- Grant enables UAB Hospital staff to feed underprivileged moms of newborns
- Military man coming to UAB for first time, graduates Saturday
- UAB’s College of Arts and Sciences to honor distinguished alumni and friends
- ‘Tis the season of giving — UAB launches holiday blood drive
- How a cybersecurity expert protects his smartphone
- ASC presents Take 6, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” Dec. 15
- Leeth named UAB School of Medicine assistant dean for strategic planning
- Coping with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
Looking for a spark–Blazers field 17 teams for intercollegiate action
UAB’s athletic department began with the vision and determination of Gene Bartow, who was instrumental in changing the community’s perception of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He shaped and molded the UAB sports program in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s.
Bartow spent 18 years as head of the athletic department as well as head coach of the men’s basketball team. At this time there was a lot of excitement surrounding the athletic department and the players were not just hungry, they had developed a burning desire to win.
Coach Bartow was on a role having spent several years posting winning seasons with a number of teams. He led Memphis State to the NCAA championship game in 1973 before heading to UCLA where posted several winning seasons and a final four berth in 1976.
Bartow brought that same winning spirit with him when he started the athletic department at UAB, and two years into the program, he led the Blazers to the N.I.T. The following year the Green and Gold made it to the sweet 16 and in 1982 the Blazers advanced to the Elite 8.
In fact, the Blazers won so many games during this time period that Bartow became the coach with the most wins in Sun Belt Conference history.
After Coach Bartow retired from coaching in 1996, it seems as if the burning desire to win retired with him. While UAB’s athletic department has added a number of new sports departments, the ability to win games is an essential element of any sports program, and the Blazers have not been able to get a grip on that part of the equation.
Students and alumni of any college or university attend their team’s games for school pride no doubt, but there is also a point to be made that no matter how much you love your alma mater, no one wants to cheer for the losing side every single game.
Several Blazer programs have lulled themselves into complacency and seem satisfied with mediocre results which are not indicative of Blazer pride. I realize we have quite a problem on our hands, we need to increase fan attendance in order to encourage the teams to win games, but the teams will need to win and win big in order for fans to show up and watch them play.
UAB’s athletic department recognizes these follies and through marketing, coordinated events, and social media they have organized a number of promotions geared at increasing fan attendance, but the success has been minimal at best.
However, UAB’s dilemma is not unlike many other schools with relatively young athletic departments. UAB has to compete for its fan base with in-state cousins – the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Auburn University who have each won national titles in the past few seasons and those recent successes overshadow nearly every athletic accomplishment UAB has made.
So going forward how do we change this? How do we encourage students and alumni to come out and join in the festivities? Well, with the recent changes in Conference USA and with several teams leaving the conference (a couple were Blazer season ending rivals) to pursue lofty dreams in the Big East, there may finally be some room for the Blazers to stretch their legs a bit and take control of Conference USA.
But in order to really be effective and bring back some of that spark from the early 1980’s our teams are going to have to go after it, they are going to have to get hungry and find ways to win.
The UAB Men’s Basketball team began to see a little of that at the end of the season. Coach Jerod Haase has worked diligently and tirelessly with his team and he seems to be creating in them that desire to win that the Blazers desperately need in order to revitalize the athletic department.
It only takes one person to spark that feeling and transfer his or her enthusiasm to the masses. Who will be that one in 2013 and 2014?
Senior Staff Writer