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With best start in program history, UAB is bowl-eligible for second straight year since return from being shutdown

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It was not so long ago that the UAB football program was seemingly shut down for good, but the Blazers have sure taken advantage of life after death. With their 29-21 victory over North Texas on Saturday, clinched bowl-eligibility for a second straight season after being brought back from their abbreviated hiatus.

Going further, UAB head coach Bill Clark is now three-for-three in putting together a bowl-eligible season at UAB. UAB went 6-6 in Clark’s first season on the job in 2014. UAB did not play in a bowl game, however, as the school announced the program was shutting down at the end of the regular season and no bowl trip would be taken by the program. Clark stuck with the university as it decided to bring the football program back beginning in 2017, and Clark coached the program to a record of 8-5 last season, ending with a loss in the Bahamas Bowl.

UAB is also 10-0 at home since being revived as a program. The 6-1 start is also the best start for the Blazers in program history.

UAB has never played in back-to-back bowl games in program history. The Blazers have only played in two bowl games since 1996, but they are primed to be playing in their third this bowl season.

UAB is now in first place in the Conference USA’s West Division and looking to lock down a division championship next for a chance to capture the Conference USA title for the first time in program history. Not too shabby for a program that was left on the curb just a few years ago.

UAB players wear names of child patients on uniforms

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UAB and North Texas collide today in a pivotal Conference USA matchup between the 6-1 Mean Green (2-1 in Conference USA) and the 5-1 Blazers (3-0 in Conference USA. The matchup alone is enough to carry plenty of importance moving forward as far as the conference championship race is concerned, but today UAB will be doing something that means something more beyond football by paying tribute to patients at Children’s Harbor, a medical center focusing on assisting children and their families dealing with serious illnesses.

Players for UAB will ditch their own names on the back of their jerseys and instead will wear the names of a young patient at Children’s Harbor. It has become a bit of a tradition for the Blazers and is a nice way to be a part of the community since the football program was resurrected.

“It shows the city how appreciative we were when the program shutdown,” UAB wide receiver Collin Lisa said, via Al.com. “It’s not just the university, it’s about the city, the medical center, and all the little kids. It’s way more than just the game of football here.”

A full list of the children each UAB player will be representing today can be found here.

UAB RB Greg Bryant dies from gunshot wounds

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A tragic story has taken an unfortunate turn for the worst. Greg Bryant has died after being found shot in his car early Saturday morning. The family of Bryant confirmed of the passing Sunday, and medical reports later confirmed he was brain dead as of Sunday afternoon. Authorities have now ruled this case a homicide.

News of Bryant’s passing was first reported by Lynda Figueredo of CBS 21, via Twitter, citing a confirmation from Bryant’s family.

Bryant and a passenger were found shot in his car in Palm Beach, Florida and was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center for treatment. He was placed in critical condition and said to be fighting for his life.

Bryant was a five-star running back out of high school and a part of Notre Dame’s Class of 2013. He then moved to ASA College in Miami to play at the junior college level in 2015. He transferred to UAB to be a part of the revamped football program.

No suspect has been identified in the shooting.

UAB, former Notre Dame RB Greg Bryant found shot in his car

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Former Notre Dame and current UAB running back Greg Bryant was found shot in his car early Saturday morning by Palm Beach, Fla., police on the southbound lanes of Interstate 95. The discovery occurred around 4:45 this morning, the Palm Beach Post reported, and a suspect has yet to be identified.

Bryant, along with another victim found shot in his car, was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition.

Bryant was a five-star running back out of American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Fla., when he joined Notre Dame’s 2013 signing class. He carried 57 times for 303 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons before departing for ASA College in Miami, a junior college, where he played one game in 2015. Bryant had been living out of a north Miami hotel room while back in South Florida.

Bryant then returned to the FBS ranks to join UAB’s re-started program.

“I’ve had a ton of people ask me why UAB,” Greg Bryant told Bleacher Report. “They really don’t know my background and what they’re doing for me. Once I went on a visit and met them in person, I knew I was safe. I knew I was in a safe environment. They’re basically giving me a second chance.”

Tony Alford, Bryant’s position coach at Notre Dame, offered a word of support for his former pupil on Twitter.

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.