BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) _ Former Vanderbilt coach Watson Brown was picked today to guide Alabama-Birmingham's move to big-time football.

Brown had been offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, but was not being retained by new coach Howard Schnellenberger. Alabama-Birmingham officials announced Brown's selection at a news conference.

He will guide Alabama-Birmingham's efforts to move out of the shadow of Alabama and Auburn as the Blazers move up from NCAA Division I-AA to Division I-A in 1996.

Seven people interviewed for the Alabama-Birmingham job, including former Florida coach Charlie Pell, former Pittsburgh coach Mike Gottfried, and Bobby Wallace, coach of two-time Division II national champion North Alabama.

Others who interviewed for the job were Alabama assistant Woody McCorvey, Baylor offensive coordinator Jack Crowe and Georgia Southern coach Tim Stowers.

Brown, who interviewed Friday after Oklahoma's 31-6 loss to Brigham Young in Thursday's Copper Bowl, was favored by many of Alabama-Birmingham's big-money boosters.

Brown has spent time as either an assistant or head coach at eight schools during the past 20 years. Only once has he spent more than two seasons at a school before either leaving or being fired.

Brown was an assistant at East Carolina (1974-75) and Jacksonville (Ala.) State (1976-77) before becoming head coach at Austin Peay in 1979.

In 1981, he became offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, his alma mater, then was head coach at Cincinnati (1983) and Rice (1984-85) before returning to Vanderbilt as head coach in 1986.

He had three 1-10 seasons and won only 10 games with the Commodores before being fired at the end of the 1990 season.

Brown spent the next two years as the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State before taking the same position at Oklahoma.

Alabama-Birmingham's football program started as a club team in 1989 under coach Jim Hilyer and moved up to Division III in 1991. Hilyer's teams went 4-3-2 and 7-3 in two years in Division III, then 9-2 and 7-4 in two years of Division I-AA.

Hilyer announced Dec. 13 that he was leaving as coach to become assistant athletic director.