By Steve Irvine

The numbers, mixed with championship rings, tell an accurate story of where the UAB football program was with Bill Clark as the head coach.

In six seasons on the field, his teams compiled a 49-26 record overall and 32-12 in regular-season Conference USA play. During that time, his team won a pair of Conference USA championships, advanced to another C-USA championship game and were victorious in a pair of bowl games. Perhaps fittingly, his team closed out his final season at UAB with one of the most impressive wins of his tenure – a 31-28 victory over 13th-ranked Brigham Young in the Independence Bowl.

On Friday, though, the attention turned swiftly toward what could be considered an uncertain future - at least for now - following Clark’s announcement he was stepping down because of serious problems with his back.

So where do the Blazers, who move into the American Athletic Conference for the 2023 season, go from here?

In a way, Clark believes, it begins with the program staying in the same place.

Clark said his recommendation to UAB president Ray Watts and athletic director Mark Ingram is for current offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent to serve as the interim head coach and for David Reeves to add assistant head coach to his defensive coordinator duties. He also recommended that the staff stay intact, at least through the 2022 season.

Subtle changes have occurred to Clark’s staff during his tenure, particularly since returning to the field in 2017. However, for the most part, the staff has remained intact.

Vincent was Clark’s offensive coordinator in 2014 and returned to the program in 2018. Four of the assistant coaches – Reeves, wide receiver coach Larry Smith, defensive line coach Kyle Tatum and defensive back coach Blake Shrader – have maintained on-the-field roles each season since 2017. Three others – special teams coordinator Heath Thomas, offensive line coach Cameron Blankenship and running back coach Hindley Brigham – have also been with the program since 2017. Cornerback coach Deric Riley served as an on-the-field coach in 2014 and had an off-the-field role the past two seasons. Strength coach Lyle Henley has been with the program since the return.   

“We’ve built this as a family,” Clark said. “The staff has been with me, tons of them have played for me. We’ve just got to lean on each other. This is a health issue for me, but nothing changes. We’ve got our staff here, we’ve had a great summer, practice schedules are ready, all of the above. Let’s just get ready to go and let’s get ready to win.”

Clark also said on Friday that he planned to remain close to the program.

“It's not like I’m leaving for another job or leaving town,” Clark said. “I’m going to be around as much as I can. A hard decision was made easier by the fact I feel like we are headed in the complete right direction. I know my staff; I know my players. We’ve got a veteran group. I do feel good about that, as good as I can feel. There’s never a good time to leave but I do feel like we’ve got our program headed where it needs to be and (I’m) really proud of that.”

No official announcement regarding Clark’s coaching staff recommendations have been made but one is expected soon. One thing is for certain, for the first time since January 2013, it won’t include Clark as the head coach.

Clark’s back problems began with an injury while lifting weights during high school. He’s lived with back pain for a long time and had what he called “a simple procedure” in 1997. Handling the pain became more difficult over the years. He endured through the pain during the 2021 season and began thinking about stepping away soon after the Blazers victory over BYU.

“When the shots quit touching it, I began thinking, ‘OK, I have a serious problem here,’” Clark said. “Spring was really tough.”

Clark talked to back specialists in Birmingham and throughout the country. He struggled to work during prospect camps and team workouts this month.

“I think when I finally came to the realization, the first of June, that there’s really not much choice but fusion, it was ‘OK, can I survive without doing that through this season?’” Clark said. “Really during camp time, as I talked to players, I either had to ride the golf cart or take a knee. I couldn’t do my job, not the way I do it, not the way my guys need. I know I got to get something done to do what I’ve got to do and be the coach I’ve always been. It’s really been a long time coming.”

Steve Irvine has written for the Birmingham News,, SportsXchange, the Associated Press, Athlon and Lindy’s Sports Journals. To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email

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