‘Meet your basic needs’: How UAB became a member of the AAC – AL.com

UAB coach Bill Clark accepts the Conference USA Western Division Championship trophy from UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram after UAB defeated Southern Miss at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Mark Almond/[email protected])
A little more than seven years ago, Mark Ingram arrived as UAB’s new athletic director amid turmoil and real questions about the school’s athletic future.
After a stint as an assistant athletic director at Temple, Ingram came to Birmingham in May 2015 with an immense challenge ahead of him as he sought to make UAB a viable athletic program. Meeting that challenge head-on led to UAB officially joining the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2023.
“We have made the most of every opportunity in recent years to propel UAB Athletics to new heights, and joining the AAC is an incredible opportunity to build on all we have accomplished in a big way,” Ingram said. “We’ve worked hard to make great progress that put us in this position, and we don’t intend to slow down. This is another great day for UAB Athletics and Blazer Nation, and it is still just the beginning.”
Read more on UAB sports:
UAB, 5 others to officially join American Athletic Conference for 2023 football season
Kickoff times, TV announced for 11 UAB games
Former UAB standout to miss 2022 NFL season
Although the move to the AAC was not an immediate goal upon Ingram’s arrival to the Southside, his objective was simply to steward the reinstated football program and revitalize the remaining programs to a more competitive level.
But first, Ingram, a noted fundraiser in the athletic director circles, along with alumni and UAB supporters, created a foundation for UAB athletics to ensure its financial independence. The foundation has raised more than $100 million since its inception.
The football program, reinstated after Ingram arrived in 2015 and resuming competition in 2017, was the initial program to receive a facelift. The UAB football operations complex was completed before the 2017 season, costing $22.5 million and including a $4.2 million sponsorship from Legacy Credit Union, and the results on the field followed with five consecutive bowl-eligible seasons under head coach Bill Clark, six including Clark’s inaugural season in 2014.
A primary goal of Clark’s was to build a new stadium for UAB and Ingram helped obtain approval for what would become Protective Stadium, opening last season for the Blazers and currently in use by the USFL and the 2022 World Games.
“We were never told exactly why but I’d like to think it helped,” Ingram said. “As I’ve said, it demonstrated our desire to be great and compete at a higher level. Combine that with the passion Birmingham has for college sports and that Birmingham is the center of the league geographically. But yes, Protective Stadium was a big part of it but also all-inclusive.”
Whether it was the icing on the cake or not a major factor in eliciting an invite from the AAC, the opening of the almost $200 million Protective Stadium was a physical planting of the flag, relative to UAB’s unwillingness to settle for mediocrity on the field or on the court.
During the seven years since Ingram’s hiring, UAB has completed 25 facility projects that made the Blazers a viable candidate once a new round of conference realignment was ignited. Some of the more notable projects under Ingram’s watch include BBVA Field, a 6,000-seat capacity soccer stadium, a new 8-lane track and field and a beach volleyball complex.
Most recently, UAB completed work and opened a new shared basketball practice facility at what was once known as Wallace Gym, across the street from Bartow Arena.
“Prior to my arrival, we had built Bartow Arena and not built another facility since,” Ingram said. “We built a softball field, the university helped us with that, but that was it. There was not another series of things that we as an institution or an athletic department could demonstrate that we wanted to be great.”
“You have to meet your basic needs,” he added. “Having a square track that slopes is not it. But we have met our basic needs in football and basketball and are getting there as a whole. We’ve now demonstrated our desire to be great.”
There were a number of rumors surrounding a conference move for UAB in years following the reinstatement of football, fueled by the quick rise of Clark’s football dragons. Though none of the rumors were substantial at the time, Ingram made the move to improve other programs with productive hirings.
Andy Kennedy was brought home to lead the basketball program, resulting in a 49-15 record in two seasons, the 2022 C-USA tournament championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. Kennedy returns a team for the 2022-2023 season that is capable of playing into the second weekend of the tournament.
Not only was Kennedy’s hire a success, but former Samford baseball coach Casey Dunn also managed a huge turnaround for the UAB baseball program in his first year at the helm this past season.
The commitment to athletics in financial and competitive terms was ultimately the selling point when the AAC issued invitations to join the league following the announced departures of Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
“The UAB story particularly resonates because a few years ago their program was discontinued, and look what they’ve done,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said last year during a formal announcement. “What does that show? It shows their DNA is to compete. They’ve got a brand new stadium in the heart of Birmingham, they’re in a location that loves college sports, especially college football, and that’s true of our other schools, as well.”
The transition to the AAC is still a year away and annual payouts are still to be determined. The league signed a 12-year deal with ESPN for $1 billion in 2019 with members receiving an annual $7 million, a steep increase from the less than $1 million paid to C-USA members. UAB will not receive the full $7 million as they enter the AAC but should see the payout increase to the full amount within a few years.
Despite the initial lower payout, UAB will see its athletic operating budget expand exponentially and provide more opportunities for student-athletes. As well, the city that brought a football team back to life will also reap the benefits in conjunction with its fruitful symbiotic relationship with the Blazers.
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement, and Your California Privacy Rights (User Agreement updated 1/1/21. Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement updated 7/1/2022).
Cookie Settings
© 2022 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.
Community Rules apply to all content you upload or otherwise submit to this site.
Ad ChoicesAd Choices


Leave a Comment

Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

Welcome to FactsPrime

Sorry, We have detected that you have activated Ad-Blocker. Please Consider supporting us by disabling your Ad Blocker, It helps us in maintaining this website. To View the content, Please disable adblocker and refresh the page.

Thank You !!!