MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore, who played and coached under Bear Bryant, hired Nick Saban and presided over a heyday in athletics at his alma mater, has passed away.
The university said the 73-year-old Moore died on Saturday at Duke University Medical Center. Moore had been in the Durham, N.C., hospital since March 13 with pulmonary problems.
The folksy, silver-haired Moore was part of 10 football national championship teams as a player, coach or administrator in a career intertwined with three of the Crimson Tide's most revered coaches — his old bosses Bryant and Gene Stallings and Saban, who has won three of the last four national titles.
He played for Bryant's 1961 national championship team, and Bill Battle — another member of that team — was hired to replace him two days after Moore stepped down on March 20. He was to become a special advisor to Alabama President Judy Bonner.
"The University of Alabama and the world of intercollegiate athletics have lost a legend, and I have lost a dear friend," Battle said in 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."
Moore oversaw an athletic department since 1999 that made more than $240 million in facilities improvements — including multiple expansions of Bryant-Denny Stadium — and won national championships in football, gymnastics, softball and women's golf in 2011-12.
He hired Saban in January 2007 after flying to south Florida hoping to lure him from the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
"Mal was truly a special person in every sense of the word," the coach said. "We can talk about all the championships Mal has been involved with, but I think what will be remembered most was the man he was. He always put the best interests of others ahead of his own, he carried himself as a first-class gentleman, and he helped bring out the best in those around him.
"Mal was an outstanding leader in terms of all he did for Alabama athletics. Most importantly, he was a great friend to me and my family. Mal was the number one reason we decided to make the move to Tuscaloosa."
The football building and his own memorabilia-covered office were housed in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, named after him in 2007.
"Coach Moore will be deeply missed," said Gov. Robert Bentley, a 1964 Alabama graduate. "I've known Mal for over 30 years and have always considered him a good friend as well as a good man. He was devoted to UA athletics, and he will also be remembered for his dedication to his family. Mal made a positive impact on our entire state."
Moore's biggest claims to fame might have been the hiring of Saban and his long relationship with Bryant, whom he had hoped to succeed.
He also helped Bryant switch to the wishbone offense in 1971
"I think my first reaction would be that he will go down in the annals of the University of Alabama football program as truly one of the seminal figures that have ever been," longtime Birmingham radio talk show host Paul Finebaum said. "You hear this line sometimes and it's perceived as a cliche — but if there was a Mount Rushmore for Alabama football, I really think coach Moore would be right next to coach Bryant. I think he was that important.
"I don't think anybody has affected Alabama football longer than Mal, when you consider when he got there, what he's done and the legacy he leaves behind."
Finebaum said he introduced Moore at a January event and told Moore: "Mal, you're going to be remembered as the man who hired Nick Saban."
"He just laughed and broke out in that toothy grin," Finebaum said. "He loved that. He loved nothing more than the University of Alabama."
Moore was a freshman on Bryant's first Alabama team in 1958 then spent 22 seasons as a coach, including a stint with Stallings for the NFL's Cardinals in St. Louis and Phoenix.
He joined Bryant as a graduate assistant in 1964 and coached both the secondary and quarterbacks before becoming the Tide's first offensive coordinator in 1975. He was also Stallings' offensive coordinator from 1990-93 in a tenure that included the 1992 national championship.
"You've got to realize he's got 10 national championship rings," Stallings said. "Not many people have done that. He was responsible for hiring Coach Saban, which obviously has really made a difference in the program. All of those great facilities — the expansion on the stadium, the (luxury) boxes, the expansion of the complex — fell under his responsibility.
"Coach Bryant was very fond of Mal Moore. In fact, he used to tell me from time to time, 'I'm telling you, Mal Moore is as good a football coach as you are.' He had great respect for Mal."
Moore interviewed to take over the program after Bryant retired in 1982 but was passed over in favor of New York Giants coach Ray Perkins. That left Moore thinking about getting out of the profession before Notre Dame's Gerry Faust hired him to coach running backs.
"At the time, I kind of felt like a man without a country," Moore said in a December 2012 interview ahead of the BCS championship game with the Fighting Irish. "I was in a strange position that I'd never been in before."
His wife of 41 years, the former Charlotte Davis, passed away after a long illness in 2010. His daughter, Heather Cook, lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Moore "served his alma mater with grace and dignity."
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive remembered Moore similarly.
"It was with great sadness that we learned our dear friend Mal Moore passed away this morning," Slive said. "Mal was a dignified and quiet man, always charming, gracious, thoughtful and caring. Mal had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great storyteller, while at all times a man of abiding humility. He was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather. He will be missed by all of us."
Several current Tide players responded to the news of Moore's passing on social media.
"Coach Mal Moore will be missed so much," quarterback AJ McCarron said on his Twitter page. "I love you coach & know you will be watching over us from above. We will always remember you (hash)loveU".
Safety Vinnie Sunseri posted on Twitter: "Thank you for everything you've done for this entire University Coach Moore your a inspiration to us all and even more u were a great man!"