Award to be presented on Jan. 5 in San Jose
DALLAS — UAB coach Bill Clark has truly made something out of nothing. It’s a football comeback story that defies the expectations of even the most ardent of Blazers fans. And on Thursday, the 50-year-old Clark was named the 2018 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year recipient by the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
In 2015 and ’16, UAB did not have an FBS team playing at Legion Field – or anywhere. The school resumed the program for the 2017 season and posted an impressive 8-5 record that concluded with the school’s first bowl appearance at the Bahamas Bowl. Clark was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year for 2017 and quickly built on that initial success.
In 2018 the Blazers are now a championship team.
This season the Blazers own a 10-3 overall record and are C-USA champions after beating Middle Tennessee, 27-25, in the conference championship game, avenging their only conference loss to the Blue Raiders a week earlier. UAB faces Northern Illinois in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl next Tuesday, Dec. 18. The Blazers have not lost at Legion Field since the return, and their 12-0 mark is currently the fifth-longest home win streak in the country.
The 10 victories are already a school record for one of the better defensive teams in the FBS. The Blazers are 10th nationally in total defense (300.2 ypg, five yards behind Alabama), lead the nation in fourth-down defense (27.8 percent opponent conversions) and are second in third-down defense (25.0 percent conversions).
“Bill Clark has done a yeoman’s job in rebuilding the UAB program from scratch,” said 2018 FWAA President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times. “The fact the Blazers won the Conference USA title in 2018 is one thing. Considering the circumstances, it goes into the extraordinary category.”
Clark is the first coach from Conference USA to receive the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, but the second straight coach from a Group of Five school to claim it. Last season, UCF’s Scott Frost of the American Athletic Conference was the recipient when his team finished off an unbeaten 13-0 season.
“It would be hard to imagine someone more deserving than Bill Clark for this award,” said Sugar Bowl President Rod West. “Two seasons ago, UAB didn’t even have a football team, and next week the Blazers will be playing in a bowl game as the champion of Conference USA. We congratulate Coach Clark on everything he has accomplished to date and we welcome him to the list of great coaches to have won the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.”
The official presentation reception will be on Saturday Jan. 5, 2019, in San Jose, Calif., where Clark will be handed the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year bust during a reception in conjunction with the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
“I am truly humbled to receive the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and would like to thank the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl for this prestigious recognition,” Clark said. “This honor is the epitome of a team effort and it would not have been possible without the countless hours of the entire staff and the relentless motivation from our student-athletes in striving to make history every day. UAB football would also like to thank the entire city of Birmingham for its tremendous support throughout this journey and making it possible for us to take the field each and every Saturday.”
The other seven finalists for the award were Josh Heupel of UCF; Brian Kelly of Notre Dame; Jeff Monken of Army; Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma; Nick Saban of Alabama; Dabo Swinney of Clemson; and Jeff Tedford of Fresno State. Clark won in a vote of the entire FWAA membership.
In late 2014, the UAB football program was shut down by the school due to financial issues, only to be brought back again in the middle of 2015 with the intention to resume play in 2017. Clark was in his first year as UAB head coach in 2014 when the Blazers posted a 6-6 record but did not receive a bowl invitation, then remained in limbo for several months until a $50 million fund drive by fans helped convince school officials to bring the program back.
“When I came back these were the kinds of things I expected,” UAB kicker Nick Vogel said of playing for championships. “I knew the kind of coach that Coach Clark was. He was part of the reason I came back. I fully believed in him to bring us to this point. It took us two years, which is way shorter than anyone would have guessed, but we’re here and happy to be here.”
The FWAA has presented a coaching award since the 1957 season when Ohio State’s Woody Hayes was named the first recipient. Beginning in 1997, the FWAA Coach of the Year Award has been named in honor of the late Robinson, a coaching legend at Grambling State University for 55 seasons.
Robinson, who passed away in 2007, won 70.7 percent of his games during his illustrious career. Robinson’s teams won or tied for 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships after joining the league in 1959. His Tigers won nine Black College Football Championships during his career spent all at the same school.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 49 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 84-year history. The 85th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring the Big 12’s Texas and Georgia from the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2019. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, scholarships and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year and has injected over $2.5 billion into the local economy over the last decade. For more information, visit AllstateSugarBowl.org.
The Eddie Robinson Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.
The Football Writers Association of America, founded in 1941, consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eddie Robinson Award
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