The fight to save UAB football may go on, but it's time we come to terms with reality. There won't be any Blazer football next season, and as long as Ray Watts and this group of trustees are still around, I don't see UAB returning to the gridiron any time soon.
I'm not saying you should give up the good fight, but maybe... and hear me out here... maybe you should start looking for a new rooting interest.
I know. Blasphemy.
I know there will be quite a few people that won't watch college football anymore since their Blazers won't be involved, but there will still be just as many who do. And there's no point wandering in the wilderness.
We all have that second interest. It's that school that showed you a good time one night while you were on the road. Or it was a childhood favorite before you actually had to enroll somewhere else. Or maybe it is just a fond memory. A game that just so happened to be on TV where the drama and pageantry forced you to subliminally pick a side.
Whatever it is, there is no shame in rooting for them just because UAB football isn't around anymore. So let's play the game. Let's review your options, and decide where your allegiances lie.
The Small Program With A Big Heart
Let's say you just don't feel right pulling for some behemoth program that rides the coattails of history and waves of money to national titles, but you don't exactly want to root for Georgia State either. Well, have I got a deal for you!
Less than seven hours from Birmingham is a school that is:
- new to the FBS
- steeped in history
- decent at football and
- best known for knocking off the big bad wolv(erine)s.
I give you Appalachian State. Their mascot is a hillbilly, and they have the moonshine to back it up.
Not sold? Then maybe I can interest you in their rival, Georgia Southern. The Eagles won the Sun Belt this in their first and only year of FBS football, and were barred from going to a bowl game for their disrespect.
That's right. Winners with a chip on their shoulder.
And what makes it even better is they do it all without throwing the football, because it's more fun to truck fools on your way to a 20-point victory. This would probably be the best bang for your buck in my opinion. #GATA
The Teams That May Not Have Your Heart, But Will Have Your Attention
Be honest, whoever you pull for won't get the same passion you put into UAB. There won't be any singing the alma mater after a blowout, or tailgating in the rain. But that doesn't mean they can't be fun.
How about Arizona? Their best three skill-position players in 2014 were a pair of freshmen and a sophomore. They need some offensive line help, but I guarantee they'll put on a few shows next season.
If you have an affinity for bright colors and almost winning national championships, you can't go wrong with Oregon. The Ducks aren't finished chasing the big trophy, not as long as Phil Knight has anything to say about it, and they always have great athletes on the field.
Or why not LSU? The Blazers had the program's biggest victory over the Tigers, and a Les Miles coached game is always must-watch television. Not to mention wearing purple and gold can get you some great food and drink if you ever make it to Baton Rouge.
The Geographically Relevant Options
Just because they were your in-state opponent doesn't mean you have to hate them. It's nice to see local kids succeed, and no other school has a bigger population of displaced Blazers like South Alabama.
Sitting on the state's short coastline, Mobile might as well be another country. The program is still relatively young, and the Jags are already showing what a small program in Alabama can do without outside meddling. It's a solid option, and nobody would fault you for wearing a UAB shirt to games for the first few years.
Or, if you wanted to go with a more grown up program, you could become a Barner. Let's face it, you have plenty in common with the plainsmen at this point, so pulling for Auburn should be pretty easy at least once per year. They have a great coach, a respectable university, and hate for days. A respectable choice in my opinion.
Then there is Troy. Don't pick Troy.
The Elephant In The Room
It's the closest FBS program geographically to Birmingham now. They've won more titles than any other program in history, and are mostly responsible for the popularity of college football in the state. In all honesty, the players, staff, and majority of Crimson Tide fans have no ill will toward UAB. Why would they?
Their neighbors and family members were Blazer grads. Many Bama fans have their own degree from UAB. And I'm not defending the actions of the guilty, but let's not paint everyone who wears crimson with such a broad stroke.
So which team should you replace UAB with?
None of them.
You can't replace something that you truly loved.
That kind of language may sound strong, but that's what being a fan is. Every week we turn our emotions over to a team and trust in them to fight like hell for us. They influence our favorite colors, provide names for our kids, and help us get out of attending our cousin's fall wedding.
Sure, you can wear another set of colors and attend a game in a foreign stadium, but that doesn't mean you aren't still a Blazer. Maybe one day you'll grow to love that new team too, but they still won't be a replacement. There is no house divided, and no such thing as letting go.
A university is not a collection of buildings. A football team is not just the players on the field. UAB is a big part of who you are, because you are UAB. So return the favor to all of those players that gave you so much joy, and fight like hell to get the next generation on the field.
But until the Blazers come back in 2016 or beyond, don't forget to enjoy the sport that made it all possible.