Bill Clark retires: UAB coach who guided Blazers through football reinstatement steps down for health reasons

Bill Clark retires: UAB coach who guided Blazers through football reinstatement steps down for health reasons
Bill Clark retires: UAB coach who guided Blazers through football reinstatement steps down for health reasons

UAB coach Bill Clark, who oversaw a miraculous resurrection of the Blazers program within the last decade, announced that he is retiring on Aug. 1 due to health and well-being concerns caused by long-standing back issues that will require a spinal fusion. Clark, 53, has been the head coach of the Blazers since 2014 and posted a 49-26 record during six seasons in Birmingham, leading them to a pair of Conference USA titles in 2018 and 2020 and five straight bowl games.

Offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Bryant Vincent will assume interim coaching duties. Vincent has served as Clark’s offensive coordinator since 2018 and has been an integral part of the team’s offensive success, with records for total points, touchdowns, rushing touchdowns, total yards and rushing yards coming in his first year under Clark.

“It’s time. Knowing that doesn’t make this any easier,” wrote Clark in a statement posted to his Twitter account. “Retiring as the UAB head coach is the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make, but my future health and well-being depend on it. I have reached this decision after consultation with a number of world-class medical experts and much family discussion, reflection and prayer. Because of long-standing back issues that grew more and more debilitating in the last year, I have been told that I need a spinal infusion.”

Clark has been the rock of a program that went through massive turmoil during his tenure. Following an inspection of the university’s athletic budget and revenue, football was shuttered in December of 2014 after Clark’s first season. Instead of looking for a new job, however, Clark chose to guide the Blazers through the dark days when a subsequent decision was made to restart football in 2015. He posted an 8-5 record in UAB’s first season back from the shutdown in 2017, and the Blazers haven’t finished worse than second in the Conference USA West division since then. 

“We rose from the ashes to build something rare and real, and we did it together,” Clark wrote. “We set excellence as a standard and we achieved it. We developed leaders, won championships and forged a bond with the community unlike anything college football has ever seen.”

Clark spent one season as the head coach at Jacksonville State in 2013, leading the Gamecocks to an 11-4 record and an appearance in the FCS quarterfinal. A native of Anniston, Alabama, Clark has spent the majority of his coaching career inside the state of Alabama in the high school and college ranks. The Jacksonville State alum’s coaching career began at Piedmont High School as an assistant, and he made subsequent stops at Tuscaloosa County (Alabama) High School, Coffee County (Georgia) High School, Dothan (Alabama) High School, and Prattville (Alabama) High School.

“As for me, I am stepping down, but I am not walking away,” he said. “UAB football, the University and the city of Birmingham mean too much to me. My roots and my heart are here, and they will stay here. My future isn’t completely clear, but I will remain active in causes I hold dear, including the Children’s Harbor football game and the CoachSafely Foundation. I will be a champion for UAB and Birmingham, doing what I can to further their incredible progress.”

UAB is set to join the American Athletic conference prior to the 2023 season. Clark expects the new coaching staff to keep momentum going as UAB enters a new era.

“I have no doubt they will make us proud as UAB Athletics transitions to the American Athletic Conference,” he said.

UAB will open the 2022 season on Thursday, Sept. 1 against Alabama A&M.