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Clark brings ambitions to UAB program

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Bill Clark didn't agree to take over UAB's struggling football program until he was convinced it was a high priority for the university.

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The UAB administration made a believer out of him, and vice versa.

''I think one of the things I started with was, who is our leadership here,'' Clark said Wednesday when he was introduced as the Blazers head coach. ''I had to see a commitment. I had to see how important football was here and that's what I saw.

''I see there is a commitment here. There's work to be done, we know that, but I saw that commitment here.''

The Blazers have struggled to turn that commitment into success. Clark takes over a program that hasn't had a winning record since 2004. Garrick McGee, who left to become offensive coordinator at Louisville, was 5-19 in two seasons, including 2-10 in 2013.

''We think there is a ton of things to sell at the university,'' Clark said. ''We have to get started.''

This is the second college head coaching job for Clark, a highly successful Alabama high school coach and former South Alabama defensive coordinator. He led Jacksonville State to its most victories since the Gamecocks' Division II champion team in 1992 during his lone season. Jacksonville State went 11-4 and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals in 2013.

UAB athletic director Brian Mackin didn't disclose the terms of Clark's contract, which must be approved by university system trustees. He said the job generated plenty of interest, but that Clark was clearly the best fit for the program.

''He is definitely a proven winner in everything he's done in his life,'' Mackin said. ''I wanted somebody that understood football in this state. This state has two unbelievably successful programs at the FBS level. In this state, it is very much known that people understand football, they're very educated.''

Clark inherits a team that ranked 119th nationally in scoring defense last season, giving up 43.8 points and 497.8 yards per game.

He must help find a way to generate fan support in an area dominated by Auburn and Alabama.

The Blazers, who play off campus in aging Legion Field, ranked last in Conference USA in attendance. Their five home games drew an average of 10,548 fans.

Mackin said the room full of supporters for Clark's introduction shows that there's interest in the Blazers.

''Who said that UAB football didn't matter?'' Mackin said. ''How about this?''

Clark said he and his coaching staff ''are coming here as a destination to make this program great.''

It starts with recruiting, though. Clark said the Blazers coaches will be a heavy presence in Alabama high schools recruiting against FBS teams like Troy and South Alabama.

''We're going to win the state of Alabama. Period,'' Clark said. ''Every coach in this state will know who we are. I love when a coach in this state says `We have not seen a UAB coach at my school.' I promise you that will not happen. ''

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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