The term “southern gentleman” has lost of a lot of its complimentary meaning in recent years, as laughable movie stereotypes depict seersucker-wearing villains speaking with syrupy faux accents.
But there is no other phrase to describe former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who died Saturday night at Duke University Medical Center at the age of 73.
Moore was a throwback to Alabama’s virtues of its strong, polite and hospitable ways. Despite a life in coaching, including stints as Alabama’s first offensive coordinator in 1975 and another stint at the same position under Gene Stallings from 1990-93, few have ever uttered unkind words about him.
Moore was, to use a word he used often to describe others, charming.
The longtime athletic director (1999-2013) reveled in the use of old-fashioned language, dragging out words like “cross” to describe someone being angry and “blue” when referring to anything even remotely off-color. Like the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, whom he had hoped to replace as head football coach, and Stallings, whom he helped win a national championship (1992 season), Moore was at his best when telling folksy stories over a plate of southern cooking and a tall glass of sweet tea.
He considered “tardiness,” as he called it, a sin and rudeness to be almost unpardonable.
He backed up Pat Trammell at quarterback on the Tide’s 1961 national championship team and went to work for Bryant as a graduate assistant in 1964. But it was as an administrator that Moore had his greatest impact. In 14 years as Alabama’s athletic director, he helped raise $200 million to modernize all the athletic complexes on campus. The AD’s office is located is the Mal M. Moore Athletics Facility.
Moore attracted talent to Tuscaloosa at a time when it was sorely needed. When no one thought such a move was possible, Moore persuaded Nick Saban to leave Miami and the NFL, while persauding the university board to make Saban the highest-paid college football coach in the country.
“Mal was the No. 1 reason we decided to make the move to Tuscaloosa,” Saban said in a statement. “There’s no question we have lost a great man today.”
Moore also attracted people like Mic Potter, the women’s golf coach who came from Furman and led the Tide to their first national championship in golf. And he improved the softball facilities, helping Alabama capture the national championship in that sport in 2012.
Moore stepped down from his post 10 days prior to his passing. He had been in Duke Medical battling a pulmonary condition since March 13, but expected to return to serve as special assistant to university president Judy Bonner. It was on Moore’s recommendation that Bonner hire Bill Battle — a former receiver and teammate of Moore’s — to replace him as AD. Battle assumed the job on March 23.
“The University of Alabama and the world of intercollegiate athletics have lost a legend, and I have lost a dear friend,” Battle said through a statement. “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.”