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.

8 Comments

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  1. 1
    BAMAToNE

    Personally, I think this column is unfair to Mal Moore. Yes, this is Alabama and football is king. But Moore is the Athletic Director, not the Football Director. There were misfirings (so to speak) on the football coach, but Moore has done a magnificent job with facilities and other athletic endeavors: Anthony Grant, the soccer coach, volleyball to newly renovated Foster Auditorium. And not just stadium expansion, but a complete facelift for the entrances on both sides.

    Go look up how much Foley makes at UF. Moore is worth every penny of this $550,000 salary.

  2. 2
    capstonereport

    This is an interesting point BAMAToNE.

    I’m generally satisfied with Moore, and understand most of his hires. I think Franchione was a good one, and Price made sense at the time. So, did the Shula hire.

    I do hear considerable complaints from Alabama fans of the minor sports. Baseball is probably the loudest complainers about Moore.

  3. 3
    pete4tide

    That would be because, like basketball under Gottfried, Moore continued to support mediocrity from Coach Wells even when it was obvious to the minimal fan that he was no longer interested in coaching at Bama. Moore made a good decision with Grant in B-Ball, but it was about 5 years later than it should have been. Same with baseball. I guess if I’m working for him I appreciate his loyalty, but in this day, Bama fans no longer approve of mediocrity in any of the major sports, and Moore needs to learn to let go of personnel who are beyond their best years of coaching at Bama.

  4. 4
    capstonereport

    That would be a fair assessment of Moore’s style regarding termination.

    In his defense, it isn’t uncommon for a manager to be reluctant firing subordinates even when it is obvious to outsiders or others within the organization.

    Having been in a position to fire more than one person, sometimes you weigh the chaos and problems with firing against the benefits. Often, the trouble isn’t worth the hassle—this is particularly true when you have larger problems in other areas. From an AD perspective, football facility expansion would likely get more of my time than other sports. Is it fair? Is it best management? Probably not, but these are humans and we all deal with human limitations.

  5. 5
    Crimsonite from the mighty Crimson Tide in a stadium far far away. Formerly E.G. White

    You have a good point. But at the same time there has to be some level of loyalty to those who have done well by Alabama. You have to be sure it’s not just a temporary slump. For Christ sake, Bear had 2 horrible years back to back in the middle of his Bama tenure. Should we have fired him after the 2nd one? Bama is capable of going undefeated this year, but there are no guarantees in football. What if we lose to Penn St, twice to Florida, to LSU and Arkansas? All top 10 quality teams, then a bowl against say Va Tech or Oklahoma? We go 8-6 against the toughest schedule in the country – God forbid. Are you going to call for Moore to mount Saban’s head on a spear along side of his statue? Well maybe! Ha Ha Ha! But really, get serious, some coaches deserve a little loyalty, or slack. Gottfried took Basketball to the Super 8 for the first time. Baseball made it to the CWS championship game for only the second time in history. I’m glad those guys are gone, but I’d also like to say thank you very much! RTR!

  6. 6
    ATLANTAROLL

    I think its mutual.You think Saban is glad Moore had the Gump-tion to call that second time? I think so.

  7. 7
    BamaBrando

    I agree. You can tell Saban is glad to be here and has the kind of support he has here as well. And he is really just getting started! But Mal Moore deserves to be where he is at as long as he is capable. He helped take Bama to this level as much as anyone.

  8. 8
    BAMAToNE

    Crimsonite makes a very good point about the difference between mediocrity and a slump. And I agree with Cap about Fran, Price, and Shula. Although one of Moore’s biggest mistakes is undoubtedly the multi-year extension given to Shula after his third year. I think any Bama fan worth his salt was shaking his head at that one. It was pretty obvious Shula was a loyal Bama guy, decent recruiter, but bad head coach.

    Baseball was certainly down for a few years, but I don’t think you can chalk up Moore keeping Wells around for so long merely to loyalty. Wells is the all-time winningest manager in Bama baseball history. I think Wells deserved the right to decide when he retired, much like Paterno at Penn St. In any case, we have Gaspard now and if this season was any indication, I’m excited about the future of the baseball team.

    I do agree, however, that Moore held on to Gottfried for much too long. I don’t know what the deal there was. But I think he hit a solid triple with Grant. (We’ll see in the future if it was a HR.)

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