But another opportunity — on a bigger level with considerably more money — came his way and after a week of intense speculation, Wednesday afternoon at 3 o'clock in Birmingham he will be introduced as the new head football coach at UAB.
Clark, 45, replaces Garrick McGee, who left the Blazers after two struggling seasons to become offensive coordinator at Louisville.
The Gamecocks acted quickly to fill their vacancy, promoting offensive coordinator John Grass late Tuesday night. Grass was Clark’s roommate during their non-playing undergraduate days at JSU.
Terms of Clark’s UAB contract were not immediately available, but he is expected to receive considerably more than the $175,000 a year the Gamecocks paid him.
And while terms of Grass’ new JSU contract are still pending, he is expected to receive at least a three-year deal paying similar to what Clark was making.
While the windfall was a consideration, Clark said, it was not the reason he was leaving his alma mater after only one season for a program that has its own set of challenges in a state with five FBS programs.
“This was more about UAB than it was about a lack of anything here,” Clark said. “To have a chance to coach in the FBS and be a head coach at that level in a program that needs help.
“There are only so many jobs in this state — that’s probably the biggest thing — where I keep retirement, FBS, need to improve, make a difference. It was all those things.”
Clark offered all of his assistants a chance to join him at UAB and most are expected to follow him.
Recruiting coordinator Jody Wright said he is going, as is defensive coordinator Duwan Walker, a longtime Clark aide. Running backs coach Jimmy Ogle, the only holdover from the previous JSU staff, said he was considering it.
Clark’s candidacy for the UAB job evolved quickly. He interviewed Friday, was approved by the school’s board of trustees on Sunday, spent most of Monday with the UAB president and Tuesday hammered out the delicate final language of the contract.
“I’m just glad it’s over with,” said Jim Coxwell, chairman of the JSU board of trustees athletics committee. “I want to get on with our program. We’ve got some good kids and some good coaches who are going to stay with us, and I want to see us be successful in our program.”
Clark wouldn’t go into detail about any assurances he received from UAB, but said he was “impressed” by the things he saw and heard.
Clark met with his players for about five minutes Tuesday night. He described their reception as “good.”
Athletics director Warren Koegel and university president Bill Meehan met with them the remainder of the 30-minute meeting.
If there was a discouraging word it wasn’t heard. The players were made off limits to media Tuesday night.
Clark took the Gamecocks to unprecedented heights during his one season. The team went 11-4, reached the FCS quarterfinals and set numerous school, conference and national records along the way.
He had four years remaining on his contract, which was bought out for $400,000.
Clark said there were “some efforts made” to keep him at JSU, but declined to elaborate. Clark and Koegel both said there was a chance during the negotiations the coach would stay.
Meanwhile, the program is set to host 18 prospects on official recruiting visits this week. Those plans were still in place.
“Everything this weekend is still on,” Wright said. “Commitments are being honored — just like last year.”
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.