First and foremost, all of our thoughts and prayers are with Mal Moore. He stepped down from his A.D. position due to health reasons. I have heard that he needs a lung transplant, but I cannot confirm if that is actually the case or speculation based on the fact that he is being treated at Duke University Hospital, which is best known for that procedure. In any event, it's clearly a serious situation and we all wish him the best.
While I have been critical of Coach Moore at times over the years for not supporting the basketball program as much as I would like (I still think we should have built a new arena instead of renovating Coleman, and I thought he waited a year too long to fire Coach Gottfriend), overall he has done a pretty good job. He did spend some money to bring in Coach Grant, of course Bryant Denny Stadium and the Coach Saban hires speak for themselves, and we currently have fantastic gymnastics, softball, and golf programs. The few times I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him, he was always friendly and down to earth, and his love for the University of Alabama was evident. He will be missed as athletic director.
It was announced today that President Judy Bonner is recommending Bill Battle for the job. I am willing to give him a chance, but he would not have been my first, second, or third choice. First the positives, like Mal Moore, he played for Bear Bryant, which will endear him to the big $$ folks. As much as I would love to have a basketball guy in that position, it's football that brings in the cash around here, and honestly I can't think of a qualified bball guy off the top of my head anyway, although I'm sure there is someone out there. Anyway, while he does have the Coach Bryant connection, I'm not sure that will be enough to be as effective of a fundraiser as Coach Moore was. While he was a good player for us, he wasn't around for as long as Coach Moore to become synonymous with the program. In fact, when I hear "Bill Battle" I think Tennessee before Bama.
An important aspect of the job is being able to run a business. Battle's business ventures have been very successful, so that is a good sign. On the other hand, his business, the collegiate licensing group out of Atlanta, has been directly responsible for some bad press we have received lately when they decided to sue a small local business using the "A" logo on some cupcakes. The fight over Daniel Moore prints was also related to the actions of Bill Battle's company, although it's debatable whether that was worthwhile or not. Moreso than those minor issues, I worry about his lack of experience in University or athletics administration. Other than his company which handles licensing issues, which is completely different, he has none, unless you include his head coaching career at Tennessee years ago.
If we were going to hire a former player with no University administration experience, I would have tried to hire Ozzie Newsome. Who knows if he would come, it would obviously be a step down from his position with the Baltimore Ravens, but it would at least be worth the call. He has the same football connections as Battle, but only better in that he was a hall of fame player still synonymous with Alabama football and he never coached for a rival. Plus, he's proven very proficient at running an NFL franchise, which I think is more analogous to running a college athletic department given the money and various moving parts involved, as opposed to running a private licensing corporation.
If we were going to hire a Tennessee person, I think Dave Hart should have been considered. I'm not completely sold on him due to the fact that I think he somewhat screwed up their latest football coaching search, but he walked into a financial mess up there and I'm sure he would love to come back. He was very well thought of within the administration here, and had been running the day to day operations for some time before he left. He knows all the players in the game and understands how things are done, and would be a safe hire. I also liked that he always seem to show a dedication to all sports, and was especially basketball friendly. Along those same lines, I think Shane Lyons should have been given consideration. He's been handling the day to day operations since Hart left, and by all accounts is doing a pretty good job, and is someone all the coaches already know and are familiar with. My concern with both of them, would be how effective would they be at getting the fat cats to open up their wallets.
My hope is that Battle will continue to show the commitment to ALL sports, and not just focus on football with everything else being an after thought. Of course, I want him to focus on basketball because that's most important to me, but I want ALL of our teams to be successful because they represent my University. As much as I care about basketball, I have a friend who is just as enthusiastic about Alabama baseball. I don't really follow college baseball, but I want them to do well and readily recognize that sport needs some attention from A.D. in the worst way right now. I'm sure there are fellow alums out there who feel the same way about volleyball, soccer, tennis, rowing, etc. I hope he realizes that we have to keep moving forward and be proactive to maintain our facilities and keep our coaches happy in those sports that we are dominating right now (football, gymnastics, softball, golf). If you stop trying to improve, you will be passed.
In conclusion, Bill Battle wasn't my first choice, but there are reasons to believe he can do a good job. I certainly wish him the best of luck, and I know we all hope he is successful.