For the time being, Bill Clark is a man without a team. Since Alabama-Birmingham announced in December it was shutting down its football program, Clark, who was in his first year as the Blazers' coach, has been trying to figure out what to do next. In Columbus Friday morning for the final day of the Minority Coaches Association of Georgia's annual clinic, Clark set a few things straight.
First, he admitted he "had some interest from different folks" at other schools that had openings at the same time UAB decided to do away with football. (Clark was rumored to be a candidate for Auburn's defensive coordinator position, which eventually went to former Florida coach Will Muschamp.)
As for his future plans, Clark isn't ready to give up on UAB just yet. The biggest problem with that, however, is the situation seemingly changes by the day.
"It's just a roller coaster. I'll have a call that there's some good things happening. And then the next one I get says, 'Who knows?'" Clark said. "And I've told everybody: I want to be here. Yet at the same time, we've got a lot of things to fix for me to do it. But I want to be there if we can do it. I'd love to provide an update, but I really don't have enough solid information that I could really tell you one way or the other."
Clark is holding out hope on that front a bit longer. But he won't wait forever. In his mind, there's a soft deadline — this summer — to hear whether UAB will reinstate the football program.
"Once we get into the fall, I've got to start (looking at jobs)," he said. "That doesn't mean if UAB came back around the same time, I wouldn't (go back). I just have to weigh it all out. What's the best fit for me? For my family? For my career? Anything that happens at UAB is going to be tough. We're going to be starting from scratch. But at the same time, that's something I want to give every opportunity."
Given the national attention surrounding UAB's decision to drop football — not helped by school president Ray Watts' handling of the situation, largely shaped by a video released of the meeting where he informed the team of the announcement and came across as arrogant, uncaring and aloof — Clark was asked how much he planned to discuss it in his speech at the clinic Friday. Clark said he would touch on it, knowing it was an unavoidable topic.
He refused to make it the focus of his talk, however.
"I'm just going to talk about where I started and that path from high school coach and all the different stops I made to end up where I'm at," said Clark, who had an illustrious career as a coach at Prattville High School in Prattville, Ala., where he won 30 straight games and consecutive state titles in 2006 and 2007 before taking over as South Alabama's defensive coordinator. "It's one of those things where I'll say, 'Keep your head up. Keep working. Keep learning.' There will be a little about UAB, but it's mostly about what we teach our players. Things we taught in high school, things we taught at Jax State (Jacksonville State), UAB, etc., that I think will help them."
He's been a regular on the coaching clinic circuit recently, with Clark saying he's "speaking almost every other weekend." Once he stops making those rounds, though, he won't be slowing down at all. Instead, he'll be traveling to as many schools as he can to take in spring practice and pick the brains of other coaching staffs.
"If you can think of somebody, I'm going to go see them. I can't go to everybody, but I've just had so many people reach out to me and say, 'Coach, we'd love to have you.' So I'm going to take advantage of going to see some folks that I hadn't gotten to see before," he said. " ... It's going to be good for me, whether it's just to see somebody's nutrition plans, how their weight room is set up or how they practice."
Still, Clark is understandably frustrated he doesn't have his own spring practice to map out. The fallout from the UAB fiasco has been the most difficult challenge he's ever faced. Yet he's somehow been able to find positives in it all.
Yes, it has to do with those cliches people always hear about "confronting adversity."
There's a reason for it, though.
"All of those cliches (about adversity) are true," Clark said. "I've had my guys (at UAB) — and a lot of them are seniors — calling me back and saying, 'Coach, it's 100 percent everything you told us it would be.' I do know that our players -- and I don't want to say it (the program shutting down) was a death — but it was so close to something like that — are going to handle it and go on. They're going to say, 'Hey, we overcame that.' I know they will."