Meeting Conference USA

With the upcoming move to Conference USA, we’ve decided to profile each school a little bit to make fans more familiar with each program. We’ll be splitting up posts to be (hopefully) daily and come from all three of us on the crew.

THE DEARLY DEPARTED:

I’d suspect many fans that don’t spend their spring weekends lurking college football boards are unsure about which teams are still in the conference and which aren’t. Memphis, Houston, Central Florida, and SMU are all gone to the Big East. That’s the conference’s best basketball school, a perennial football championship contender, and solid teams in huge media markets with lucrative recruiting grounds. Oof. While C-USA may not be as depleted as the WAC that UTSA just stuck a dagger into, the conference took a huge blow this fall after being poached by the Big East.

THE OLD HEAD:

Conference USA only has three founding members left– UAB, Southern Miss, and Tulane. Tulane and Southern Miss came from the Metro Conference while Birmingham hailed from the mighty Great Midwest Conference. These three schools helped charter a merger between the two aforementioned conferences that didn’t sponsor football.

University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB Blazers)

Interestingly enough, UAB shares a birth date with UTSA. Both became four year universities in 1969 as UAB received autonomy after years of being an agriculture extension center. UAB is a public institution under the University of Alabama system and has over 17,000 students. The Blazers started football as a club sport in 1989 before transitioning to a Division III team in 1991, where they would compete until 1993. UAB was forced to move to (then-called) I-AA until meeting reclassification requirement for I-A for the 1996 season where they would join their C-USA allies as a football school. UAB plays in a municipal, off-campus, 86 year old dump called Legion Field (71,594). I feel comfortable calling the place a dump since UAB’s own fans constantly talk shit about it. UAB’s stadium controversy is the most under-reported story in sports, in my most humble opinion. As Blazers fans watch Legion Field fall apart, UAB’s administration and boosters have taken measures to secure funding for an on-campus stadium, even reaching an agreement with local corporations to have every luxury suite in the proposed stadium to be leased for the immediate future. After taking their stadium plans to the Alabama system, the proposal was shot down before the board even voted on the measure. #FreeUAB

In UAB’s 16 season of playing FBS football, they have only reached post-season play once, losing to Hawai’i 59-40 in the Hawai’i Bowl. The Blazers went 3-9 in 2011 with first year coach Garrick McGee. To give UTSA fans an idea of the road ahead of them, it took UAB five years in Conference USA before they sniffed a bowl game. On the upside, the Blazers upset #17 East Carolina in their first year as an FBS schools in 1999. They then went on to beat LSU by a field goal the next year. Former Blazer Roddy White was drafted in the first round in 2005. You can check him out chopping it up here. Outside of that, there really isn’t much to comment on. UAB has never really seen success at a large level in their 20 years of football. Will some asshole bloggers be saying the same about UTSA in 2031?

Here’s a good UAB blog called Off the Vine and their Rivals site. The Blazers only had three 3* recruits last year, with two kids from Texas in their class. The class of 2011 was more kind to UAB, with nine 3* recruits. No Texas kids in that class, FWIW. Head over to Blazer Talk for your fair share of trolling. There are disappointingly few weed jokes on that board. Step your game up, “blazers”. Although they’re lacking in the 420 lulz department, many of them are cool with adding UTSA, unlike most of Conference USA.

Facts about Birmingham:
Southwest Airlines flies to Birmingham. Flights for under $200.
Birmingham itself is pretty small– around 200k folks. Metro area goes up over a million. That’s a lot of suburbia. I can smell the Walmart, Starbucks, and upper mobility from here.
Interestingly enough, Birmingham hosts the SEC headquarters.
According to the U.S. Census, only 22.3 of the city’s population is white.
Birmingham has the tenth highest crime rate in the United States.
If UTSA ever plays UAB late in September, be sure to check out the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.
UAB has no local competition from professional sports, besides their AA minor league baseball team.
The conspicuously named Birmingham News is the lone newspaper in the metro area. A ctrl+f for “UAB” on their sports home page returned one result. You can bookmark their UAB coverage here.

About jared

A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches. Twitter