UAB fires coach Neil Callaway

UAB fired football coach Neil Callaway on Sunday, a day after the Blazers lost to Florida Atlantic 38-35 to finish the season with a 3-9 record.

Callaway, who had an 18-42 record in five seasons with the Blazers, told ESPN.com that UAB athletic director Brian Mackin fired him during a meeting Sunday morning.

When UAB announced the move later Sunday, the school said Callaway resigned his position.

"I really appreciate the opportunity to be a head coach," Callaway said. "I appreciate the players and coaches for all their hard work. I wish we would have won more ballgames, but under the circumstances, I think we did a pretty good job."

Hampered by poor facilities and the smallest recruiting budget in Conference USA, Callaway never had a winning season at UAB. His team's best finish was 5-7 in 2009. The Blazers won two of their past three games this season, including a 34-31 upset of then-No. 20 Southern Miss on Nov. 17.

UAB home attendance dipped to its lowest average since 2002, and the school's board of trustees earlier this month rejected plans to build a $75 million on-campus football stadium.

Mackin said Monday he'll lead a national search to replace Callaway.

"I think the trustees said that they needed to see support from the community and from our students," Mackin said. "I think that this hire is very important to the success of our football program, absolutely. We need someone to come in here and sell this program and recruit and win. I think it is very critical."

Callaway was hired at UAB in December 2006 after six seasons as offensive coordinator at Georgia.

Callaway is the third Conference USA coach to be fired this season. Memphis' Larry Porter was fired Sunday, and Tulane's Bob Toledo was fired earlier this month.

The Blazers are overshadowed within the state by Alabama and Auburn and perhaps even Troy. Mackin was asked if prospective candidates might balk at taking the job at a program with no stadium on campus.

"I look at the other side of it," he responded. "There are 120 of these Division I jobs and you've got nine assistant coaches (per team), so there are 1,000 coaches out there that want a job to be a head coach.

"I turn it on the other side, this is an opportunity for someone to be a head coach at a Division I program and that is pretty special."

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.