UAB and the AAC, a Match Made in Heaven

UAB and the AAC

Nov 17, 2018; College Station, TX, USA; UAB Blazers safety Broderick Thomas (22) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the fourth quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports


The AAC (American Athletic Conference) is a rising conference in college football. The SEC and other Power 5 conferences seem to have little respect for the AAC. However, the AAC has more than competed with the SEC in bowl games. Central Florida claimed a National Championship in 2017 after an undefeated season. The NCAA recognized Central Florida’s championship. The championship claim has fueled “playoff expansion” conversation. Nevertheless, many fans of elite programs didn’t appreciate Central Florida’s claim.   

UAB made significant strides over the past two years as well. The program won the Conference USA Championship last year, and they beat Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton bowl. The Blazers have a brand new football facility and will be playing in a brand new stadium in 2021. In addition, UAB inked a new deal with Learfield IMG. The royalty deal will bring an additional 17 million dollars to the athletic program.

The commissioner of the AAC told the Sports Business Daily, “We will never settle for second class status, we will never accept a silly non-power designation.” UAB and Birmingham acted similarly in their fight for respect. The city donated $500,000 to help bring back the program, and 84% of students voted to increase student fees.  Head coach Bill Clark, President Watts, and athletic director Mark Ingram raised 5.2 million dollars during one meeting with a few business leaders.

UAB understands competition with college football’s elite. The university has played several SEC teams, and it has a victory over LSU. UAB’s campus is located only 45 miles from the #1 blue blood in the country.  Despite playing several “non-power five” schools, Alabama shows no interest in playing the Blazers. However, UAB is no longer a small satellite campus. It is a sprawling urban university which covers over 100 city blocks. Around 46,000 people either attend or work at the university. The university speaks softly, but it is carrying a growing stick.

The AAC was awarded a new contract with ESPN last month. This was a definite step forward for the conference. The AAC increases its footprint with the ESPN contract. Meanwhile, UAB sits in the #1 College Football television market in the country. In addition, the city of Birmingham is the 44th largest television market in the country. The city is a larger market than Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Louisville, and Memphis. UAB would enhance the AAC’s market share, and the conference would increase the exposure of UAB’s program.

Rivalries create passion, momentum, and dollars. The AAC would inherit established rivalries by adding UAB to its conference. UAB developed rivalries with Memphis, Cincinnati, and East Carolina before those schools left Conference USA. Renewed rivalries would instantly bolster the interest in UAB and the AAC.

Some reports suggest the AAC will not replace the University of Connecticut. However, the leagues Assistant Commissioner, Chuck Sullivan, said no decision about conference membership had been made. “He, (Commissioner Mike Aresco) may have more to say on the topic during our football media days,” said Sullivan,  “but I don’t anticipate anything changing before then.” UAB has remained silent on the issue. However, many believe UAB would be very interested in the American Athletic Conference.

UAB may not be very attractive to the AAC at first look. However, the two entities may be headed for a serious relationship. Both entities are bold, both are fighting the same battle, and both are growing in exposure and momentum. It may indeed be the perfect marriage.

7 thoughts on “UAB and the AAC, a Match Made in Heaven

  1. You must be joking. UAB shut down their football program a few years back because of money issues and nobody was following the team. You can’t really believe that the AAC is going to invite UAB in after a stunt like that? Come back in 25 years if you haven’t done anything stupid again.

    1. Make no mistake: Crimson Tide trustees shut down UAB football under false pretenses after hiring Bill Clark, signing some quality players and enjoying a record setting season on the field, in the stands and on the balance sheet.

      That season, and the record-break 2 seasons since, prove UAB is just picking up where they were forced to leave off.

  2. Crimson Tide didn’t shut down UAB, and UAB’s football program is still sucking money, has no local support, and isn’t in a market where football is supported. Birmingham has has multiple professional football teams and none were supported, and when the University of Alabama’s football program turns down, all support for football in northern Alabama will dwindle.

    1. Do you enjoy spouting non-factual things? Does it get you going? Because that’s all you’ve done. It’s well documented that Alabama’s BOT shut the program down because of some decades old dispute between Bartow and Baby Bear, nevermind that multiple other independent studies were done to disprove their reasoning for the shutdown. UAB in its 2 seasons back has finished 1st and 2nd in the conference, and also resides in the #1 market for college football for the past 10+ years. Even in their last season before the shutdown, when they had a semi-competitive team, they had an 11k jump in attendance from the previous year. You’re also wrong about Birmingham supporting its professional franchises (although I’m not sure what that has to do with this). Even the AAF, the most recent failed football league, the Birmingham Iron were one of the top teams in attendance every week.

  3. UAB doesn’t move the needle for most AAC schools. As a Memphis fan, I want USM and UAB back in the fold. But I’m in the minority.

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