Choosing Successor To Mal Moore

One of the things that a sports reporter should be able to grasp after not too many years on the job is that people in sports know a lot more other people in sports than do sportswriters.



Mal Moore has spent his entire life involved in athletics. After starring in small town Dozier, he was a member of legendary Alabama Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's first Crimson Tide football recruiting class prior to the 1958 season. He was a back-up quarterback to Pat Trammell on the 1961 national championship team; an assistant coach on national title teams in 1964, 1965, and 1973; offensive coordinator for Bryant on 1978 and 1979 championship teams; offensive coordinator for Gene Stallings on the 1992 national championship team; and director of athletics as Nick Saban won national championships in 2009, 2011, and 2012.

That's 10 national championship teams in football. He was also athletics director last year when Bama won national championships in gymnastics (second in a row) and in softball and women's golf.

It was announced Wednesday that Moore is going to retire as athletics director and become a special assistant to University President Dr. Judy Bonner. Moore is at Duke Medical Center undergoing treatment for a pulmonary condition and he said in his retirement statement that issues with his health forced the decision.

To say that Moore leaves big shoes to fill is an understatement.

Moore kept his finger on the pulse of athletics. He had lists of men and women in the event he needed to make a coaching hire. He also selected key administrators in his department.

But did he have a list of potential athletics directors?

Maybe not.

Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban has ruled himself out as a possibility to wear two hats, director of athletics and head football coach. But he didn't shut the door on possibly being the athletics director one day. He also said that he would not be involved in the search for Moore's replacement, but that would be short-sighted on the part of The University and is not likely to be the case.

Whether it is Dr. Bonner (not likely, at least not unilaterally) or Chancellor Dr. Robert E. Witt or the Board of Trustees or some segment of that board (read Paul W. Bryant, Jr.). surely Saban will be consulted. For one thing, he, too, knows many people in athletics.

For another be reminded of Bob Bockrath. Bockrath was hired as director of athletics following the retirement of Hootie Ingram in the 1990s. Bockrath so irritated Football Coach Gene Stallings that Stallings walked away from the job.

The most important part of the criteria for the new athletics director is that he be someone who will not make Nick Saban walk away from the job.

Mal Moore left very large shoes to be filled.

Although there have been reports that former Crimson Tide star, Alabama native, University of Alabama graduate, and General Manager of the World Champion Baltimore Ravens would not be taking the job, it would be prudent for whomever is making the hire explore the possibility. After all, Saban never thought he would be flying from Miami to Tuscaloosa with Moore in early 2007.

Newsome might command a salary many times what Moore was making, but Moore would not be insulted by that. Moore is the ultimate pragmatist and he understands the market. He was not uncomfortable having the coaches who worked for him making far greater salaries.

Newsome, a member of the Hall of Fames for both college and pro football and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, is an African-American. It would be an eye-opening announcement for the female president of The University of Alabama to introduce the African-American director of athletics of the Crimson Tide.

But if it isn't Newsome, that doesn't mean it can't be someone quite capable.

Remember, people in sports know the best people in sports.

It isn't going to be Florida AD Jeremy Foley, who along with Moore ranks as best in the Southeastern Conference. No other SEC athletics director has legs, although some think Jeff Long of Arkansas did well in handling the Bobby Petrino scandal.

But there could be an athletics director at another school who makes sense. Right now the hot name is Louisville's Tom Jurich. His football team beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl, his basketball team is the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, and his baseball team is nationally ranked and recently swept the Tide.

Papa John, who has a lot of money (see Louisville's Papa John football stadium), might want to keep Jurich.

Ian McCaw at Baylor is considered among the nation's best athletics directors.

And there are probably quite a few more.

There are not many schools that might consider the color commentator on the radio broadcasts, but Phil Savage has a great deal more on his resume than that part-time job. Savage earned his master's degree from The University as a graduate assistant under Bill Curry, then left with Offensive Coordinator Homer Smith for UCLA, where he coached tight ends. He went into professional football and at one time was an assistant to Saban, who was defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns (where Ozzie Newsome was in administration). Savage is now executive director of the Senior Bowl in Mobile.

It could come from within the athletics department, although that seems unlikely, particularly with Saban taking his name out of the conversation.

Moore's top assistant is Shane Lyons, but as Moore has pointed out, being number two doesn't mean successor. Nevertheless, Lyons has some good credentials from the NCAA and the ACC.

Lyons's predecessor under Moore, former Alabama basketball player Dave Hart, is now director of athletics at Tennessee, a position he also held at Florida State.

There will be some support for Bama Gymnastics Coach Sarah Patterson, but the Peter Principle is not likely to be overlooked in the search. Patterson is the nation's best gymnastics coach and that is what she has done for over 30 years. But that is not athletics director.

Mal Moore has been making the important hires in the Alabama athletics department since 1999. Now someone else has to make one of the biggest hires in Crimson Tide history, replacing an exceptional Bama man.

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