Mal Moore Has Done Things Right

A little more than 10 years ago I was asked by a sportswriter at the Crimson White, the student newspaper at The University of Alabama, to rank the 50 most influential people in Bama athletics. He gave me a list of nominees, but didn't hold me to it, and I added some who were not on the list.

I didn't remember the specifics of the list of the Fabulous Fifty in the history of Alabama athletics, although I knew the top two (and today I wouldn't change 1. Paul Bryant and 2. Dr. George Denny). What I wondered as I looked back on it today was if Mal Moore was on my 1999 list.

He was. Moore was one of a half dozen I included on my final 50 who had not been among the nominees.

Regular readers know that I have long had a very high opinion of Mal Moore. Our relationship goes back to 1970, when he was a young assistant football coach and I was a slightly younger assistant sports information director to Charley Thornton (who was also on my list of 50).

In 1971, Coach Paul Bryant made some changes. Bama had gone 6-5 in 1969 and 6-5-1 in 1970 and was about to open the season against the pre-season number one team, Southern Cal at The Coliseum in Los Angeles. Moore had been a secondary coach and Steve Sloan the quarterbacks coach, but Sloan had left for a head coaching job and Moore took over quarterbacks.

He also took over a new formation, the wishbone, and he had an untested quarterback, Terry Davis.

Moore's wishbone offense became the nation's most innovative. Alabama won three national championships in Bryant's final 12 years and I am convinced the success of the wishbone offense extended his extraordinary career. Moore was the only offensive coordinator Bryant ever had.

In 1990, Moore returned with Gene Stallings and he was in charge of the offense when Alabama won the 1992 national championship. He added that ring to the five he had earned as an assistant coach and the one he had earned as a player on the 1961 team. Moore had been in Bryant's first Alabama recruiting class in 1957, over 50 years ago.

On November 23, 1999, Moore was named Alabama's director of athletics.

I played a truly insignificant role as Moore made the transition to administration. He used me as a sounding board in preparation for his interview. After being selected, we spent some time together on his remarks for his press conference. At that time we also discussed some questions that might come up.

One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was suggest that it was possible a question might come up about his wife Charlotte, and the amount of time her care might take away from Mal's work. He nodded and I could see him thinking how he would address that.

That question didn't come up. One of the worst questions I have ever heard in a press conference did. A television reporter asked if Moore's promotion and increase in salary might enable him to provide better care for his wife.

Mal's voice was steely as he answered, "We're doing just fine."

Charlotte, of course, was not doing fine. She was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease at a tragically early age. Eventually she would have to move to a nursing home. Before she left her home, Mal was providing around-the-clock care for her. And he was the care every minute he could be home. It was taking an obvious toll on him, a toll doctors urged him to share by placing Charlotte in a care facility.

Each day he possibly could, Mal Moore visited his wife. She has not been able to say his name for years. And when Moore went to the facility, he also made it a point to visit with as many other residents as possible. I have long ago lost count of the number of people who have told me how much that added to the comfort of the other residents.

When I visited him at his home Monday afternoon following Charlotte's death that morning, he was crushed. "This has been so hard," he said. And he felt great concern for his daughter, Heather Cook, because she lived in Arizona and had not been able to be around her mother as much as she would have wanted.

What Mal Moore has done for The University of Alabama is incalculable. At the most dire of times, Moore raised the money to bring athletics facilities from poor to among the nation's best. He made the hires to improve every program, with his most notable success the luring of Nick Saban to Tuscaloosa.

I have great admiration for Mal Moore for the job he did as a coach and the job he continues to do as director of athletics.

But my greatest admiration for him is as a man.

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