In 2014 Bill Clark coached his first season at UAB, where the team went 6-6 and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2004. This reinvigorated support for the team, as people thought that it was the start of a new, successful era; however, it appeared to be too late. On December 2, 2014, in a highly criticized and questionable decision by the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, it was announced that UAB football was ending due to budget issues. The student body and people of Birmingham were enraged by the decision, with an outpouring of social media posts with “#RIPUAB.”
There were marches in downtown Birmingham with people expressing their distaste over the decision, feeling that this would in fact further hurt finances and student engagement; a school UAB’s size without a football program is unheard of, especially in a state like Alabama. This passion drove the “Free UAB'' campaign which garnered support from local businesses who wanted to offer financial aid to reinstate the program; with this help and a very dedicated fanbase, $27 million was raised. This unexpected pushback and community support got people’s attention and it was decided that football would be reinstated for the 2017 season. Upon coming back, the Blazers knew they had something to prove and did not disappoint. In the season labeled “the return,” the team accomplished an 8-5 record and made their second bowl appearance. The momentum did not die and in 2018, the team won their first-ever conference championship and their first-ever bowl game. In the 2020 season, UAB won their second-ever conference championship and continues to be successful, as they are set to officially be part of the AAC in 2023.
While the numbers and accomplishments are impressive, it is what they represent that matters to the people of Birmingham. The city is going through a rejuvenation period and UAB football’s story represents that: constantly overlooked and underestimated, but when given the proper support, can be unstoppable. This program brought the people of Birmingham together to fight for something that not only was important to them but was a symbol for them. This is a story of redemption, which not only resonates with the students and alumni of UAB, but an entire city.