Jones: Moore owes Saban a BIG one

Sports In Paradise By Dale Jones

If I were Mal Moore, I would think long and hard before selecting Nick Saban’s Christmas gift this year. Thanks to Saban and Saban alone, Mal Moore is now enjoying the monetary benefits of a Championship athletic program.

On Wednesday, the University of Alabama trustees offered Moore a three-year contract extension and increased his annual pay from $425,000 to $550,000.

Nick Saban is happy. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said it is something that was deserving of the former Alabama player, coach and assistant athletic director.

But if you look at the hires made by Moore since his tenure began back in 1999, it is Nick Saban who truly deserves the credit for Moore’s success.

First there was Dennis Franchione. This was seen, in the eyes of many, as somewhat of a gamble hire for Alabama. Sure, Franchione was on a hot streak at the time, and following the pathetic 3-8 third season of Mike DuBose, anything would be better. However, hiring a coach from TCU to take over the historically strong Crimson Tide left an uneasy feeling in the belly of some Tide faithful.

Franchione turned out to be a pretty good hire after all, going 17-8 in two seasons at the Capstone. Unfortunately “Coach Fran” bolted for Texas A&M in December, leaving Moore with another choice to make.

This time, Alabama’s “date with destiny” came on December 18 when Moore hired Washington State head coach Mike Price, who never event got the chance to walk the sidelines of Bryant Denny thanks to his own “date…with Destiny.”

Now what?

Moore did what has always been a popular decision in Tuscaloosa, he chose someone with Alabama ties, bringing in former Tide quarterback Mike Shula, who at the time was serving as quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins.

Everything looked promising for Shula as he steadily improved year-by-year at Alabama.
Season one: 4-9

Season two: 6-6 and their first bowl appearance in three years.

Season three: 10-2 and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

But then it all went south. In 2006, Shula’s team lost every single road game, finishing 6-7, and ending Shula’s career in T-town.

While none of these hires were necessarily bad selections (although the “Price” hire is still in question), Mal Moore’s most memorable, and most expensive, hire came in January of 2007 when he named Nick Saban as the new head coach at Alabama.

Although the cost of bringing in the former LSU, former Miami Dolphins head man was a cool $32 million over the next 8 years, it also bought Alabama another National Championship and Tuscaloosa’s first Heisman Trophy winner.

Moore did what any successful Alabama Athletic Director would need to do in order to receive such a raise. He spent huge amounts of cash to bring in the hottest coach in football, all the while holding the basketball and baseball teams at bay.

Now, with a 29 percent pay increase, a $50,000 bonus should the football team win a BCS National Championship or the men’s basketball team wins the NCAA tourney, or a $40,000 bonus if either team wins the SEC, Moore is truly enjoying the fruits of his hire.

But lets digress.

What if Mike Price would have spent 100 hours watching film rather than $1,000 on a stripper? Would Mal Moore be getting this raise?

I doubt it.

“Merry Christmas Nick…and thank you!” Sincerely, Mal.

-Hit ‘em straight!
—Dale Jones covers sports and news in Baldwin County.