Thursday, March 21, 2013
Bill Battle offers best of all worlds for Tide
By Chris Low
Not surprisingly, Alabama is bringing back one of its own to run the athletic department.
Not only that, but the Crimson Tide have turned to a former football coach to call the shots.
Why mess with a successful blueprint, right?
It certainly worked well with Mal Moore, who retired Wednesday to deal with health issues. Moore, 73, has a pulmonary condition and has been hospitalized at Duke University Medical Center since last week. On his watch, the Crimson Tide have put together an historic run in football with three national championships in the past four years.
Moore now turns over the keys to his beloved athletic department to one of his oldest friends and colleagues.
Alabama president Judy Bonner has recommended that Bill Battle, who played with Moore at Alabama under Paul "Bear" Bryant, replace Moore as Alabama's athletic director. The Alabama board of trustees will meet on Friday to finalize Battle's hiring.
Moore personally endorsed Battle, who was a three-year starter for the Tide from 1960-62.
There's also a bit of irony here. Battle was the head coach for seven seasons at one of Alabama's fiercest rivals -- Tennessee. Battle was only 28 when he landed the Tennessee gig and beat Bryant and Alabama in his first season with the Vols in 1970, but lost the next six. Four of those losses were by 17 points or more, and that losing streak to Alabama was a factor in Battle's ouster following the 1976 season.
He took the Vols to bowl games in each of his first five seasons, but after winning at least 10 games in each of his first three seasons, he only won more than seven once more. Toward the end, it wasn't pretty. Infamously, a moving van was once called to his house, and other times, people would put "For Sale" signs in his front yard late at night.
Battle walked away from the coaching profession, but was a smashing success in the business world. He started Collegiate Licensing Co. in 1981 and built into an empire that represented more than 200 schools, conferences and bowl games. He sold the company to IMG in 2007 for $100 million.
So suffice it to say that Battle is a shrewd businessman, which is an absolute must in today's world of college athletics. But he also has the football background that just about all coaches crave in an athletic director. Battle has played the game at a high level, and he's also been a head coach in the SEC.
The fact he's one of Bear's boys only makes it that much more of a slam-dunk for Alabama.
Battle and Moore were teammates on Alabama's 1961 national championship team and have maintained a close relationship. Moore's role in bringing Nick Saban to the Capstone was huge, and now Moore has chosen Battle as his successor.
Moore's tenure as athletic director hasn't been perfect, and Alabama has had its share of NCAA troubles. But give Moore credit for getting the program back to a point where it was in a position to land Saban.
I can assure you that Saban has been unbelievably appreciative of working for a football man like Moore who understands what it takes to win at the highest level.
Now, Saban is getting another football man in Battle, not to mention another Alabama man ... and a man who's proven he's not too shabby with money, either.
Sounds like another winning combination for the Tide.