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From Herald-dispatch.com

Velvet Chain

UAB still new kids of college athletics (sarah michelle gellar mention)

By Anthony Hanshew

Thursday 18 August 2005, by Webmaster

UAB Junior defensive end Larry McSwain was Conference USA leader in sacks last season with 13.

HUNTINGTON - It’s tough to talk tradition when Sarah Michelle Gellar is older than your athletic department.

UAB, the Birmingham, Ala., based school, has accomplished much in less than three decades of athletic competition. The 36-year-old university began intercollegiate participation in 1978.

After debuting in football in the early 1990s, UAB joined Division I-A ranks 10 years ago. The progress of football and the entire athletic department has been well above the newcomer curve.

UAB has earned consecutive NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearances and won at least 20 games in three straight seasons. Women’s soccer won last season’s C-USA Tournament and men’s soccer was ranked No. 23 in the final national poll. Related story

UAB has come a long way in a short time(Click here)

UAB profile(Click here)

Helping head UAB’s fledgling athletic programs is senior athletic director Lee Moon. The veteran administrator served as Marshall athletic director from 1988 to 1996 and was hired at UAB in 2004. Bulking up the Blazers’ athletic department infrastructure is a top priority.

“We’re in a state of change, which is the biggest thing,” Moon said. “Our athletic success is coming a lot faster than our fan base and most of our facilities.

“People don’t realize this is only our 10th year in Division I-A football. We’ve always been pretty good in basketball. We’ve had our ups and downs but now we’re at the top of a cycle.

“We’re still growing in our Olympic sports like everybody. Those are in the developmental stage and we’re trying to make football and men’s basketball win and be very competitive and then you can start trying to help the Olympic sports.” UAB finished in the bottom half of C-USA standings in six of 14 sports. Moon emphasized that success in sports such as volleyball (UAB finished 1-24 last season), will be predicated on the school’s most high-profile programs.

The same can be said for Marshall, said Moon, who maintains a watchful eye on his former employer.

“Moving into Conference USA was a huge thing, being at the right place at the right time,” Moon said. “When I was at Marshall, I really felt strongly that for Marshall to go somewhere, football had to be strong. But to get to the next level in conference, men’s basketball had to be successful.

“That’s what has to happen. (Marshall is) going to have to get basketball better, quicker. I think football, over time, will be very competitive in this league.

“Basketball gave us the opportunity to get where we needed to get to. The fan base is the issue. ... What we do is we get a crossover base of fans.”

Fund-raising remains a challenge for Moon and UAB, which continues to develop its athletic identity in a state dominated by Auburn and Alabama. Blazers history began during the Carter administration, making for shallow donator roots.

“Again we’re such a youthful school,” Moon said. “People don’t realize we only have 25 years of undergraduate tradition. We don’t have the philanthropy of giving.

“We don’t have anybody that’s 65 years old that’s a multimillionaire that was there when football was starting and went to the first bowl game. There’s no one that has that passion to give yet.

“And that also affects your fan base.”

UAB has established stability within the 12-member, all-sports Conference USA. Rivalries will be developed and UAB can begin working toward building an athletic tradition within Alabama’s largest city.

“When we’re playing and playing well, people (in Alabama) love college football and will come,” Moon said. “And we have a lot of Alabama kids. The better we play the more people we get, particularly from Auburn fans.”

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