Bill Clark will talk football and listen to others discuss the sport this week in Birmingham. Clark and longtime UAB support staff member Randy Pippin, who recently joined the Jacksonville State program as a senior analyst, are hosting the Nike Coach of the Year clinic with an impressive group of speakers.
For Clark, the architect of UAB football's most successful era, it's like a homecoming.
"Truly, that is where I learned," said Clark, the son of a high school football coach. "I learned a ton just from being around my dad and being around coaches. I loved going to a school, but that was really me sitting in a room by myself watching film. The clinics are where I gathered so much. I listened to everybody. The standard thing we all say, and I say this when I speak, if you can get one thing that helps your program, helps your players, helps your coaches, it's worth it. There are so many ways to touch your program, whether we're talking about training, nutrition, safety, Xs, and Os on all the fronts. You've got discipline, morale, we can just go on and on and on about the things you want to hear. That was always what I loved about clinics."
The list of speakers during the Nike clinic — which begins on Thursday, ends on Saturday and will be held at the Westin Hotel and Protective Stadium — includes head coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson, Brian Kelly of LSU, Steve Sarkisian of Texas, Rich Rodriguez of Jacksonville State, Eli Drinkwitz of Missouri, Ryan Silverfield of Memphis, Kilani Sitake of BYU and Brent Venables of Oklahoma. Other speakers include Clark, reigning Alabama state champions Mark Freeman of Thompson High and Ronnie Jackson of Ramsay High, strength and conditioning coaches Lyle Henley of UAB and Zac Woodfin of the USFL and former UAB coordinators Bryant Vincent and David Reeves.
It's one of seven Nike Coach of the Year Clinics held nationwide. It's the only one in Alabama and joins Atlanta and Orlando as the only ones held in a Southern state. Registration is still open at nikecoyfootball.com, and on-site registration begins on Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Westin Hotel.
Clark said the clinic's strength is that it includes coaches from different levels with various philosophies and expertise. He stresses that the clinic benefits coaches from the youth level to high school to college.
"You're constantly learning," Clark said. "I tell you, I'm really looking forward to this. When we did our UAB clinics, we would be in the middle of spring. I was juggling all the things I had to juggle as a head coach. (During this clinic) I'll sit in on every single meeting and get to hear guys. You've got so much to learn from. There's going to be all sorts of speakers and topics. I love learning still."
For Clark, it's another step toward getting back into football after spending the past six or seven months working on getting healthy. He walked away from UAB to take care of back problems and had spinal fusion surgery not long after.
"I'm feeling great," Clark said. "I had some opportunities (following the 2022 season), and, for whatever reason, I wasn't ready. And I don't know if I'll be ready again. I'm just going to see how I feel. I'm really excited about being finally healthy and having a year of just enjoying life and all the things that go with it. But, yeah, I feel really good."
Clark was asked if the reason he wasn't ready to return to coaching, at least at this moment, was mental or physical.
"Probably mentally as much as anything," Clark said. "I've got to decide if that's what I want to do again. You know me, I don't know, but one way of doing it. Do you want to go back to the 4 a.m. until 11 at night? That's what I mean by mentally. I'm still in the process of getting well, but there's no doubt I could have done that (physical) part. I think it's more of the mental. If that hurts me that I'm willing to say that, then so be it. I don't know. I don't know where I'm going to be this time next year. Right now, I'm just enjoying myself."
Clark admitted that his grind of getting healthy was joined by the grind of watching the UAB season from outside the walls of the UAB Football Operations building. The losses kicked him in the gut. The wins brightened his day. And that included watching it end with a Bahamas Bowl win.
"It did close the chapter, and it was so good they finished on such a great note," Clark said. "That's the last thing that we remember, is that last game. I was proud of them, proud for them, and it's kind of an end to that era."
Now, it's on to a story yet to begin. Clark said the plan is to travel to see coaching friends during the spring, summer and fall. It also could include more clinics down the road.
"I have a bunch of different irons in the fire that I'm looking at outside of coaching," Clark said. "I was really excited about this because it keeps me in it, and I get to see coaches, which is what I love. I'm just such a fan of coaches, really in any sport, just for what they do for our kids. But, of course, especially football coaches. This may be something that grows into more. Of course, I always had my UAB clinic. This will be the first one outside the school."
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