Sports Saturdays: UAB Win Means Victory Beyond the Court

March 21st, 2015 by Justin Thomas

Sports SaturdayThe University of Alabama at Birmingham shocked the sports world on Thursday when they topped 3-seed Iowa State, 60-59, providing the first major upset of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

According to brackets submitted on, more people picked ISU to go all the way to the Final Four than picked them to lose to 14-seed UAB in the first game.

The major upset win speaks for itself, and obviously it was an emotional win for the UAB players.

“For us, it was just huge,” UAB junior Robert Brown said. “We come here, not just to play games, but to actually make some noise and to win some games. To be able to do that and win for Birmingham, win for Coach [Jerod] Haase, it’s a great feeling.”

Brown led all scorers in the upset win with 21 points.

However, the win means so much more for UAB than just advancing. For them, it was a deep feeling of achievement and euphoria that this program, its students and its fan base desperately needed.

Back in December, UAB President Ray Watts announced to the University that they were pulling the plug on the football program, citing that it did not seem fiscally responsible to continue to have a football team.

There was outrage from the students of the University and from the members of the community after the decision. UAB students and fans spoke straight from their hearts with their arguments. One of the more emotional arguments came from senior tight end Tristan Thompson.

“My 3-year-old son, what am I supposed to tell him,” Thompson pleaded. “And you tellin’ me because the numbers didn’t look right?”

Shockwaves immediately went through the entire UAB community and through the state of Alabama. Football, of course, is basically a religion in the state of Alabama. Former Alabama QB AJ McCarron and UAB alum Roddy White both showed their support for the school and the program, challenging the whole state to stand up in an attempt to do what is right and help save the program.

The extensive efforts from fans and supporters never shook Watts hard enough. The program remains dead and buried.

The mourning still permeates through the UAB community and hangs heavy in the air. Fans were given something to look forward to when the Blazers’ men’s basketball team won the Conference-USA title to make it into the NCAA Tournament. They were given no chance as they prepared to face off against Big 12 Champion, Iowa State.

UAB fought hard all game, giving fans more and more reason to cheer and more to believe in as the clock ticked on. Fans eventually gained enough confidence in the team’s efforts to start chanting for the firing of President Watts.

When the clock struck zero, people all over the country stood up cheering for this team of underdogs that were playing, not just a win on the court, but for a win for the community.

“We have to give UAB something to cheer about, something to believe in,” freshman forward William Lee said.

As the Blazers get ready for their Second Round game against 11-seeded UCLA, they head in with a purpose, knowing that they have already given the UAB community exactly what it needed: hope and something to cheer for.

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