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Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: March 22, 10:40 AM ET
Mal Moore loved Tide like no other

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

They don't make athletic directors like Mal Moore anymore. The modern athletic director is a guy whose favorite athletic gear is a deposit slip. He climbs the ladder of "development," the euphemism for fundraising. He has to hire a search firm to hire a coach, because he didn't coach himself.

Moore, whose ill health dictated that he step aside Wednesday as the Alabama athletic director after 13 years, has been none of that. Well, check that. Moore could raise money, as they say down South, like nobody's bidness. The university has spent more than $200 million on new and expanded athletic facilities during Moore's tenure.

All of that started with Moore calling the big wallets and saying in his soft Crenshaw County drawl, "We sure could use your help."

But buildings aren't the reason that Moore succeeded. They are the results. Moore succeeded because no man or woman, living or dead, cares more about the University of Alabama than he.

Mal Moore
Mal Moore certainly got it right when he hired Nick Saban as Alabama's football coach.

Moore serves as the strongest sinew connecting Alabama football today with the Bear Bryant Era. For 46 of the past 55 years, Moore has served as a student-athlete, assistant coach or administrator at Alabama.

Think of it -- Moore has won 10 national championship rings as a player (1961), assistant coach (1964, '65, '73, '78, '79 ,'92) and boss (2009, '11, '12). That takes care of his fingers. When Moore recovers from his lung ailment and begins his tenure as special assistant to the university president, Dr. Judy Bonner, he can begin on his toes.

Moore could be as cautious as he was courtly. What he lacked in flash he made up for with sheer doggedness, having learned his work ethic from the master, Bryant. Moore succeeded because on his fourth attempt at hiring a football coach, he got it spectacularly right.

Dennis Franchione fled in December 2002 because he didn't want to coach under NCAA probation. The university fired Mike Price in May 2003, before he ever coached a game, because of scandal. Mike Shula, weighed down by NCAA penalties, failed to rise above mediocrity.

In January 2007, Moore convinced Nick Saban to leave the Miami Dolphins. Never mind that Moore first got turned down by West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez. Saban said yes. He has won three of the past four BCS championships and turned Alabama into the gold standard of college football. Most important for the Alabama psyche, the Bryant legacy no longer looms as a reminder of what the Crimson Tide used to be.

The success of football would be legacy enough for Moore, but that's not all he has accomplished. In the 2011-12 school year, Alabama won national championships in football, gymnastics, women's golf and softball. He knows coaching and he knows Alabama, and the athletic department has never been more successful.

He arrived in Tuscaloosa in 1958 as a member of Bryant's first freshman class. Moore spent five years as a backup quarterback. As a fifth-year senior, he got beat out by sophomore Joe Namath. "I was first-team," Moore told writer Kirk McNair, "until he learned the snap count."

He spent 22 years of his 31-year coaching career working for Bryant or Gene Stallings at Alabama. After the 1993 season, he moved into athletic administration and became athletic director in 1999. Moore took over a program riven by factions and in a running battle with the NCAA. He leaves a program that is figuratively and literally under one roof -- his. In 2007, the university named the football building the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility.

Moore succeeded because he knew what he was good at. He depended upon capable administrators, such as Dave Hart, now the athletic director at Tennessee, and his current deputies, Shane Lyons, Finus Gaston and Ronny Robertson, to make sure the Crimson trains ran on time.

The university might not be in a hurry to hire anyone beyond an interim replacement out of respect to Moore. The people's choice to replace him, former Alabama All-American Ozzie Newsome, isn't about to leave his perch as general manager of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. It's a good bet the next athletic director will need a nod of approval from Saban.

Whoever that person is, he will be a departure. They don't make athletic directors like Mal Moore anymore.