BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — UAB coach Bill Clark is retiring because of chronic back problems after leading the program back from a shutdown to two Conference USA titles.
Clark announced his decision on Twitter on Friday after informing the team, saying he needed spinal fusion surgery. He turns 54 on Tuesday.
“I have reached this difficult decision after consultation with a number of world-class medical experts and much family discussion, reflection and prayer,” Clark said in the statement posted on social media. “Having undergone a previous back surgery, extensive physical therapy, shots and chiropractic therapy, I have exhausted all of my options.
“Due to the extreme physical demands placed on a head coach, it is clear to me. It’s time to pass the torch and try and get well.”
Clark went 49-26 in six seasons, winning two Conference USA titles and three West Division championships. The university shut down the program in December 2014 after his debut season, citing financial reasons.
Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent was promoted to interim coach, with defensive coordinator David Reeves serving as assistant head coach. The Blazers are moving to the American Athletic Conference starting with the 2023 season.
Clark stayed at UAB during the shutdown that sidelined the Blazers through two seasons. UAB, which started playing at the new Protective Stadium in 2021, won a school FBS record eight games when it returned for the 2017 season, making its first bowl appearance in 13 years.
Clark was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year in 2018 after leading UAB to 11 wins and its first C-USA title. The Blazers beat No. 13 BYU in the Independence Bowl last season, the highest-ranked team they have defeated.
Clark, who said he was still weighing the decision on his future as late as Thursday night, didn’t rule out a return to coaching after recovering from surgery.
“My mind right now is on this team and what can I do to help from the side,” he said during a news conference on Zoom. “I’m just not going to say never. My mind’s not on coaching right now. It’s really on this team and getting well right now.”
Clark said he injured his back doing squats in high school.
“I’ve dealt with back pain for my whole life,” he said. “I’ve had shots. When the shots quit touching it, I really started thinking, ‘Oh God, I’ve got a serious problem here.’ Spring was really tough.”
Clark, who is hoping to be recovered by December, said he would still be around the program and support the players. “I just won’t be out on that field with them,” he said.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25