For the blue bloods of college basketball putting together a non-conference schedule isn’t a particularly arduous affair. While there may be an opening or two to fill in the spring/early summer period, that status generally makes it easy to put together a slate that works to the program’s advantage.
That isn’t the case for some programs that don’t have that kind of cache, especially if they’re hoping to get a home game out of a series. For UAB head coach Jerod Haase, who’s team not only reached the NCAA tournament last season but knocked off Iowa State once there, getting a fair scheduling agreement has proven to be a bit difficult.
Haase, however, wants to fill Bartow Arena too. And he’s not willing to sacrifice his team’s record or morale just to play more attractive schools.
“I’m not going to go 47 times to Alabama (and we play) and one time at UAB,” Haase said. “I have to do what’s best for our program too. And to be honest with you, we think pretty highly of our program right now.”
It should be noted that while UAB begins a four-game series with Auburn this coming season, with the Tigers hosting two of the meetings (UAB will host one at Bartow Arena in 2016, and the 2018 meeting will be played at Legacy Arena in Birmingham), UAB and Alabama have only played once in the history of the two programs. Hence Haase’s comment regarding scheduling, as he’s looking to put power conference opponents on UAB’s schedule in hopes of boosting his team’s profile come March.
In recent years Conference USA hasn’t been a major player when it comes to at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, so at the very least a quality schedule can help its automatic bid recipient seeding-wise. But that doesn’t mean the league’s coaches should agree to unfair scheduling agreements in their non-conference games, because they need to generate home ticket sales as well.
UAB, head coach Jerod Haase announce six-year contract extension
Less than a week after the team’s NCAA tournament victory, UAB officials have taken a step towards ensuring that head coach Jerod Haase remains the leader of the basketball program for the foreseeable future.
Wednesday afternoon it was announced that the two sides have come to an agreement on a six-year contract extension that will keep Haase in Birmingham valued at $1 million per season. According to the school Haase’s prior contract stipulated that he be paid $625,000 per season including incentives.
The contract still needs to be approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees Compensation Committee, which will meet later this week.
The move to ensure that Haase remains is an important one for the UAB athletic department, which has experienced its fair share of turmoil in recent months. Three sports, most notably football, were officially cut in November in a move that was a highly controversial one. During the basketball team’s upset victory over No. 3 Iowa State last week, some fans in attendance in Louisville chanted for the firing of school president Ray L. Watts.
In the release announcing Haase’s extension, the school revealed that it also has plans of upgrading the facilities for both basketball teams.
“Long-term stability for me and my staff is crucial and represents an important step in moving the program forward,” Haase said in the release. “Our recruits and their families can rest assured that I will be at UAB for the long-term future. Today’s commitment by the administration is a strong statement that UAB wants to be great in basketball.
“Planned future upgrades in travel, facilities and budgets will be an integral part of sustaining UAB basketball at an elite level.”
UAB finished fourth in Conference USA before winning the league’s automatic bid, and a number of their key contributors will be back next season. The Blazers’ top six scorers from this season, led by guard Robert Brown, have eligibility remaining with three (Chris Cokley, William Lee and Nick Norton) being freshmen.
UAB is wearing mismatched shoes to raise awareness for pediatric cancer
It isn’t some sort of fashion statement in an attempt to look cool. The mismatched shoe look is in place because UAB is hoping to raise awareness for pediatric cancer.
In a story from Alabama.com‘s Nick Birdsong from earlier in the season, the origin of the mismatched shoes for UAB is explained. After going on a European exhibition trip this summer, the Blazers faced a Spanish team with a player who wore two different colored sneakers. Liking the idea as a way to raise awareness for a cause, the Blazers decided to wear one green sneaker and one white sneaker while partnering with the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama.
The goal of the mismatched shoes is to raise awareness, and money, for pediatric cancer. UAB also played a special message during home games this season in the hopes of getting fans to donate to the cause.
UAB has experience helping pediatric cancer patients dating back to head coach Jerod Haase’s first year with the Blazers. The program adopted a young cancer patient named Elijah Serritt and the boy and his family have been a big part of the UAB program.
Birdsong explains the relationship between Seritt and UAB in his story:
Two years ago, during Haase’s first season at the helm, the Blazers adopted a young cancer patient named Elijah Seritt. Seritt and his family have been a source of encouragement to the team since.
Just 19 months old when he was first taken to the emergency room, Seritt has undergone 17 surgeries, including two brain surgeries as well as chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants since being diagnosed with medulloblastoma — a particularly aggressive form of cancer.
“Henry Ford talked about, ‘A business that only makes money is a poor business’ if that’s it’s sole purpose,” Haase said. “And I think if you’re a basketball program and your sole purpose is just to win games, you’re running a poor program. I think our guys are really bought in.”
Haase continued “They want to reach out to the community and this is something that does touch their heart with our relationship with Elijah. Obviously with the Children’s Hospital we feel like it’s a win-win situation.”
So when you see UAB take the floor in the Round of 32 on Saturday, now you’ll know that the team is out to raise awareness for pediatric cancer with their unusual sneaker fashion statement.
UAB head coach Jerod Haase gets two-year extension; prohibited from criticizing administration
UAB head coach Jerod Haase received a two-year extension from the school, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. But the interesting part of Haase’s extension doesn’t come in the additional job security.
The added two-year deal, which runs through March 25, 2019, helps in recruiting but Haase will have the same pay after starting his career 39-39 in two-plus seasons with the school. The AP reports that the University of Alabama System trustees compensation committee approved the deal Monday, which keeps Haase’s pay at $525,000 annually plus incentives.
With the new contract, Haase will also keep a clause in his original contract which he agrees to, “keep public statements complimentary to the administrators of the athletic program and to UAB.”
In light of UAB axing their football program, this is another way for that athletics department to protect itself from public scrutiny. At least Haase got some more job security out of things. The Blazers are 7-9 but riding a three-game Conference USA winning streak.
UAB got off to a tough start to its exhibition season on Friday night, as the Blazers fell to Division II UNC Pembroke 72-71. But if there is a silver lining its that UAB was without key freshman William “Haha” Lee in the loss, as the freshman forward is sitting out with a knee injury.
“I’m optimistic,” Haase said to Birdsong. “Good things are happening with the knee. He’s in a great frame of mind. I think he’s getting better all the time.”
Although Lee is progressing from the knee injury, he still isn’t in position to play, as Haase reiterated that his freshman forward isn’t prepared yet.
“I’m optimistic he’ll be back some point in the near future. I don’t think it’s in the next couple days certainly,” Haase said of Birdsong.
Without Lee, the Blazers are missing a dynamic athlete who can change the game on both ends of the floor on the interior. Lee is a bouncy and active forward who should rebound and score around the basket to begin his college career.
When it comes to the start of practices many programs like to get creative, and that’s been the case since Lefty Driesell started “Midnight Madness” in 1971 while at the University of Maryland. With the NCAA moving the start of practices up in recent years, allowing teams to get going six weeks before the first Friday of the regular season (this year that date is October 3), schools have explored many different ideas when it comes to celebrating the start of a new season and firing up their fan base.
“Each year, our goal is to make this event bigger and better than the last,” Haase said in the release. “Blazer fans have shown up in full force the past two years, and we know that they will once again enjoy this year’s Hoops on the Haasephalt. ”
According to UAB last year’s event attracted nearly 4,000 spectators, and the combination of some outdoor basketball with homecoming festivities could very well exceed that number this time around.
UAB finished the 2013-14 season with an 18-13 record, going 7-9 in Conference USA play. The Blazers will be young this season, with the 2014-15 roster having just three upperclassmen (two seniors and a redshirt junior) to go along with ten underclassmen. UAB’s most productive returnee is senior forward C.J. Washington, who averaged 13.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest last season.