One of the most respected figures in intercollegiate athletics, Gene Bartow forged the UAB Athletics program into a well-rounded organization with outstanding teams in several sports. Bartow, considered the Father of UAB Athletics, grew the intercollegiate sports program there from its infancy into one that featured 17 sports and an annual operating budget of more than $8 million by the time he retired from the position in 2000.
Among his achievements were guiding the program through three conference changes, growing the football team from a club sport into an FBS (Division I-A) program and adding several women's sports to the university's athletics roster.
Bartow was at the helm of the UAB Men's Basketball program for 18 seasons, compiling a record of 366-203 (.643) during his tenure. He led the Blazers to the NIT in the program's second year of existence and followed that up with seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the Sweet 16 in 1981 and the Elite Eight in 1982. In all, he led UAB to 14 postseason appearances, nine of which were NCAA Tournaments.
In addition to his time at UAB, Bartow is one of the top college basketball coaches of all time. By the time he retired from collegiate coaching in 1996, he had led teams for 34 years at six universities (Central Missouri State, Valparaiso, Memphis State, Illinois, UCLA and UAB), compiling 647 wins, 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and two Final Four appearances.He hadone national title game appearance and received the national coach of the year award (both with Memphis State in 1973). Bartow was known for operating clean programs free from NCAA probation.
In 2009, Bartow received the ultimate honor as he was inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame. He entered the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and is also a member of both the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame and the Northeast Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame.
The Browning, Mo., native coached 34 years at six universities. He coached at Central Missouri State University from 1961-64, Valparaiso University from 1964-1970, Memphis State University from 1970-74, and he led the Tigers to the 1973 NCAA National Championship Game and consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles in the 1971-72 and 1972-73 seasons. In 1974, Bartow accepted the head coaching position at the University of Illinois. Illinois finished 8-18 in his only season coaching the Fighting Illini, and Bartow left his position to succeed John Wooden as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins. Bartow coached at UCLA from 1975 to 1977, guiding them to a 52-9 record, including a berth in the 1976 Final Four. Bartow left UCLA after the 1977 season to begin the job of creating an athletic program at UAB.
Bartow retired from coaching in 1996. A year later, UAB renamed its basketball venue, Bartow Arena, in his honor. The Birmingham News voted him one of the top 10 most influential figures in Alabama sports for the past century.
Bartow was married to the former Ruth Huffine and had three children, Mark, Beth and Murry, who is the head men's basketball coach at East Tennessee State.
Gene Bartow passed away on January 3, 2012, at the age of 81 after battling stomach cancer for two and a half years.