It is time for UAB football to seek a new conference. Only two founding members of C-USA remain, Southern Miss and UAB. UCF, USF, Memphis, Houston, Cincinnati, and others have all outgrown the Conference. It is time for UAB to join them. In March of 2015, we lost UAB football and for good reason, attendance was awful, and money was running dry, the team was a bottom feeder in a conference of bottom feeders. Losing the football team, though, woke the city up to the possibilities of what we could build here. A grassroots effort led by UAB students, and Bill Clark gave UAB football a new life. Upon resurrection, the Blazers opened to a record crowd of 45,212 and went 8-5 making a bowl game, the next year UAB football went 11-3 winning a bowl game and the C-USA championship. In 2019 UAB went 9-5 winning their division for the 2nd time in a row. In 2020 going 6-2 UAB won their division for the 3rd time in a row, and their 2nd conference championship in 3 years. In 2021 UAB’s new home will open, Protective stadium seating, 45,000. In the coming years average attendance will outpace all of C-USA, some American teams, and even a few P5 schools, if Birmingham supports the blazers. UAB is located in the single largest college football TV market in the nation. If the Blazers can win their conference for a 2nd straight year in front of record crowds in the largest TV market people will take notice. UAB is held back by C-USA, through lower revenues, lesser opponents, and a failure to excite the Birmingham market. It’s time to seek a new home. If we continue to support our blazers and they continue to win, the future is bright and the nation will take notice, in the words of Spencer Brown “UAB IS LEGIT THAT’S IT”.
There are 3 options for expansion for the blazers. The first is to be invited to join the American Athletic Conference the AAC which is the highest rung of football outside power 5. The winner of the AAC often makes a new year 6 bowl and members are routinely ranked in the top 25. In the current situation an invite is unlikely, however, if UAB keeps winning and has high attendance in Protective stadium it is not out of reach. Currently, The AAC has 11 football members with the 12th spot most likely to be filled by Boise State who is looking to make an upgrade from the Mountain West. If The AAC decided to expand to 14 teams as the SEC has. UAB would be a likely target as it would provide access to a huge TV market similar to how Rutgers was invited to the BIG 10 to gain access to the NYC TV market. The AAC would benefit UAB football and all UAB athletics but steps would have to be taken by the university to compete at this level.
The 2nd is to be invited to a P5 conference, most likely the big 12. This will not happen unless UAB has sustained levels of success similar to Boise State or UCF in 2017, and 2018. Still even then it is a longshoot and may not have the best outcomes for UAB athletics. It would also require basketball to take a step up. UAB would need better facilities in all sports and still would struggle to compete. The TV market of Birmingham is the only reason this could ever happen and still, even with the cites market, it is unlikely to happen.
The 3rd option is to join the Sun Belt which to many would not seem like an upgrade from C-USA but for a few reasons it would be a better fit for UAB football moving forward. First among these is regional interest, the Sun Belt is a mostly southern conference that would also feature an in-state rival, Troy. The conference also has up and coming teams like UAB. Think Coastal Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Appalachian State. With the addition of UAB and one other G5 team, Say Liberty could create a conference that begins to rival the AAC for one of the best group of 5 conferences. The sun belt would benefit greatly from UAB joining giving it a powerful new member and further access to the Birmingham TV market. UAB could forge a new stronger conference and finally break the chains of C-USA which have been holding it back.