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The 16th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Alabama-Birmingham Blazers

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on November 28, 2007

uabblazers.jpg

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Nickname: Blazers

Reason For Nickname: There is no clear reason for the nickname “Blazers” according to the school’s athletic website. My clear thinking would be because of Birmingham’s tradition as a leader in steel production.

Colors: Green and Gold

Conference: Conference USA

Arena: Bartow Arena (built 1988, capacity 8,508)

Blaze Of Glory: While Florida State (#20 on the list) had a 50-year head start on basketball, the University of Alabama at Birmingham had a seven-decade head start on the competition. The Blazers began playing basketball in 1977 under the direction of legendary coach Gene Bartow, who is best known for taking Memphis State and UCLA to Final Four berths in the 1970’s.

Conference Championships: UAB has five regular-season championships and four conference tournament championshps in its history. The Blazers won the Sun Belt in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987, and 1990. As members of Conference USA, the Blazers won championships in 1999 and 2004.

Postseason Appearances: In their second season, the UAB Blazers would make it to the NIT for their first-ever postseason berth. Since that initial berth to the NIT, the Blazers have been part of 22 postseason tournaments (13 NCAA’s and 9 NIT’s) and currently hold one of the best winning percentages for any college basketball program in history, despite the fact that they’ve only played since 1977.

Coaching Legacy: The Blazers’ coaching legacy starts with Gene Bartow, who led the Blazers from its infancy to lofty heights during the 1980’s and 1990’s. While Bartow is tragically underrated as a basketball coach, it’s hard to imagine the school’s athletic program without his vision. Mike Anderson led the Blazers to an upset of Kentucky in 2004 that propelled the Blazers to the Sweet Sixteen. That victory, according to most experts, probably solidified the Missouri job for him a couple of years later.

Big Man On Campus: In its short history, the Blazers’ faithful have had its share of greats. The one that stands out apparently, is current Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, who currently is the second-leading scorer in Blazer history.

Rivalries: For many years, the Memphis Tigers and the Blazers have had a heated rivalry on the hardwood. In 2006, the Blazers defeated the Tigers for their lone conference loss of the season at Bartow Arena. The rivalry has a huge importance because Gene Bartow led both Memphis and UAB to national prominence.

Did You Know?: UAB’s current uniform design is similar to the design at Duke.

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