University Legend Mal Moore Dies
Two weeks ago I had no doubt that Mal Moore would recover from the lung ailment that struck him this winter. A week ago I had concerns. After Thursday, I feared the worst, which came at 11:30 a.m. today at the Duke Medical Center in Durham, N.C. He was surrounded by his family.
This is going to be personal for many, many people. That is because Mal Moore served The University of Alabama for the better part of his adult life, beginning as a player under Paul Bryant in 1958. He resigned as director of athletics last week, and the reins were turned over to his chosen successor, Bill Battle.
Mal's coach, Paul Bryant, died 30 years ago, a month after coaching his final Crimson Tide game.
The two were connected for many years and will continue to be remembered for their extraordinary and legendary contributions to their university, and particularly to the Bama football team.
Mal may have sensed the end was near before anyone. His decision to resign his post seemed premature. In truth, it was probably a tell; he would not be back. Late this week he told his doctor that he did not want to be kept alive on a ventilator. The hope had been when he was sent to Duke that he could recover sufficiently to be capable of undergoing a lung transplant.
A first thought is that it is a shame that Mal Moore was not given the opportunity to live to enjoy the fruits of his hard labor on behalf of The Capstone. In truth, he did what he wanted to do until the end. He did not want to retire to the beach or the golf course. He wanted to be working for a better University of Alabama.
It is fitting that in his final years as director of athletics that he did his work from the big corner office in the Mal Moore Building, overlooking the practice fields where he toiled as a player and assistant coach.
He was brought in with the first group of recruits by Bryant. He did not achieve on-the-field stardom. Pat Trammel coached the national championship team of 1961, Moore's junior year. Mal joked that he was number one for "about two days of spring practice" in 1962, beaten out by sophomore Joe Namath. "It was a close call," Mal said of Bryant's decision.
Moore earned his first national championship ring as a player in 1961. He joined Bryant's staff in 1964 and was a defensive backfield assistant through the 1970 season. In 1971, as Alabama made the historic switch to the wishbone offense, Moore move to offense as quarterbacks coach, which evolved into offensive coordinator. He earned five more national championship rings as an assistant under Bryant.
After Bryant's retirement following the 1982 season, Moore went to Notre Dame as assistant head coach. Later he joined Gene Stallings as quarterbacks coach with the NFL Cardinals, first in St. Louis and then in Phoenix. When Stallings returned to Alabama as head coach in 1990, Moore was with him as offensive coordinator, and he earned another national championship ring – number seven – in 1992.
Mal's wife Charlotte was the victim of early onset Alzheimer's and it led to Moore having to give up on-the-field coaching. He went into administration and in 1999 was named director of athletics.
Charlotte died in 2010. They had one child, Heather, who is married to Steve Cook. They live in Scottsdale, Ariz., with their children, Anna Lee and Charles Cannon.
Although Moore was the offensive coordinator for four national championship teams, he is perhaps best known for having hired Nick Saban. With Saban has head coach for the past six years, Alabama (and Moore) have collected three more national championship rings in football.
Moore has also hired top coaches in other sports, and supported all of his coaches and athletes. Last year Alabama won national championships in football, gymnastics, women's golf, and softball.
When Moore took over as athletics director, Bama facilities had fallen behind. Even though football was at a tough time, under NCAA probation and with below average on-the-field records, Moore launched an effective fund-raising campaign that allowed him to make two additions to Bryant-Denny Stadium and add or improve facilities in other sports.
He also revamped Bryant Hall – the former dormitory for football and men's basketball – into an academics center that serves all athletes. He considered that a critical move to properly serve athletes, and the results in graduation rates have reflected that vision. Moore has both undergraduate and master's degrees from Alabama.
In recent years he had encouraged the growth of Alabama's 12 Red Elephant Clubs, which raise money to endow scholarships for the athletics department.
Last December at the College Football Hall of Fame Banquet at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, the National Football Foundation recognized Mal Moore with the John L. Toner Award, presented to the nation's most outstanding director of athletics. He is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
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