It's hard to win AP Coach of the Year when you're not a finalist.
Two years ago, UAB was coming off a zero-win season, their second straight winless campaign. They hadn't won a football game since Nov. 29, 2014, a 45-24 win over Southern Miss in the regular-season finale. One day later, Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated dropped this bombshell:
"Alabama-Birmingham to fire athletic director, shut down football program."
Evans' report was accurate; on Nov. 2, UAB president Ray Watts announced the football program — and the bowling and rifle programs — would be eliminated.
Three days after clinching their fourth-ever six-win and bowl eligibility for the first time in a decade, the UAB football program was dead. First-year head coach Bill Clark didn't have a job and dozens of student-athletes didn't have a football future in Birmingham.
Instead of leaving for another job, Clark stayed and rebuilt the program. He led awareness and fundraising campaigns and, on Sept. 2, UAB football officially returned with a win over Alabama A&M.
Last year, the Blazers won eight games for the first time in program history. This year, they won the Conference USA Championship and 10 games for the first time in program history. Last year, Clark didn't win any national coach of the year awards.
He was Conference USA Coach of the Year but didn't win any national awards. He wasn't even a finalist for most national awards. This year, the Football Writers Association of America gave Clark the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. The Associated Press didn't use the same common sense.
On Sunday, three finalists were named for AP Coach of the Year: Brian Kelly, Josh Heupel and Nick Saban. On Monday, Kelly was named the winner.
With all due respect to Kelly and the GOAT, Bill Clark deserved that award.