NCAA FB

UAB seeking coach who can win games, fans

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)

The UAB Blazers are searching for a football coach who can win games, win over the community and maybe help rally the support for an on-campus stadium.

Come, and perhaps they will build it.

Blazers athletic director Brian Mackin said Monday he'll lead a national search to replace Neil Callaway, who was fired after he couldn't fashion a winning season in five years or consistently bring the fans to games.

The lack of fan and financial support led trustees for the University of Alabama system to shoot down a proposal for a stadium allowing UAB to move its home games from aging Legion Field.

''I think the trustees said that they needed to see support from the community and from our students,'' Mackin said Monday, a day after announcing the decision to end Callaway's tenure.

''I think that this hire is very important to the success of our football program, absolutely. We need someone to come in here and sell this program and recruit and win. I think it is very critical.''

It has been an uphill battle. The Blazers were last in Conference USA in attendance, averaging 16,579 fans per game and drawing little more than half that for a Thursday night game with Central Florida.

''An on-campus stadium is critical for the long-term success of this program,'' Mackin said. ''You've seen those programs that have succeeded like Central Florida. We just played at Florida Atlantic. They attract their students, they attract their fans and it brings such unity to the campus, and that is why we did the feasibility study (on a new stadium). We believe that was the best thing for our university and our football program.''

They won just 18 games during Callaway's tenure and finished a 3-9 season with a loss at previously winless Florida Atlantic. He will be paid his $360,000 salary for one more year.

Mackin declined to mention specific candidates for the job or a salary range, but money will presumably be an issue. Trustees reportedly vetoed the hiring of then-LSU assistant and current Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher before hiring Callaway in 2006 because it would cost too much.

''I think the candidate will have a lot to do with were we are from a financial package standpoint,'' Mackin said.

He will be joined on the search community by Richard Margison, vice president of finance; senior associate athletic director Shannon Ealy and faculty athletic representative Frank Messina.

UAB has hired search consultant Bill Carr and will work with Jimmy Filler, who Mackin described as ''a community leader.''

The Blazers are overshadowed within the state by Alabama and Auburn and perhaps even Troy. Mackin was asked if prospective candidates might balk at taking the job at a program with no stadium on campus.

''I look at the other side of it,'' he responded. ''There are 120 of these Division I jobs and you've got nine assistant coaches (per team), so there are 1,000 coaches out there that want a job to be a head coach.

''I turn it on the other side, this is an opportunity for someone to be a head coach at a Division I program and that is pretty special.''

Tagged: Florida, UAB

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