This season UAB football put a shocking finish on one of the most inspiring stories in college football. Just four years removed from a total shutdown of the Blazers’ football program, Head Coach Bill Clark led his team to the university’s first ever conference championship in football.
With the Blazers coming off their first ever Conference USA championship and aiming to earn the program’s first ever bowl victory, now is the perfect time to recollect on the dark days that proceeded the Blazers’ great success this season.
Enter the Green and Gold Podcast. An episodic podcast similar in structure to NPR classics such as “Serial” and “S Town”, Green and Gold explores the beginnings of UAB athletics, the backroom deals that doomed the program, and the Blazers’ return to action.
While the podcast is a must-listen for all UAB supporters, any college football fan will be fascinated by the intricate details and secret recordings that help to tell the full story of UAB’s shutdown at the hands of a malevolent University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.
Will Shingleton, producer and host of Green & Gold, answered a few of Underdog Dynasty’s questions about the creation of the podcast and his plans for the future.
Underdog Dynasty: In the podcast you mention that your father used to work in athletics for UAB. What was your experience like growing up so close to the program, and what are some of your favorite memories from that time?
Will Shingleton: So much of my love for sports comes from my dad. His job made it so that if I saw him during the week, it would be at a UAB game a lot of the time. And I was cool with that! It didn’t even have to be a game, either, I was down to come to practice or a shootaround or whatever. I thought it was all so cool. I think my favorite memory was my dad’s reaction to the LSU game in 2000, where they went into Baton Rouge and beat Nick Saban and co. (we have a bonus episode about that, shameless plug). That was UAB’s biggest moment up to that point, and dad had been a part of all the beginning years when everything was a dumpster fire. He would never say it, but that was a hugely gratifying moment for him. Meeting future NFL players like Brian Thomas (UAB’s first first-round NFL Draft pick) and Eddie Freeman was also a bit of a fangirl moment for me at the time. He left UAB when I was eight, but I’ve still probably been to 100 or more UAB sporting events in my lifetime. So much of that experience made it into the podcast. That’s something that my dad and I will always share, and I think that he is the biggest single reason that this show exists in the first place.
UD: With the amount of research that you put into this project, I’m going to wager that you started preparing for the podcast well before it became clear that UAB would win Conference USA this year. What was that roller coaster of emotions like to see the Blazers’ season play out the way that it did, all while you were hard at work preparing to tell the team’s story?
WS: Well we had our hearts in our throats after the Coastal Carolina game, for sure. We were all ready to ride the lightning while UAB strutted its way to the C-USA Championship Game, but in that moment the party looked like it might be getting pooped. Expectations had been so high before the season, which is kind of a new thing for UAB. They might have even been a little cocky going into it (subtle Coastal Carolina joke, hopefully it lands). Before the program was cancelled, there’s a pretty good case to be made for UAB being the worst program in FBS history. So to have all that momentum before the season be threatened by a 4-6 Sun Belt team (no disrespect to the Chanticleers, who unquestionably have the best branding in NCAA sports), I think everyone was a little nervous. And then Southern Miss, UAB’s old nemesis, comes into Legion Field and almost ruins the whole thing. I nearly froze to death at that game, which would have definitely affected podcast production. And then Middle Tennessee! And then Middle Tennessee again! I think after all this time, that’s the only fitting way for UAB to win a conference championship. It ended up working out spectacularly for us timing-wise, and hopefully we can help the program out some more than they’ve already helped themselves by telling their story.
UD: Is there any specific story or background info that you came across while researching UAB’s history that you thought was interesting but didn’t make the cut for recording?
WS: There are so many little side tangents that I had to pass up on. Lots of things with the UA Board of Trustees or the state politics around the 2014 cancellation would have been very cool to investigate, but we only had so much time. That’s one of the hardest parts of making a program like this: not everything you want to do can make it into the final version. I think if I had some more time to put into a show, I would have done more about the early days of the football program. I’m putting out a bonus episode in a few weeks that includes some of these stories, but my dad told me some stuff about early UAB football that was tough to believe. It was such a mess. I think this was probably my favorite, though: there was a receiver on the team who also spent a lot of his free time rock climbing. So, what’s a highly unoccupied rock-climbing college football player to do but rappel down from the scoreboard at Legion Field? That’s apparently what my dad and his co-workers got called out to go and fix one day during the off-season. He had frightened a security guard at the stadium, who then called the athletics office to see what could be done about it. There are a dozen or more of those kinds of stories out there, but that one stuck out.
UD: Lastly, can you expand on your future plans now that you’ve finished recording Green and Gold?
WS: Yes, I can! We have a new podcast coming out in early 2019 called Student of the Game. I wrote a lot of sports-related essays for non-sports related classes while I was in school, and the general premise is going to be turning those into podcast episodes. It’s not going to be as intensively-produced as Green and Gold, so we’ll be able to get a lot more content out more quickly. We’re also in the planning stages of another serial show about Nick Saban coming from the Dolphins to Alabama, which will functionally be season two of Green and Gold. That won’t be ready until August or September, but keep an eye out for it!
You can subscribe to Green and Gold on iTunes at this link. I’ve also embedded the introductory episode below.