UAB president S. Richardson Hill Jr. with prize recruit Gene Bartow
But his next move stunned basketball fans everywhere. Bartow left Los Angeles for Birmingham—and the chance to build a new program from scratch as the athletic director and head basketball coach at UAB.
Success came quickly. Bartow’s first team posted a 15-11 record; his second advanced to the postseason with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT); and his third won 23 games en route to the NCAA Tournament, which started a string of seven straight tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 1981. In the first eight years of the program, UAB produced three All-Americans.
By the time Bartow retired from coaching in 1996, he had led UAB to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, five NIT appearances, and six conference championships. He was succeeded as head coach by his son, Murry, a former UAB player and assistant coach. In 1997, the on-campus arena at UAB was renamed Bartow Arena in honor of the man who did so much for the program. He remained as athletic director until 2000.
With 647 career wins and 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, Bartow ranks in the top 20 on the list of winningest NCAA Division I basketball coaches. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and will be inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2009.
Discover more UAB breakthroughs in UAB Magazine
Visit the official site of UAB Athletics
Blazer Bests: Memorable Moments in UAB Athletics History
|1978||UAB plays its first men’s basketball game before a crowd of 14,800 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.|
|1982||Women’s basketball player Wanda Hightower becomes the first UAB athlete in any sport to have a jersey retired. In four years, Hightower scored a school record 2,854 points; she is the only women’s player in school history to score more than 40 points in a game—a feat she accomplished five times.|
|1989||The Blazers take to the gridiron for the first time with a club football team; UAB moves up to NCAA Division I-AA in 1993 and Division I-A in 1996.|
|1991||The Blazer baseball team wins its first conference championship; men’s tennis and women’s volleyball also win conference titles.
|1997||Mirela Vladulescu is the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the NCAA for much of the 1997-98 season.|
|2002||Linebacker Bryan Thomas becomes the first Blazer chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. In 2005, wide receiver Roddy White is also drafted in the first round.|
|2002||All-American Graeme McDowell is the nation’s top-ranked collegiate golfer.|
|2004||The UAB football team makes its first bowl appearance, taking on Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
|2006||The men's soccer team defeats top-ranked Southern Methodist University 2-1, the team's first-ever win over a No. 1 team. The Blazers upset a total of five ranked teams that season.