ATHENS, Ga. – The controversial elimination of UAB’s football program in December cast an ugly shadow on the sport of college football. From the shock of the program’s dismantling to the less-than-adequate reasons for its destruction, UAB’s abandonment of its football program left people jobless and to some extent hopeless.
But through the darkness was some light and a glimmer of hope in the form of linebacker Jake Ganus.
Likely unknown to most in SEC country, Ganus’ unflattering exit from UAB didn’t cast him out of college football. In fact, Ganus made quite the upgrade by landing at Georgia after being pursued by around 40 schools following UAB’s demise.
After what was an up-and-down start to the month of December, Ganus, a senior-to-be, found solid ground after a visit, offer and commitment to Georgia in only a week’s span.
“It was a rollercoaster, that’s for sure,” Gansus said. “You beat Southern Miss on Saturday to become bowl eligible and then the next day you find out you’re losing your team. Two weeks later, I find out I have an offer from Georgia.
“It worked out for the best, and I’m glad that I’m here.”
Ganus’ arrival at Georgia gives the Bulldogs a critical piece to their puzzle at inside linebacker, where they lost startersAmarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, It also gives Ganus renewed life at a dream school he never thought he’d have the chance to play for.
Despite being a highly sought-after free agent in December, Ganus, who led UAB in tackles the last two seasons, wasn’t much of a high school recruit. His only FBS offers came from UAB, Air Force and Navy; two of them offered him as an option quarterback.
But after spending three years as a starter at UAB, accumulating 226 tackles with 28 for loss and six sacks, Ganus became an attractive prospect for plenty of schools seeking help at linebacker.
He took a short visit to Marshall, but Ganus, who was born in Alpharetta, Georgia, committed to the Bulldogs after his visit to Georgia.
"We took a good look at the [UAB} film, but Jake stood out,” coach Mark Richt said. “He's a guy that we thought could come in and help us. Obviously Jake doesn't have a lot of eligibility left, but he's got a lot of maturity about him, and we really believe he's going to come in and give us some good pop."
Ganus hasn’t played SEC ball, but he has dipped his toe in it. This past season, he recorded a season-high 11 tackles at Arkansas, which is a game he think helped him land so much attention from bigger schools.
“That was my best game of the year, and that shows I can compete at this level,” Ganus said. “It’ll be a lot different competing weekly at the level, but I’m up to the challenge.”
While Ganus is ecstatic about playing at Georgia, he feels for the former UAB players and coaches not afforded the same kind of opportunity. Anger and sadness resonate when he thinks about the death of UAB’s program.
Ganus said rumors of UAB’s demise circulated throughout the season, but coaches tried to diffuse those rumblings. But the signs were always there: the questionable financial reports, the promise of a turf field that was shut down for no reason, a locker room that Ganus described as “probably worse than half the high schools in Birmingham” before its recent renovation.
Even as more reports of flawed numbers concerning UAB’s financial situation with the program surface, Ganus can set aside his anger and bitterness.
“It’s a tough thing, but I hope it all works out for the best,” he said.
“I try not to think too much about it because it does make me upset and I hate it. … I hope everything gets worked out over there and they can bring it back one day.”
For now, Ganus has new life and a new home. He has only nine more months with the Dawgs, but he plans to take full advantage of that time. His departure from UAB was gut-wrenching, but Ganus has found renewed faith and happiness in Athens.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I love Athens, I love Georgia, the whole community. You walk around town and you know football is important. It means something to these people. In class, students [are] wearing Georgia gear; every single one of them has something Georgia on. That’s something new for me, and I love that. I take so much pride in that. It’s been a lot different, but in a good way. I couldn’t be happier to be here, and I’m so excited.”