a little help in forming the schedule in the years after it revives the program.
According to a report from Al.com, Auburn and UAB are discussing potential plans to schedule a future football game. The Tigers do not have any scheduling vacancies to fill until 2019, so UAB would have to wait for the opportunity to play the in-state SEC program for the first time since 1996. That meeting in 1996 is the only meeting in the football series history between the two Alabama schools.
“I’ve had good conversations with Auburn,” UAB athletics director Mark Ingram said. “Jay Jacobs, the [Auburn] athletic director, is a good friend of mine. He and I have talked about it. It’s about finding the right year.”
As is so often the case in college football scheduling, non-conference commitments can fill up years in advance, especially for power conference programs like Auburn. When UAB does return to the field, they will rejoin Conference USA and will be scrambling to find some non-conference opponents to fill out its schedule. UAB has been busy doing what it can though and has already booked future games against SEC opponents Florida (2017) and Texas A&M (2018). Ingram says he was attempting to get Auburn on the schedule in 2017, but the Tigers were not available, but the dialogue has been opened.
“I think their first availability was ’19 and I needed ’17,” Ingram said. “I’ve had conversations with them. They’re interested. We’re interested. It’s just a matter of getting the guarantee right and getting the matchup right.”
Ingram is also focused on signing a deal that is most rewarding for UAB.
“Would you rather play Virginia, who is a good team that would pay $800,000 or would you rather play Auburn and they’re going to pay you $1.5 million? I guess Auburn’s the better team than Virginia, but you don’t know that when you set it up. When you’re going to play one, you might as well get paid. You might as well get what you can get.”
Get paid, UAB. Get paid.
The rebirth of UAB football continues to be underway. Days after signing its latest recruiting class (which actually ranked ahead of four Conference USA teams) and confirming its coaching staff to continue preparing for the program’s return in 2017, UAB’s Board of Trustees approved the funding for a $15 million football facility to be built on campus.
The 46,000-square foot facility will include updated locker rooms, administrative offices weight rooms and more to allow for the operation of a steady football program. This is the kind of support the program lacked at the time it was temporarily and hastily shutdown at the end of the 2014 season. It is important to keep in mind, however, this is still a work in progress for the university as it prepares to properly support its football program.
“Do the stars need to align a little bit? Yes, but so far they are,” UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram said, per Al.com. “We feel great about the design efforts… People are making pledges.”
UAB head coach Bill Clark, who has admirably opted to stay in Birmingham to lead the program through this unique time, seems appreciative of the show of support from the university’s higher-ups.
“It’s just confirmation of where we’ve already been headed,” Clark said. “It’s a process that you go through at the university level to get buildings built, and for them to put phase one and phase two together is a big deal because it really just speeds the process up.”