To be bowl eligible in college football you have to win six games. In 2014, UAB’s football team became bowl eligible for the first time in ten years. In college football, ten years is an eternity. The 2014 season was an accomplishment to be celebrated, but instead that celebration was short-lived. Just days after defeating Southern Miss and becoming bowl eligible, UAB football players learned that the football program would be shutting down.
For the players, the unthinkable had happened.
“I wanted to transfer. I wanted to give up on football,” Shaq Jones UAB linebacker said. “I even had spouts of depression when I thought I wasn’t even gonna finish school.”
The abrupt decision left so many thinking, ‘How did this even happen?’ UAB president Ray Watts explained that they couldn’t keep up with the costs to keep the program competitive. They would need almost $50 million dollars. But that large number didn’t turn students and the community away. Instead, they came together to find a solution. Just hours after the heartbreaking news, students took to the streets with signs rallying to show their support of the team.
“Putting that UAB jersey on every week is awesome, but it’s not about that ‘UA’ on there, it’s about that ‘B,'” Ty Long UAB kicker said.
Putting the B – or Birmingham – back into football meant everything to the community. Overwhelming donations from UAB fans, community members and Birmingham’s business sector garnered $43 million dollars. Just six months after the devastating news, UAB president announced that they would reinstate the football team in 2017. The money raised was enough to cover operational funding for the next several years and other athletic initiatives and practice facilities.
With the resurgence of the football team, it means a fresh start for UAB, Birmingham’s economy, and players with hopes to play in the NFL. UAB’s football team resumed play just two weeks ago and they’re already ranked second in their conference.
The Blazers host Coastal Carolina on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. ET.