Dec. 11, 2009
It's amazing how quickly the time goes once we hit Thanksgiving. It seems like yesterday we were racing from Legion Field to Bartow Arena for the football/basketball double header on the Saturday following Turkey Day. Now, final exams are just about over, and I love this time of year. A little cold weather...a little Christmas shopping...being able to park near my office on campus...all signs that football season and the semester are just about over, and basketball season is just about to hit its stride.
First, we'll close the book on the 2009 football season for the Blazers.
The season-ending loss to UCF was a bitter disappointment for everyone, for a number of reasons. It would have been so great to send the seniors out with a victory in their final appearance at Legion Field. It would have been awesome to knock off UCF for the second season in a row. And not only would a sixth win gotten UAB bowl eligible, I have a sneaking...sinking...nauseating feeling that it might have gotten the Blazers IN a bowl game. There are no guarantees, obviously, but just the way things have shaken out in the closing weeks of the season, I think there may have been a post-season opportunity.
At any rate, the chart is going in the right direction for Neil Callaway and the football program...2 wins...4 wins...5 wins...and I'm quite sure a bowl game, not just bowl eligibility, will be on everyone's mind for the 2010 campaign. Progress is being made, although I realize it isn't going as quickly as any of us, especially coach Callaway, would like. Another good recruiting class will help the talent level and the depth for the Blazers next season, and despite a tough schedule, I do think we'll be in for a very fun year.
I had the wonderful opportunity to emcee the Awards Banquet for the football team last weekend. A number of awards were handed out...most of them voted on by the coaching staff. Some of the awards didn't have much suspense associated with who would win...Jake "Mr. Dependable" Seitz and Joe "MVP" Webb didn't shock anyone by the number of trips they made to the podium during the awards ceremony. The part I enjoyed the most was seeing guys win awards when they had NO idea their name was going to be called. The Scout Team Players of the Year...the Unsung Hero...the Coaches' Award...all went to very deserving guys, and their teammates were thrilled for them when they heard their name called. It was a fun night, and a fitting way to celebrate the season and the senior class.
Earlier this week the Conference USA awards were announced, and UAB was well-represented. Jake Seitz was named the First Team center, and Joe Webb and Hiram Atwater both garnered Second Team honors. As a sign that things are better...and the future is bright for the Blazers...three players were named to the All-Freshman Team. Chris Hubbard, Daniel White and Taylor Klein all got the nod, and deservedly so. Three other players caught the eyes of the league coaches. Jeffery Anderson, Matt McCants and Bryant Turner were all named honorable mention All-Conference USA.
And then a day later, the big news came. Joe Webb won the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Award for his unbelievable season in 2009. Here is the link to the release on uabsports.com http://uabsports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/120909aab.html. I could write for days and days and days about his accomplishments this season, and in his UAB career, but I do have to get some presents bought, and I'm afraid Christmas would get here before I could finish. Simply put, Joe Webb is one of the most amazing athletes to ever put on the Green and Gold. He has done Birmingham, the Blazers and himself proud. We will miss him next year, but I think we'll all enjoy watching him on Sundays, too.
The coaches are out recruiting. Students have finished exams. Spring football will be here before you know it, and the off-season program will kick in when they return for the second semester. I know the season didn't end the way we all wanted, but it was another fun one for me. Plenty of highlights...plenty of big plays...and plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.
On to basketball season.
How about Mike Davis' Blazers? You may still be needing a roster when you come to the games to recognize all the new faces, but you'll no doubt enjoy yourself when you arrive at Bartow Arena. They are playing some good basketball right now, and perhaps their best performance came on one of the most memorable nights in UAB Basketball history last Friday. The UAB Health System Gene Bartow Classic was just that...classic. The Blazers did their part and beat up on Murry Bartow's East Tennessee State Buccaneers. The Bucs had already knocked off Arkansas in Fayetteville and had just lost a close game to Tennessee in Knoxville two days prior, so the Green and Gold knew they'd have their hands full.
The Blazers played great defense and absolutely dominated the boards (52 rebounds? In one game? Wow.). UAB cruised to the win and improved to 8-1 on the year...a great way to head into final exams and a 12-day break between games...and also a great way to honor the Father of UAB Basketball.
Coach Bartow looked great...said he was feeling much better...and I think he truly enjoyed the night...designed to honor his recent inductions into two more Halls of Fame...and support him in his fight vs. cancer. I really think he was surprised when the announcement was made a fund had been established, bearing his name, dedicated to cancer research. The video tributes to the legend were outstanding, and the UAB Marketing Department deserves a ton of credit for making the night so very special. If you missed it...shame on you.
The Blazers will be back in action next Wednesday, following the break for finals. Top-25 Cincinnati returns to Bartow Arena, as UAB will wrap up a six-game home stand. Tip time is 6 PM...make note of that...and our pre-game on radio will start at 5:30 PM. Then it's off to South Alabama next Saturday for yet another in-state match-up.
Well, I guess I have to get cracking on this Christmas shopping. The family will be expecting something, and the schedule will pick back up before I know it. Enjoy this wondrous Holiday Season...get YOUR shopping done...be at Bartow for the Blazers and the Bearcats...and stay warm!
Have a great weekend, and GO BLAZERS!!!