Blazer Bulletin June 2021

Blazer Boosters Membership

We are halfway through the 2021 giving year and we want to thank all of the Blazer Boosters members for your support in helping achieve our core values to Win Championships, Graduate with Honors, and Make a Difference! Because of your continued generosity, UAB Football is primed and ready to pursue their third conference title in four seasons in their new home, Protective Stadium. In addition, the UAB Basketball Practice Facility is under construction and will serve as a new state-of-the-art home for our men’s and women’s programs, and our student-athletes are excited to continue their excellence in the classroom and community throughout this semester.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@BlazerBoosters) and Instagram (@blazer_boosters) for continued updates on all things Blazer Boosters and the impact you make on UAB Athletics. Go Blazers!

Donor Spotlight

Rick Graham

Rick and his wife Charlotte

A 1974 graduate of UAB with a BS in Engineering, Rick Graham is a native of Hueytown, AL. Rick and his wife, Charlotte, also a UAB alumnus, reside in North Shelby County Alabama. Rick and Charlotte both retired from the Southern Company in 2015 after 40 years of service. They currently have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Since their retirement, both Rick and Charlotte have been participants in the fight against human sex trafficking. They have supported UAB athletics since the very beginning.

What is your favorite memory of UAB Athletics?

“It is hard to say, since there are so many. We voted on the school colors while I was a student, but since there wasn't an athletics department, or a school mascot, I would say that Coach Gene Bartow coming to UAB to form a basketball team is the favorite. Of course, beating the University of Alabama in the NIT Tournament 58-56 is a great memory, as well as the historic 2017 season with UAB Football led by Coach Bill Clark.”

Why do you support UAB Athletics and our student-athletes?

“Athletics gives student-athletes the opportunity to achieve a quality education and successful career. Athletics also enhance the college experience for the student body. I remember when I was a student, I really appreciated the quality education that I was getting, but I also felt that I was missing out on the experience of cheering for my team."

What makes us most proud of UAB Athletics?

“We are a family. At all the UAB athletic events, I always feel that we are all one unit. UAB fans in general don’t just love UAB Athletics, they love UAB.”

Student-Athlete Spotlight

Zakyia Weathersby

Tell us a little about yourself growing up

"I am 22 years old, and I was born October 23rd to my parents Clancy Weathersby and Shaft Booth. I grew up in Collins, Mississippi with my six siblings; Jeramiah Weathersby, Dontarius and Dontavius Weathersby, and Xzavian Weathersby. My two sisters are Shaffaria Booth and Tyona Booth.”

What is your major and what are your plans after graduation?

"I am majoring in psychology, and I am still finalizing what I plan to do after graduating. I am currently interested in pursuing a coaching career path, potentially becoming a community health advisor, or continuing my playing career overseas. "

How has your experience been as a student-athlete at UAB?

"My experience as a UAB student-athlete has been pretty great honestly. This change of environment forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. I feel like I’ve become a completely new person both physically and mentally because of that. I have received the opportunity to meet new people and travel to places I’ve never been. Though it’s not always rainbows and sunshine, I’m thankful for every part of it."

What does competing for UAB mean to you?

"Competing at UAB means so much to me, because without basketball I probably would not have had the opportunity to go to college - especially at this level. I really couldn’t afford to go to school on my own, and my AAU Coach, Carla Holder, once told me “Use basketball as a vehicle to get where you want to go in life.” I have never forgetten that conversation and I allow it to fuel me to better myself, make a way for myself, while making my family proud -- because that’s honestly the best part! It also means that I’ll get the chance to meet new people, go new places, represent my school, and fight with my team."

What has been your favorite memory during your time here?

"My favorite memory would probably be going to Spain with the team my very first summer here. I loved seeing and experiencing a completely new culture. It was a beautiful place and I hope to go back someday."

What new perspective have you been able to gain dealing with an unprecedented time, such as COVID?

"A new perspective that I’ve gained is to enjoy life, enjoy your freedom, and have fun while you can. I was always a homebody, so I never left my apartment. When covid hit, it was like I was forced to stay there and it made me hate being inside. Which is crazy because being inside is something I loved doing. It made me appreciate moments and it made me want to create more memorable moments. Honestly, it just made me want to live a little and smile a lot more."

A special message to Blazer Boosters members.

"I want to give a huge shoutout to the Blazer Boosters members. You all are truly amazing! Y'all stick by us through thick and thin, and the love and support remains the same. If that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is. You all are the best support team we could not ask for better. I know y'all don’t have to and for that reason I am even more grateful for every thing the Blazer Boosters team and members do, nothing is overlooked or unappreciated. Thanks for everything!"

UAB Athletics Celebrates Outstanding Performances in 2020-21

A global pandemic will always be associated with this past year, but the UAB Department of Athletics made history of its own by collectively putting together one of the most successful seasons UAB has ever seen.

Despite all the challenges that COVID-19 presented, the Blazers battled through each obstacle to achieve new milestones for many of its sports.

"The dedication and sacrifices our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff showed throughout the most unique year in college athletics history was truly amazing," said UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram. "To achieve the amount of success both in competition and in the classroom is a testament to the core values of our department which is to Win Championships, Graduate with Honors and Make a Difference."

UAB football set the tone by capturing its second Conference USA title while battling through major adversity. When COVID-19 was at its peak, success for the Blazers came to a halt; four consecutive games were canceled which span 42 days – the longest layoff of any team in the nation.

When the Blazers were able to retake the field, UAB traveled to Rice on Dec. 12 with a chance to capture its third-consecutive C-USA West Division title. The Blazers were down seven starters, 11 key contributors and only traveled 40 scholarship players to the contest due to COVID protocol.

Despite all of the challenges, UAB answered the bell by defeating the Owls 21-16 to capture a league record third-straight C-USA West title. The team rode that momentum in Huntington the following week and defeated Marshall 22-13 to secure its second Conference USA championship in the past three years.

This championship was just the start of something great. Soon thereafter, men's basketball, softball, volleyball and men's golf teams were breaking records of their own.

On March 20, 2020, the Blazers welcomed home Andy Kennedy to lead the UAB men's basketball program. The second leading scorer in program history, Kennedy made it his mission to restore the Bartow Tradition, and he did not disappoint.

His team won 22 games, which is most in UAB history for a first-year coach and most wins since the 2015-16 season. While their conference championship hopes came up short, the program is optimistic for Kennedy and the team's future.

The softball team also hired a new coach in Joe Guthrie following the 2019-20 year, and his first year easily surpassed expectations. The team went 31-19, reaching its third ever C-USA championship game.

The 31 wins marked the most since 2015, and its 15-5 conference record was the second best in school history. The team also produced four All-Conference USA First Team selections, which are the most in program history.

Following a regular season which saw the UAB men's golf team earn the program's highest national ranking ever (No. 5), the Blazers earned a berth into NCAA Regionals for the 13th time in the program's illustrious history.

At Regionals, UAB captured the attention of the golf world with a miraculous comeback in the final round en route to a fifth-place finish, which qualified the Blazers for their eighth NCAA National Championship appearance. UAB finished 24th at nationals, its fifth best finish in school history.

Junior Nick Robillard was named the Conference USA Golfer of the Year, while Mike Wilson earned his second-consecutive C-USA Coach of the Year award.

Led by first-year head coach in Betsy Freeburg, the UAB volleyball team secured its first C-USA Championship berth since 2013. Redshirt sophomore Fernanda Maida was named All-Conference USA First Team and AVCA All-South Region Team. Her season was highlighted by achieving a program record 38 kills in one match – the highest single game kills total of anyone in the NCAA this past season.

Other notable performances included the women's cross country team finishing fifth at the Conference USA Championship (its best finish since 2017), women's tennis team notching 14 victories (the third most in school history and the most since the 2006-07 season), beach volleyball earning its first national ranking (No. 20) in program history, and track & field having three athletes qualify for NCAA East Prelims.

Along with all the notable performances on the field and court, UAB also achieved great success in the classroom and in the community.

Collectively, UAB maintained a 3.25 fall GPA and a 3.38 spring GPA. The Blazers saw 78 percent of their student-athletes maintain a 3.0 GPA and UAB had 11 players earn Conference USA All-Academic Team honors while celebrating 79 graduates.

And despite minimal face-to-face interaction due to the pandemic, UAB was still able to rank 10 nationally in community services and logged over 2,000 hours while having 100 percent participation from every team.

It was a banner year for UAB Athletics and it took extreme dedication from the student-athletes, coaches, and support staff to collectively Win As One.

*A special thank you to all of the UAB Athletic Trainers for facing the challenges of COVID-19 head-on by continuously testing our student-athletes and giving them an opportunity to compete throughout the pandemic.

Pick Your Own Seats Now Available for New Season Ticket Purchasers

As season tickets remain on sale for UAB Football's inaugural season at Protective Stadium this fall, 2021 season ticket holders have the ability to pick their own seats as part of the immediate purchasing process.

Now that the UAB Football seat selection process has been completed following the 2021 football priority seat deadline, new season ticket holders may now select the best remaining seats for UAB's five home games.

Click here to view a 3D map of Protective Stadium.

UAB Football season tickets for the inaugural season at Protective Stadium are on sale starting as low as $75. 2021 season ticket holders currently have priority access to purchase tickets to the Montgomery Kickoff versus Jacksonville State starting at just $20. Single game tickets will go on sale to the public in August. For more information leading into the 2021 season at Protective Stadium, please contact the UAB Athletics Ticket Office at (205) 975-UAB1 or tickets@uab.edu.

UAB's five home games include the grand opening on Oct. 2 vs. Liberty, along with hosting Florida Atlantic (Oct. 9), Rice (Oct. 23), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 6) and UTEP (Nov. 27).

The Blazers return 17 starters from last year's championship team. UAB has won three straight C-USA West division titles and two of the last three Conference USA Championships.

Ingram Names Casey Dunn as New UAB Baseball Head Coach

UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram has named Casey Dunn as the sixth head coach of the Blazer baseball team.

Dunn joins the Blazers after a very successful coaching stint at the helm of the Samford University program for the past 17 seasons. This past season, the Bulldogs made their third NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.

"We are thrilled to welcome Casey Dunn into our UAB family," Ingram said. "His relationships in Birmingham and around the country, along with his track record of success made him an ideal choice. I am confident that UAB can be a dominant force in baseball if we provide the resources necessary for success. We have plans to invest in our facilities in a way that puts our coaches and student-athletes in a position to win championships."

Dunn is Samford's all-time winningest head coach, posting a record of 530-422 (.557). The team has played in the Southern Conference Tournament title game six of the last eight years, winning the title three times, including most recently in 2021.

"I am excited about the opportunity to be the next head baseball coach at UAB," Dunn said. Samford has and will always hold a special place in my heart. I look forward to the challenge of building a championship team in Conference USA. The vision that Mark has for baseball is one that excites me, and I look forward to working beside him to bring it to reality. To all the former players and supporters, it's time to get on board and help take UAB to new heights."

Under Dunn's guidance, the Bulldogs have posted seven-straight 30+ win seasons, including 13 of the last 15 full seasons overall. Dunn has coached 51 All-Conference student-athletes and four SoCon Freshman of the Year honorees.

In 2012, Samford recorded its first win in an NCAA Regional, beating Mississippi State twice in Tallahassee, Fla. The program's third NCAA Tournament win came in 2018 at Florida State.

The 2019 season saw the program's first regular-season conference title and tied the program record with 41 wins. Dunn was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year following that season.

In 2020, the Bulldogs got off to a 13-2 start before the cancelation of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bulldogs' baseball program saw a program-record seven players selected in 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, with nine players signing with major league teams. During Dunn's tenure at Samford, the Bulldogs have seen three players drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft.

Prior to Samford, Dunn started the baseball program at Spain Park High School in Birmingham. In three years at Spain Park, he posted a record of 53-41. Dunn's teams also won two Jefferson County titles, a co-region championship and made two state playoff appearances.

In 2002, Dunn was named the Over-the-Mountain Coach of the Year and earned Coach of the Year in 2003 by The Birmingham News.

Dunn played four seasons at Auburn (1996-99). As a senior, he earned All-American honors as a catcher after batting .379 with a Southeastern Conference-leading 81 RBI.

Following the conclusion of his collegiate playing career, Dunn played two seasons in the Kansas City Royals organization.

Dunn graduated from Auburn in 1999 with a degree in social science secondary education. He is married to the former Marty Goldthorp and the couple has a son, Sam, and daughter, Linlee.

Baseball season tickets are available by purchasing the 2021-22 Gold Card for $65. This exclusive offer grants admission to all UAB men's and women's soccer, volleyball, women's basketball, and softball games in addition to all baseball home contests. Complete the Gold Card Request Form or contact the UAB Ticket Office at (205) 975-UAB1 for more details.

For more information on the UAB baseball team, follow @UAB_Baseball on Twitter and Instagram.

Turner Earns C-USA Spirit of Service Award

UAB track and field student-athlete, Laci Turner, has been named as one of 14 recipients of the 2021 Spring Spirit of Service Award.

The C-USA Spirit of Service Award is designated to recognize community efforts of the league's student-athletes, based upon significant community service, academic good standing, and participation in their elected sport.

The Spirit of Service Award is presented three times throughout the season, with UAB's honoree representing Conference USA's spring sports: baseball, men's & women's golf, softball, outdoor track & field, men's and women's tennis, men's & women's soccer and volleyball.

The junior has collected 88 hours of community service since her freshman year, 26 hours during the 2020-21 academic year.

Turner has been involved in serving various organizations including Smile-A-Mile Volunteer, MLK Day of Service, Bundles of Hope, Hurricane Sally Sock Drive, Magic Moments 5k, Christian Service Mission Hurricane Laura Supply Drive and M-Power Ministries.

In the classroom, Turner carries a 4.0 GPA in biomedical science. The Huntsville, Ala. native has been named to Conference USA Commissioner's Academic Medal from 2018-2021.

On the track, Turner placed 12th in the heptathlon with a personal-best point total of 4099 at the Conference USA Championships.

For more information on the UAB track and field team, follow @UAB_TF_XC on Twitter and Instagram.

UAB’s 2021 Recruiting Class Ranked By TennisRecruiting.net

The incoming 2021 UAB women's tennis class has been ranked No. 18 in the TennisRecruiting.net Top 25 Mid-Major Recruiting Classes.

New to the Blazers are Vanessa Mellynchuk, Enya Ratkic and Mackenzie White. All three are 4-star players.

Mellynchuk is from Edgewater, Md. She has a Tennis Recruiting Number (TRN) of 102 and a Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) number of 9.45. She will be playing in the Maryland State Doubles Finals on Saturday after taking home the Regional doubles championship on June 14.

Ratkic, the No. 7 ranked graduate in Texas, has a TRN is 62 and UTR is 9.86. Ratkic reached the finals of the 2020 ITA Fall Circuit in North Richland Hills, Texas in October.

White's TRN is 40 and UTR is 9.95. The Stockbridge, Ga. native is ranked No. 3 in the state of graduating seniors. She most recently played in the CTR Open Series in Duluth, Ga., advancing to the Round of 32 in April. Her brother Blake played soccer at UAB in 2018 and 2019.

This marks the first time since 2013 that the Blazers have been ranked when they were slotted No. 12. Last season's class of Sydney Clarke, Annalisa Smith and Maggie White received votes in the annual poll.

The TennisRecruiting.net mid-major rankings in tennis include all colleges in all divisions except for those in the five power conferences in college football - the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC-12, and SEC - as well as the Ivy League.

Blazer Bylaws

All UAB student-athletes must meet specific academic standards to compete for the Blazers. To be eligible for NCAA competition, a student-athlete entering his or her second year of collegiate enrollment must have completed 24 hours and earn at least a 1.8 GPA. A student-athlete entering his or her third year of collegiate enrollment must have completed at least 40% of the course requirements for the specific degree program with a minimum GPA of 1.9. For the fourth year, the requirement is 60% of the course requirements with a minimum GPA of 2.0, and for the fifth year, it is 80% of the course requirements with a minimum GPA of 2.0. Click here for more information on student-athlete academic standards, or follow UAB Compliance on Twitter @BlazerBylaws for compliance updates and reminders.

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