The American Athletic Conference will have a vastly different membership in the 2023-24 scholastic year.
AAC pillars Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston are scheduled to join the Big 12 and the American will bring in a half dozen institutions from Conference USA in its realignment.
East Carolina has competed against some of the new members in the past. Some will be brand new opponents for the Pirates.
ECU paid $2.5 million over five years to join the AAC, so presumably, the first thing Alabama-Birmingham, Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice and Texas-San Antonio will bring is money. Those fees should help offset the increase in the number of programs sharing league revenue.
In preparation for the AAC’s new era, View from the East will examine the incoming programs and what they bring. This is the first part in the series.
Know the foe: UAB
East Carolina battled the Blazers on a regular basis when both belonged to C-USA. That time frame for the Pirates began in 1997 and lasted through the 2013-14 school year.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, now known as UAB, developed from an academic extension center established in 1936. The institution became a four-year campus in 1966 and a fully autonomous university in the University of Alabama system in 1969.
UAB joined the NCAA in 1970. Its first program was its golf team. Basketball started in 1978 under coach and athletic director Gene Bartow, who was John Wooden’s successor at UCLA. Bartow’s teams had a string of seven straight NCAA Tournament berths.
Football was halted at UAB after the 2014 season due to projections regarding expenses but was reinstated and the Blazers returned to the gridiron in 2017 and won the C-USA championship that year.
Golfer Graeme McDowell, who won the U.S. Open in 2010.
Deidre Downs, Miss America, 2005.
Forest green and old gold.
Figures for 2020 showed UAB with roughly 22,000 students, including about 13,500 undergraduates.
The Blazers were 7-6 overall in 2022 with a 4-4 record in C-USA, UAB had a 24-20 win over Miami of Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl.
Junior quarterback Dylan Hopkins threw for 1,716 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. He has entered the transfer portal.
Trent Dilfer, who quarterbacked Baltimore to the Super Bowl XXXV championship, is the new coach of the Blazers.
ECU has a 9-4 record against the Blazers, including 5-1 in Greenville.
The Blazers used to play their home games at Legion Field. Protective Stadium, where ECU won the Birmingham Bowl, 53-29, over Coastal Carolina on Dec. 27, is UAB’s new home facility.
The Blazers play two-time national champion Georgia on the road on Sept. 23 next season.
Crazy day in 1999
The Blazers trailed a 7-1 ECU team that was ranked at the half, 17-6, at Legion Field. UAB rallied for a 36-17 win.
UAB was coached by Watson Brown, brother of North Carolina coach Mack Brown. Watson Brown was a former ECU assistant.
Pirate radio analyst Kevin Monroe had a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Blazers defensive back Rodregis Brooks was taken off the field on a stretcher in the second quarter. His jersey was cut off as medical personnel checked out a possible neck injury.
Brooks was cleared in an on-site X-ray. He donned an old UAB jersey that his mother was wearing and helped put the game away with a 91-yard interception return for a TD and a punt return to the ECU 3-yard line that set up a score.
The last time the Pirates played the Blazers on Nov. 16, 2013, Shane Carden passed for 347 yards and five TDs in a 63-14 ECU win at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Vintavious Cooper ran for 126 yards and three scores.
In games between the 2001-02 and 2013-14 seasons, the Pirates were 6-12 against UAB.
The Blazers are currently 12-5 overall and 3-3 in C-USA after an 80-78 home loss to Western Kentucky on Wednesday night.
Senior guard Jordan Walker is averaging 23.8 points and 4.3 assists.
Blazers coach Andy Kennedy started his college playing career at N.C. State before transferring to UAB. He was 21-13 at Cincinnati in 2005-06 and went 245-156 in 12 seasons at Ole Miss. He is 61-20 in two-plus seasons at his present post.
Casey Dunn became coach of the Blazers in June 2021 after 17 seasons at nearby Samford.
His first UAB team was 31-25 overall and 13-17 in 2022 with a season-opening sweep of Northwestern, a series win against Rice and a midweek victory over Alabama.