The UAB Blazers are the athletic teams which represent the University of Alabama at Birmingham. UAB is a member of the "Conference USA" athletic conference and competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I. The Blazers' team colors are forest green and gold and the mascot is a fire-breathing dragon named Blaze.
UAB athletics is known primarily for the success of the men's basketball team. The university's athletic department was created in 1978 by legendary basketball coach Gene Bartow who led the Blazers basketball team to the elite eight of the 1982 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, played in Birmingham at the BJCC.
UAB began its football program as a club team in 1989 joining Division III of the NCAA in 1991. The program moved up to Division I-AA in 1993 and finally to Division I-A in 1996 under head coach Watson Brown and becoming a football-playing member of Conference USA in 1999. The football program was eliminated after the 2014 season. The football Blazers played the majority of their home games at Legion Field.
In addition to men's basketball, UAB also has programs in men's sports for baseball, golf, soccer, and tennis. Women's sports programs include basketball, bowling, golf, rifle, sand volleyball, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. The university announced that the women's bowling and rifle teams would be eliminated at the conclusion of their 2014-15 seasons. UAB will add a men's cross country team beginning with the 2015-16 academic year to maintain the school's Division I status.
UAB's first intercollegiate athletic team, Gene Bartow's men's basketball squad, was set to begin competition in 1978. In late 1977 a group of student leaders were brought to the offices of the UAB Student Government Association to brainstorm ideas for names. One of those students, Tommy Burns, suggested "Trail Blazers" as appropriate to a newly-launched program. He was also inspired by the recently-crowned NBA champions, the Portland Trail Blazers. After some discussion, the suggested name was shortened to "Blazers" and submitted, along with three other suggestions to a vote of students, faculty and staff in January 1978. Students Eddie Smith and Ted Greer helped to popularize the "Blazers" suggestion, which won the poll with 1,147 votes, versus 586 for "Barons", 451 for "Titans", and 386 for "Warriors."
The Blazers name did not immediately suggest a mascot, and over the years there have been a number of costumed mascots representing the Blazers. Since 1996 "Blaze the Dragon" has served as the Blazers' official mascot.
Here in Alabama, a place of rich diversity,
stands our Alma Mater. We cherish her integrity.
May each loyal son and daughter wear
proudly the colors green and gold.
Praise to thee, our UAB. Her honor we uphold.
Yearning minds of age and youth
live and love her noble truth.
Moving ahead with blazing speed
t'wards knowledge to empow'r,
in the heart of Birmingham our UAB stands proud.
All hail alma mater
We sing this song for thee
Raise up the banner for Blazer victory.
(Fight! Fight! Fight!)
All hail alma mater
We pledge to always be
Ever faithful, ever loyal
To dear old UAB!
At UAB in Birmingham
All hail our players bold
They are the mighty Blazers
Who wear the green and gold.
Tonight let's fire their golden blaze
The flame of victory
Go Blazers! Go Blazers!
Win for UAB!
UAB began its football program in Division III of the NCAA in 1991. Jim Hilyer was the first head coach of the Blazers, from 1991-1994. Watson Brown took over as head coach in 1995 and oversaw the team's advancement into Division I-A in 1996, and membership in Conference USA in 1999. The program was discontinued after the 2014 season.
UAB played the majority of its home football games at Legion Field. Through its marketing department, the team has sought to establish the University of Memphis as its primary on-field rival, creating the "Battle for the Bones" trophy for the winner of the annual match-up.
Following the 3-9 2006 season, Watson Brown resigned to take the head coaching job at Tennessee Tech, in his home town. The search for a replacement focused first on Louisiana State University assistant Jimbo Fisher, but the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees rejected the proposed contract amount . Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway was named head coach on December 17, 2006. After 5 seasons and a 18-42 record, Callaway was fired and replaced by Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee. McGee left after two seasons and former Jacksonville State head coach Bill Clark was named as his replacement in January 2014.
|Jim Hilyer||1991-1994||27-12-2 (.692)|
|Watson Brown||1995-2006||62-74 (.456)|
|Neil Callaway||2007-2011||18-42 (.300)|
|Garrick McGee||2012-2013||5-19 (.208)|
|Bill Clark||2014- present||8-7 (.533)|
The UAB Blazers, in effect, started its entire athletics program with the creation of a men's basketball team in 1978. Setting the standards high from the start, UAB hired former UCLA and Memphis State University head coach, Gene Bartow. Known to many as the "Father of UAB athletics", legendary Coach Gene Bartow led the Blazers to almost instant success. Since their inaugural season, the Blazers have made 13 appearances in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament including 3 Sweet Sixteen appearances and 1 Elite Eight appearance. After only 33 years of basketball, UAB has had 29 winning seasons and had memorable wins over the Virginia Cavaliers, the Kentucky Wildcats, the Louisville Cardinals, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Indiana Hoosiers, and the Memphis State Tigers among others. In 2004, the school once again gained national attention when it upset No. 1-seed Kentucky in the second round of the tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The Blazers have amassed an impressive 664 wins to only 385 losses since 1978 giving UAB the 25th best all-time winning percentage in college basketball history. The UAB men's basketball team has been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll more than 30 times in school history and has even been ranked among the Top 10 in the nation. Through the 1988-89 season, UAB played its home games at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Today, UAB plays its home basketball games in Bartow Arena. The current head coach, Jerod Haase, was named head coach of the Blazers in the spring of 2012, the fifth head coach in UAB basketball history.
|Gene Bartow||1978-1996||365-204 (.641)|
|Murry Bartow||1996-2002||103-83 (.554)|
|Mike Anderson||2002-2006||89-41 (.685)|
|Mike Davis||2006-2012||123-75 (.621)|
|Jerod Haase||2012-2016||80-53 (.602)|
Since its inaugural 1978-1979 season, the UAB Blazers women's basketball team has an overall record of 570-523 (.522). The team has claimed four conference championships and has been invited to two NCAA Tournaments, including an appearance in the Sweet 16 in 2000. The Blazers have also participated in five WNIT tournaments, advancing once to the Elite Eight, and were the champions of the 2011 WBI tournament. The team, originally called the "Lady Blazers", adopted the gender-neutral moniker under coach Audra Smith.
|Fran Braasch||1978-1981||58-33 (.637)|
|Avie Bridges||1981-1984||37-44 (.456)|
|Bill Ivey||1984-1987||38-50 (.432)|
|Jeannie Milling||1987-2004||265-230 (.536)|
|Audra Smith||2004-2013||138-138 (.500)|
|Randy Norton||2013-Present||34-28 (.548)|
The UAB men's baseball team plays home games at Regions Park and at Young Memorial Field on University Boulevard. The baseball coach is Brian Shoop, who left a successful BSC Panthers team after that school dropped out of NCAA Divison I play. Shoop joined the Blazers on June 12, 2006. On July 28, 2008, Shoop's former boss at Mississippi State, Ron Polk, joined the Blazers as a volunteer assistant coach after he retired as the Bulldogs' head coach. Polk, 64 at the time, had spent 35 seasons as a college head coach and compiled a 1,373-700-2 record. He directed his team to eight College World Series appearances, five SEC championships and won more games than any other coach in SEC history.
The Blazers have had two former baseball players make it to the Major Leagues. Hector Villanueva played 4 seasons (1990 - 1993) for the Chicago Cubs, and Chris Hammond played a total of 14 seasons between 1990 and 2006 for several different teams.
The women's softball team plays at UAB Softball Field.
UAB began a men's soccer program back in 1979. Throughout its history, UAB has enjoyed quite a bit of success in both the men's and women's soccer programs. The men's team has been in the NCAA Tournament a total of 7 times including 1 Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2001. The men's team has been ranked both regionally and nationally numerous times throughout its history. One of UAB's biggest wins in the men's team history came when UAB upset the #1-ranked UCLA Bruins in 1997 by a score of 2-0. UAB would upset another #1-ranked team in 2006 when they beat the SMU Mustangs by a score of 2-1. The men's team plays their home games at UAB's West Campus Field. Mike Getman is the head coach of the men's team. Since 1993, the men's team has won 78.4% of its games played at West Campus Field.
Though only beginning a women's soccer program only in 1996, the UAB women's soccer team has already been in the NCAA Tournament and has also been ranked several times in its history. The UAB women's soccer team has won the Conference USA Championship 3 times in ten years, including the most recent in 2006. Paul Harbin is the head coach of the women's team. Like the men, the women's team plays their home games at UAB's West Campus Field.
UAB currently fields a varsity synchronized swimming team. Established in 1999, the program was spurred by the interest of President Ann Reynolds in the sport. On April 10, 2008 the University announced that the team would be disbanded at the end of the 2009 season. It was being discontinued because of the very small number of NCAA-sanctioned competitors across the country.
Conference championships (40)
- Men's Basketball (8): 1981 · 1982 · 1983 · 1984 · 1987 · 1990 · 1999 · 2004 · 2011
- Men's Tennis (5): 1991 · 1992 · 1993 · 1994 · 1995
- Women's Basketball (4): 1990 · 1991 · 1992 · 1994
- Women's Tennis (4): 1993 · 1994 · 1995 · 1996
- Women's Volleyball (4): 1990 · 1991 · 1992 · 2006
- Men's Baseball (3): 1991 · 1992 · 1994
- Men's Soccer (3): 1994 · 1995 · 1999
- Women's Soccer (3): 2003 · 2004 · 2006
- Women's Cross Country (2): 1995 · 2006
- Men's Golf (1): 1991
- Women's Indoor Track (1): 1995
- Women's Outdoor Track (1): 1995
|The University of Alabama at Birmingham|
|Blazers Athletics||Baseball · Basketball · Football · Hall of Fame · Mascots · Soccer · Softball|
|Athletic Venues||Bartow Arena · Legacy Pavilion · Mary Bowers Field · West Campus Field · Young Memorial Field|
|Campus||Alys Stephens Center · Campus Green · Hill Student Center · Lister Hill Library · Mervyn H. Sterne Library · Snoozy's College Bookstore|
|Housing||Blazer Hall · Blount Hall · Camp Hall · Denman Hall · NFR Hall · Rast Hall|
|Media||BlazeRadio · Digital City Films · Kaleidoscope · Vulcan Historical Review|
|People||Administrators · Alumni · Faculty · Miss UAB · Presidents · Professors · Scientists · Staff|
|Schools||Collat School of Business · College of Arts and Sciences · Dentistry · Education · Engineering · Health Professions · Medicine · Nursing · Optometry · Public Health · Graduate School|
|UAB Health System||Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital · Kirklin Clinic · UAB Health Centers · UAB Highlands · UAB Hospital|
- "Fans' choice is decisive; it's the UAB Blazers" (January 20, 1978) UAB Report. Vol. 2, No. 17, p. 1
- "UAB Blazers" (December 17, 2006) Wikipedia - accessed December 18, 2006
- Buchanan, Charles & Rosalind Fournier (January 2017) "Blazer Beginnings: The stories behind some of UAB's spirited traditions" UAB Magazine