UAB coach Bill Clark: Yesterday’s gone, the future is now

UAB coach Bill Clark: Yesterday’s gone, the future is now
UAB head football coach Bill Clark (Photo courtesy of UAB)

Bill Clark never gave up when UAB President Ray Watts announced in 2014 that the school was dropping football because of “soaring operating costs and a financial burden.”

If there was a chance of bringing the program back, Clark was willing to stick around.

An immediate groundswell of support to restore football arose, which gave Clark hope.

And in June 2015, Watts called a press conference to announce that, with financial support from the community, students and the city, he would bring football back.

Now Clark says, “Yesterday’s gone, we’re looking to tomorrow.”

UAB’s Bill Clark: Restoring a football program, hope for the community from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The last year has been a whirlwind for Clark. He immediately hit the recruiting trail.

“When we go out and recruit, we’re recruiting across the country,” he said.

The Blazers now have 45 scholarship players and about 60 walk-ons.

Clark walks the sidelines of a football game. (Photo courtesy of UAB)

Since spring practice, Clark has held football camps in Dothan, Mobile, Huntsville, Spanish Fort, Opelika and on the UAB campus.

“Our players are lifting and training like we’re playing tomorrow,” Clark said. “We’re training for the future.”

UAB has awarded Clark with a new five-year, $605,000 a year contract with incentives for winning the Conference USA championship ($50,000), reaching a bowl game ($25,000) and winning a bowl ($10,000).

“They had to have faith in us to do that,” Clark said.

Thanks to fundraising efforts by community leaders, UAB will have new facilities by the time the 2017 season begins.

Ground will be broken Aug. 29 on a 46,000-square-foot football operations building that will include meeting rooms, locker rooms, weight rooms, a training room, nutrition room and offices for coaches. A Green and Gold game is scheduled for later that same day at BBVA Compass Field.

There will be two outdoor practice fields and a covered practice field for inclement weather.

Hatton Smith, CEO emeritus of Royal Cup Inc., is chairman of a task force to raise money for new facilities.

Smith says Clark is the right man for UAB.

Bill Clark (pictured) grew up with coaching in his blood. His father, Ragan Clark, was also a successful coach in Calhoun County.

“He turned it around. He has been very effective in recruiting,” Smith said.

Clark took UAB to a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility in 2014, his first season with the Blazers.

In nine years before, under coaches Garrick McGee, Neil Callaway and Watson Brown, UAB had a combined record of 31-76.

“Hatton and all the guys on the (athletic fundraising) foundation have been unbelievable,” Clark said. “This is a history-making deal.”

Clark has been around football all his life. As a youngster, he drew up football plays during church and passed them to his dad to see what he thought.

“Mother used to get on to me for that,” he said.

His dad, Ragan Clark, was a highly successful football coach in Calhoun County.

Bill cracked a vertebra while lifting weights. “I never could get well,” he said, yet he was an All-State linebacker in 1985.

As a coach, he follows what he learned from his dad and demands accountability: Work hard, go to class, make good grades, play hard.

Those are the qualities he expects from his players as UAB embarks upon a new season in 2017.

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