Game Changer

McGee Ushers in a New Era of UAB Football

By Grant Martin

mcgeeAs a longtime special teams coach, Garrick McGee knows how quickly the momentum of a football game can turn. “Imagine your team is trailing in the fourth quarter, and the other team has the ball,” McGee says. “Things may not look good, but you know if you can force a punt and get everybody on the field doing what they need to do at the exact same time, you can run it back for a touchdown. It happens just that fast, and you’re right back in the game.”

UAB fans are hoping that their new coach will have the same effect on a struggling program. In the weeks after being introduced as the fourth head football coach in Blazers history, McGee hit the ground running, assembling a staff, putting together his first recruiting class, and going on a whirlwind tour of the Birmingham area to build the foundation for what he hopes will be that perfect chain of events that can turn a program around. “I want this football program to be a vital part of this university and this city,” he says. “I want to create a spirit of accountability among our players, our coaches, and our fans. When my wife and I first visited UAB, we were excited about what we saw here. I believe that we have everything we need to build a winning team that will compete for a conference championship.”

A Winning Locale

McGee, a former quarterback for the University of Oklahoma, took over at UAB soon after the close of the 2011 season. He comes to Birmingham from the University of Arkansas, where he spent the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator for the Razorbacks. Prior to that, he coached at the college and pro levels, including college stints at Northwestern, Toledo, and UNLV, as well as two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.

In making the decision on where to pursue his first job as a head coach, McGee says location was key. “One of the attractive things about this job is that I believe we can win a Conference USA championship with players just from the state of Alabama,” McGee says. “When you consider that teams from this state have won national championships the past three years, that tells me that UAB is in the right place to build a successful program. It means high school coaches here are fantastic at developing talent and grooming players for successful college careers.”

McGee’s commitment to local talent was evident on signing day, when his first UAB class included 17 in-state players, including nine from the Birmingham area. Perhaps just as important as the impression he made on local players, however, was the impression McGee made on area football fans—and vice versa. In a string of public appearances following signing day, McGee was introduced to fans through­out the metro area. “I learned that this community is very receptive to my vision and plan for the UAB program,” he says. “The city is starving for a winning program that it can be proud of. We are going to create that program, and we’re going to do it sooner than you think.”

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