You probably look at this matchup on paper and think “Hmmm, UAB. We’ve probably never had an interesting game against these guys.” And you’d be exactly right. We’ve compiled a lofty 2-0 record all-time against the Blazers, winning home games in 2003 and 2008. Both of those games were somewhat boring and predictable, although the 26-13 final score in 2008 made some folks a little uneasy.
So then I figured I’d take this column in a different direction this week. Maybe talk about our history in games played in Birmingham (except, of course, the disastrous Game-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named that took place there in 2010). Alabama and Auburn, after all, both played a huge number of home games at Birmingham’s Legion Field until the 1990′s, since both Tuscaloosa and Auburn were relatively inaccessible for much of the 20th century. But I was surprised to find that South Carolina has rarely played in Birmingham. Four games, to be exact, in our 118 seasons of football. We’ve compiled a 1-2-1 record in the Magic City all time:
|1979||Missouri||Loss||24-14||Hall of Fame Bowl|
You may be thinking that it’s not surprising at all that we haven’t played that much in Birmingham, since there’s no major football-playing university there (no disrespect to the Blazers, of course). But for much of its history, Birmingham was known as the college football capital of the South. We now know Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium as one of the largest facilities in the nation, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, until 1998, Birmingham’s Legion Field had a larger capacity (83,091), and was deemed better-suited to host “big” Crimson Tide games. Alabama played at least one home game in Birmingham for 104 consecutive seasons, including its entire 1987 home schedule, and an average of over three games per year throughout most of the 1900′s. Tuscaloosa is less than 60 miles from Birmingham, so playing games in a much more accessible city with a larger stadium made sense for the Crimson Tide. But the Gamecocks never played them there. The teams met a surprising number of times during the 1930′s, but always in Tuscaloosa.
The city of Auburn was even more difficult to get to before the interstate system was put into place, and much further from Birmingham. Auburn played “home” games in many different cities, most notably Birmingham, Montgomery, and Columbus, Georgia. While Legion Field served as the home away from home for the Crimson Tide for decades, Auburn is most known for their games against Alabama in the city. In fact, the “Iron Bowl” was played in Birmingham in 1893, 1902, 1904-07, 1948-88, 1990-92, 1994, 1996, and 1998. Why the gap from 1907-1948? Because the teams didn’t play in those years. After the 1907 contest, a disagreement kept the teams from playing for over four decades. The series only resumed because the state legislature threatened to withhold funding from the universities if the rivalry didn’t resume.
Birmingham also holds a place in SEC folklore, as Legion Field hosted the first two SEC Championship Games in 1992 and 1993. They were both literally home games for Alabama as they faced off against Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators. Alabama used their 1992 victory as a springboard to a national championship. The city has also hosted numerous bowl games, neutral-site contests, and professional football. Even a Canadian Football League expansion team. You can’t make this stuff up.
So there’s a brief history of football in Birmingham. Sorry for the non-UAB focus on today’s column. There’s just not much material to work with for a school that’s only been playing NCAA football for twenty years. But I hope you found it interesting and informative nonetheless.
Photo Credit: Today in Pro Football History