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Former Alabama AD Mal Moore Dies at 73

Mal Moore and Nick Saban
Streeter Lecka, Getty Images

The University of Alabama, college football’s most prestigious school, has lost the most distinguished member of its family. Athletics Director Mal Moore passed away Saturday morning at the age of 73. During his 50+ years involved with the Alabama football program, Moore was a player, coach, or administrator for 10 national championship teams.

Moore had been battling health issues for the past two weeks after first being admitted to Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham on March 17. Doctors treated him before transferring him to Duke University Medical Center a couple of days later for further testing where he remained until his death. Moore eventually stepped down from his position as Athletics Director on March 20.

Newly appointed AD Bill Battle told WJOX in Birmingham earlier this week that Moore was in need of a lung transplant. Battle released this statement on Saturday:

The University of Alabama and the world of intercollegiate athletics have lost a legend and I have lost a dear friend. My heart goes out to his family and close friends in this time of sadness. After a time of grieving, we can begin to celebrate Mal’s life, as his legacy will last for generations.

The University of Alabama also released a statement:

The University of Alabama is sad to report that longtime Director of Athletics Mal Moore passed away on Saturday at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Mr. Moore was 73 years old.

 

To try and rank Moore’s accomplishments would be unfair to a man that devoted the his life to Alabama and its state university because you’d likely

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Moore was raised in Dozier, Alabama, in a farming family along with six other siblings. He arrived in Tuscaloosa on a football scholarship in 1958 to play for the legendary Bear Bryant. Things weren’t easy for the quarterback, though. He often told the story about nearly quitting the sport but never went through with it because he didn’t want to disappoint his parents.

It’s a great thing he didn’t.

Moore won his first national championship as the back-up to captain Pat Trammell in 1961. By 1963, he had earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. One year later, he earned a master’s degree in secondary education and became a graduate assistant under Coach Bryant. And with that, his coaching career began.

Moore served in many different capacities under Bryant. His first full time role came as the defensive backs coach in 1965. He moved to quarterbacks in 1970 and later added offensive coordinator to his duties in 1975. When Bryant retired in 1982, Moore had helped coach five more national championship teams at Alabama.

With Bryant no longer coaching, Moore ventured away from Tuscaloosa to take on opportunities elsewhere. As Alabama searched for its identity post-Bryant, Moore also tried finding his own replacement for the town and team he had spent 20+ years with. He joined Gerry Faust’s Notre Dame staff in 1982 and stayed with him until Lou Holtz moved to South Bend. His career made a brief stop in the NFL as an assistant with the Cardinals franchise before Gene Stallings and Alabama came calling once again in 1990.

The man with six national championships would add his seventh and final one as a coach in 1992 before leaving the sidelines in 1993.

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The chapter of his career that Bama fans will most associate him with began in 1994 when the university hired him into an assistant athletic director position. The new role also allowed Moore more time to spend with his wife, Charlotte, who began battling Alzheimer’s Disease just a few years earlier.

He would be called on to take the reigns of the athletic department he had given so many years to in 1999. The University wanted to put the program back into the hands of an ‘Alabama man’ following the Bob Bockrath tenure. That turned out to be one of the school’s best hires in its illustrious history.

Moore would eventually return the Alabama football program to the levels he enjoyed as a player and coach, but the process would be anything but smooth, and far from certain. He began by having to make a controversial decision on head coach Mike Dubose’s future, and followed that up by trying to find his replacement amidst speculation and rumor involving an NCAA investigation.

The football program would face one of the stiffest NCAA punishments handed down to a member institution up to that point. The penalties caused the Crimson Tide to wallow in mediocrity while a revolving door of coaches entered and exited the program. During a five-month stretch in 2002-2003, the team had three different head coaches – Dennis Frachione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula.

With his job security decreasing with each new hire, Moore put all of his cards on the table and took off for Miami. He discussed that process of hiring Nick Saban with 99.1 WDGM and The Game last year, and it’s a story that will live in Alabama lore. When Moore offered Saban what it took to bring him back to college football, the nation scoffed at the amount of money being paid to a coach at the collegiate level. All was quiet when that third crystal trophy went into the window of the football facility.

But even more important than the success he brought back to football was the fact that he brought the entire athletic department up to an elite level across the board. A premier fundraiser, Moore renovated stadiums and facilities all around the Capstone. You’d have a difficult time walking around campus and not seeing an area improved because of Moore’s efforts. And to think that none of this would have happened if most Alabama fans would have had their way and replaced him during the down years. It’s even more of a testament to what Moore accomplished.

Those that knew him would tell you that he was a better person than he was an AD, which is all the more reason that Tuscaloosa won’t be quite the same place.

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The man who’s voice sounded like it could have been plucked right out of a William Faulkner novel once said, ”The most happiest and proud moments in my career as AD was when Coach Saban took a job.” No disrespect to Coach Moore, but his impact will always be felt way beyond the day Coach Saban accepted the Alabama head coaching position.

 

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