New UAB coach Trent Dilfer: CFP a 'giant mountain,' but one we should talk about

Trent Dilfer, the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback and ESPN analyst, was introduced as UAB's head coach on Wednesday, laying out a vision for an era of Blazers football that he said "many people couldn't possibly imagine."

Dilfer, who is about to finish his fourth season as coach at Lipscomb Academy in Tennessee, said he knows it's going to be challenging to transition to the college game. He said he likes "big climbs."

"It's a giant mountain," he said, "but I think the College Football Playoff is something we should talk about."

It was a strong sentiment to express about a program that until recently was a doormat in the Group of 5.

UAB didn't start playing NCAA football until 1996 -- overshadowed by the University of Alabama and far less resourced. It had three winning seasons and one bowl berth in the 17 seasons before Bill Clark took over as head coach in 2014.

The program was then shuttered following the 2014 season and didn't play again until 2017.

Clark stayed on through the shutdown and the return, and he led the team to a 43-20 record and two Conference USA championships before he stepped down in the summer to address an ailing back.

Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent was elevated to interim head coach and led the team to a 6-6 record during the regular season.

Dilfer, 50, admitted that he wasn't very well versed in the history of the program.

"I know this," he said. "I know if you're in the Southeast, you have a president that cares about excellence and an [athletic director] that understands the impact of football on a donor base that wants football to be good, you can be really good. So whatever the brand is on the jersey, I think this has an opportunity to be one of the best."

Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl as quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, said he didn't know what to think when UAB athletic director Mark Ingram first gauged his interest in the job.

"I wouldn't use the word 'scared,'" he said. "I was skeptical."

But the more Dilfer thought about it, the more he said his interest grew. People thought he was foolish for taking a job coaching high school football in Tennessee, he said, and on Thursday he'll lead Lipscomb to a state championship game.

"I'll make very few promises," he said. "But this promise I will make: You will get the best of me."

Dilfer said he'd be lying if he said he knew how to recruit at an elite level. But he said he'd learn.

He also acknowledged the players' feelings in him being brought on as coach.

The team sent a letter to the school president on Tuesday morning, expressing their frustration over the handling of the coaching search and throwing their support behind Vincent to be named the permanent head coach.

"They're losing a man they truly, truly believe in," Dilfer said. "Talking to those players today, you can see the pain in their eyes. They love Coach Vincent. They love that staff. And I said, 'I want to honor that.' I want to help them finish strong.

"But I also hope to earn their trust as we go through this together because great things are coming. So we'll connect with our current roster and we'll recruit them."

Vincent will stay on and coach the team in the HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 16 against Louisiana Tech.