Team preview: UAB

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(All information as of June 20, 2007)


When UAB finally reached its first bowl in 2004, 14 years after the university formed its first football team and nine years after moving up to Division I-A, the program finally appeared to be on the way to fulfilling its long-awaited promise as a successful Conference USA team.

The road to the Hawaii Bowl was long and steep for the Blazers, filled with annual road games against major college powers. Since then, UAB's road has been slippery, treacherous and self-defeating.

UAB insiders insist the Blazers underachieved for years under former coach Watson Brown, who took over in 1995. Too many times the Blazers let close games slip away by committing sloppy offensive mistakes or giving up big plays. They insist the 2004 team actually should have won eight or nine games and a conference championship instead of seven wins and a minor bowl.

Brown's critics proved to be right the last two seasons when the Blazers slipped to 5-6 and 3-9, with 10 losses by nine points or less and three losses by one point. At the end of the 2006 season, a groundswell of negativity and a continual decline in attendance forced Brown to leave for Division I-AA Tennessee Tech just one step ahead of the posse.

Brown's departure opened the door for the arrival of Neil Callaway, who played offensive line for the legendary Bear Bryant at Alabama and coached the offensive line for Pat Dye at East Carolina, Wyoming and Auburn. Callaway went on to coach the line and serve as offensive coordinator at Houston, Alabama and Georgia before becoming a head coach for the first time after 29 years as an assistant.