ITKAlabama Athletic Director Bill Battle has a plan. I get an email from him every week telling me so. It reads more like a report than a plan, and from the looks of things, all seems to be going pretty well in Tuscaloosa.

For instance, his last email told me:

Men’s Golf is currently ranked 1st in the country.

Bama Softball is dominant, once again, ranked 2nd.

Gymnastics is currently ranked 4th and in prime position for another National Championship.

Baseball is back, fresh off a series win over Auburn, ranked 9th.

Women’s Tennis is also 9th.

So is Men’s Track.

Women’s Golf is just outside the Top 10, at #11.

And yet, for many, all they can think about is the two “money” programs falling short in their last seasons. To many, this is the feeling:

The Real Battle Plan

Alabama basketball is in the worst shape it’s been in in decades. It is certainly as bad as it has ever been in my lifetime. Once thought to be the worst coach in ages, somewhere David Hobbs is sending Anthony Grant thank you notes for erasing his dismal place in Bama roundball history.

The Tide can’t keep players, with more transferring after the latest disappointing season. Former JUCO All-American Algie Key? Gone after one year. Underperforming Carl Engstrom? Adios to take his average game back to Europe. Nick Jacobs? Took a leave of absence beginning in early February and never suited up again, his status still unclear.

This happens every year at Alabama. Players leave. I recently heard that nationally the average for departures is around 40%, and in reality the Tide falls within that range. But for a program that fails annually to reach anything remotely close to competitive basketball…and by competitive I mean reaching the NCAA Tournament, not just chalking up a feel-good win every now and then…these departures look bad. This ain’t Kentucky, where players are leaving to get paid. This is Alabama, where players are running from something.

Then there’s football. Don’t even get me started. It still makes me grin to think of the lamenting and gnashing of teeth over an 11-2 year, fresh off three National Titles. This with another “down” 10-3 season sandwiched inbetween all the hardware.

These are still the best of times in Tuscaloosa, from a football perspective. Recruiting at Alabama is just stupid good these days. The success of other programs in our region of the country fails to move the needle on the wave upon wave of top talent sprinting to suit up in the Mal Moore Athletic Complex every year. We are still the game everybody circles on their schedule. No one ever overlooks Alabama. Visiting stadiums fill up because Alabama is there, as fans of other programs hope to get a glimpse of Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban.

Teams celebrate improbable wins based on miracles like there’s no tomorrow, probably because there won’t be. Whereas in Tuscaloosa, there is almost a guarantee that when the dust settles in late November, the Tide will once again be in contention. Not occasionally, or a flash in the pan. Every stinking year.

So what is the “Battle Plan”? Frankly, I have no idea. Bill Battle seems to be a good guy. I disagree with his lackadaisical approach to basketball. Anthony Grant has been given proper time to build something more than the Crimson sandcastle he’s constructed, to the tune of $2 Million annually. But all in all, if you’re complaining about much else in Tuscaloosa, you’re just looking for something to complain about.

As a kid I used to be perplexed about the story in the Bible of Moses leading the nation of Israel out of captivity in Egypt. They were slaves there, under the harsh rule of King Pharoah. Slaves, working for someone else’s dime. Then God comes along, frees them through a series of miracles, sending them on their way in amazing fashion. And yet, they couldn’t be happy. God split the freaking Red Sea, then crushed their captors from Egypt in hot pursuit of them under a wall of water, and within days of escape they’re whining and complaining all over again. God even dropped breakfast from the sky when they had nothing to eat…every day, for crying out loud. But eventually this wasn’t good enough. And to top it all off, when Moses comes down from the mountain, the Ten Commandments in hand, there they all are, worshipping idols they’ve built instead of the God who delivered them. And I mean days…not years…after He made way for their freedom.

As an Alabama fan, I sometimes feel like we’re the “Children of Israel” of college football. How much better can it get? Are we to win it all every season? Certainly that’s the goal. But come on man…is it going to happen? And as a whole, isn’t our program firmly planted as one of if not THE best in the land? Certainly the best in the state and/or Southeast. If you’re filling in the blanks at home, regardless of a misstep here and there, that answer is “yes”. And yet, we complain, while so many others would love to see their program string together the kind of years we’re taking for granted.

I think Bill Battle’s plan is simply this: Don’t screw anything up. It’s pretty good right now, but can be better. The only area that really needs improvement is indeed basketball. Bruce Pearl arriving across the state will ultimately do us favors, in one way or another. Until he gets caught cheating again, the temperature on the hardwood will be turned up to the point that Grant will either be forced to rise to the occasion or be forced out.

We’ll see. But until then, I’m not building any idols. I’m happy with what we’ve got.

(Follow ITK on Twitter for Bama news, commentary and smack.)

20 thoughts on “What “Is” Bill Battle’s “Plan”?”

  1. I still don’t think it’s a coincidence Alabama has so much success in all its athletics (basketball notwithstanding). There’s a cultural idendity of excellence and dedication. There’s a standard that permeates well beyond football, it’s just the football that most of the rest of America notices even while Alabama is winning national titles in sports like golf, softball and gymnastics.

    I don’t know if there’s a better candidate than Bill Battle for Alabama’s AD, but I do know this; you can’t replace Mal Moore. You just can’t.

    I recently met Danny Ford, former Tide great under Bear Bryant, title winner, etc. He’s all Clemson now, perhaps obviously, but not really in any true administrative sense. He was perhaps Clemson’s best coach and he seemingly sits on the sidelines, away from the athletic department’s challenges and goals.

    Alabama instead has had so much success over history, particularly in football, that there is no shortage of good potential administrators.

    Make no mistake, Bill Battle is one of them. At any other school, Battle would be perhaps their best AD yet. At Alabama, the competition is a little stiffer, especially following in Mal Moore’s footsteps.

    But for what it’s worth, Battle seems to be following Mal Moore’s play as closely as possible. Maybe it’s not fair to say Alabama athletics is the house that Mal built, but he sure did patch up just about every leaky roof and creaking door. For now, Battle hasn’t needed any kind of comprehensive plan, mostly because, like you said, things are really good in Alabama’s athletics right now. Basketball is one thing, and I agree that Grant had his chance, yet I wouldn’t call keeping Grant a mistake on Battle’s part.

    Only time will tell how good of an AD Battle will be. Perhaps we’ll never know how much of Battle’s legacy is residual success from Mal Moore himself, but we’ve seen Alabama in bad shape before. If all Bill Battle has to do is keep it from reaching that state again, Roll Tide, Mr. Battle.

  2. I believe Battle was pretty smart the way he played the cards on the Anthony Grant deal. Two things can happen now and both are good. One, Grant turns things around…good. Two, Grant fails again and it is undisputed that he needs to be fired…good. Then Alabama can move forward with a new coach that Battle has had plenty of time to find. I hope (I bet he does) that he has a list of potential candidates in his jacket pocket at all times.

    Just like in the Paul Newman movie…sometimes nothing is a pretty cool hand.

  3. concerning Alabama football, i couldn’t be happier. 3 of the last 5 Natty’s? please. after wandering in the wilderness for all those years, finishing in the top five yearly with a nattys sprinkled in is all i expect.

    basketball? somehow i wish there could be a culture change where our A D started expecting everything from our basketball program that’s expected from our football program.

    anthony grant came to Alabama looking to be somewhere else. Mal Moore signed him to top 20 in-the-nation money expecting to get a ready-for-primetime coach. grant has been anything but. had grant got the job he really wanted, Florida, he’d be unemployed right now. ironically, he’s lucky to be at Alabama, where his boss could care less about basketball.

    folks point to the league being down in basketball as some kind of excuse. i see that as a reason to shine. look at what FSU football did all those years in a piss-poor football conference. Memphis basketball all those years in the conference usa. the common denominator? great coaches. FSU had Bowden. Memphis, Calipari.

    but at Alabama, we don’t “want it” for basketball. we don’t want Final Fours. we don’t want national titles. we don’t expect the things for basketball we do of football. that’s why we still play in an auditorium, not a basketball arena. that’s why we allow geezers the prime seating year after year and relegate the students, the very ones who make the noise and create a home court advantage for your team, to the corner. i could go on and on.

    in football we fire a mike shula to get a shot at a Nick Saban. in basketball, we tolerate the same potato head. and this past season is what you get. and next season grant will make the tournament, maybe win one game, and everyone will jump up and say ‘see, i told you so’. we lay the bar on the floor for grant, then when he bunny hops over it we’re validated.

    and as an Alabama basketball fan i’ll be relegated to years of more half-ass Alabama basketball effort.

    and that’s exactly what keeping grant after the past three seasons is.


    it is a goddamned sick shame that i have to root for bruce pearl and auburn to shame bill fucking battle (or whoever) into doing something about the half-ass basketball in tuscaloosa.

    if you’re not playing to win it all, why play?

    if you’re not leading, you’re coasting.

    and that’s exactly what bill battle’s doing, coasting.

    battle plan my ass.

  4. Please do not blame Bill Battle for Anthony Grant…THIS IS Mal Moore’s Plan. Period. I can remember some calling for Mal’s head too??? Some people would bitch about Ice Cream…Sheesh…Talk about your Children of Israel…

    Battle is doing what he has to do…CAG gets one more year to improve…It is what it is…Deal with it and support the TEAM…Which includes the coach…If you root for Bruce Pearl you are a traitor…Nuff Sed…

    Am I happy with Bama Basketball??? NO…Am I ready fire the coach??? NO…Am I for recruiting good players??? YES….Has Grant done that??? YES…So what is the problem??? THEY LEAVE…Bama has never been KY or FLA when it comes to Basketball and they may NEVER be…If you cant get good players to stay…You LOSE…

    Roll Tide Y’all
    Protect AMerica, Build Submarines

  5. and let’s be honest about Mal.

    Mal got lucky. after canning pretty boy shula (who he hired) Mal had a handshake agreement with Rich Rodriguez. had Rodriguez’ wife not heard some talk radio banter about herself, got pissed and dragged her husband back to W. Virginia by his ear, we’d have been stuck with that bonehead.

    out of desperation, Mal flew to Miami not knowing if Coach Saban would even see him. and those are his words, not mine.

    over the years, i’ve met and spoke with Coach Moore on several occasions. nice a man as i’ve ever met. spoke with me as if i were a friend.

    but the unvarnished truth is had he not got lucky with Coach Saban, his legacy would be completely different.

    1. Considering opposing teams will average below 6, it won’t much matter. Only stupid Barners think football is about arena legue offense. Now go back to your sheep.

      1. Sure. Because all of the teams you face this year will have horrible offenses like the one we saw Saturday. I doubt anyone scores on you this year.

        1. @peachy

          Sure, because the “horrible” offense you saw Saturday using less than the starting lineup and roughly 10% of their play book according to several current and former players (as is expected in any spring game) can’t be judged on the mistakes of the awful Alabama defense.

          LSU might still be the best team on Alabama’s regular season schedule but discounting Alabama’s future based on A-Day alone is…well, I’ll let someone else answer that one.

          1. I certainly don’t think they’re doomed. Their defense will still be stellar. But if Coker doesn’t come in and learn the playbook quickly and run it effectively I could see Alabama losing 2 games (LSU, Auburn) and sitting on a possible upset against Miss St. Alabama generally plays down the week after LSU and again this year they play Miss St the week after traveling to Baton Rouge. Miss St is going to be a solid team. Looking at their schedule they could be 8-4, 9-3 and catch both Auburn and Alabama a week after LSU. Could be a trap game for both teams.

          2. @peachy

            Well said.

            I think the tricky part is now the playoffs. Alabama has won national championships both without being undefeated or being SEC Champs. How badly you lose and strength of schedule matters now more than ever.

            I’m not suggesting Alabama will go undefeated any more than I’m saying they could, but you’re right that a lot has to come together quickly. Coker, for example, nearly won the starting job as a senior over Winston as a freshman, allegedly. Now, I’m not saying that’s necesarily true, but it may be incidental when comparing FSU’s schedule in 2013 with Alabama’s just as an example. A guy with perhaps let’s just say 45% less talent than Winston might have had the same or similar results versus Winston himself playing an SEC West schedule. My point isn’t to discount FSU but to suggest Alabama might have the talent to go undefeated this year, even with the QB questions, but an awful lot would have to go their way quickly.

            If anyone is best suited to make those changes as quickly as necessary, it’s the University of Alabama. And the reason I agree with your point most of all is that I don’t think anything less than an undefeated season is going to be acceptable by many Alabama fans this year, even though it’s more likely it won’t happen.

            That’s the standard. That’s the expectation. Roll Tide.

            PS – LSU is underrated already. Once again, that’s Alabama’s biggest test and best “football” game in my opinion for 2014. Nobody on Alabama’s schedule plays better fundamental football, both teams take a bye as has become custom in Saban’s tenure at the Capstone, and LSU has lost three in a row to Alabama including a national championship, which has got to burn some serious inspiration into that team. My only concern is if Alabama loses a game before then; if they can hold on, it will be epic, and if they lose to LSU it will be just as epic but only if they’re undefeated at that point. No offense, but it’s hard for me to worry about MSU any time I think about LSU.

          3. I think LSU will struggle this year. Their QB situation is actually worse than Bama’s and its likely they will start a freshman at that position. They’ve also lost the most underclassmen to the draft for the second year in a row. Surviving that one year is one thing; but two years in a row means they will likely have some underdeveloped talent playing this year. And they have games v/s Wisconsin, Florida, @Auburn, Alabama, Miss St, Ole Miss. I think they’ll end up 8-4 and 4th in the West behind Miss St.

          4. @peachy

            LSU never looks past Alabama and Alabama never looks past LSU. A bad LSU team (under Miles, at least) is still better than many SEC teams. Nobody coaches more fundamental football than Alabama and LSU.

          5. By the way, 7 returning starters on the LSU defense, including Jaleb (sp?) Mills. The similarities between LSU and Alabama this year could be eerie. Could be. We’ll see.

  6. It was just a spring game. I would be more concerned if my team’s spring game was so lopsided like 58-7 or whatever Auburn’s was. That says to me they have no balance. I read some Alabama players said they only ran about 10 percent of their offense. I would have loved to see Alabama and Auburn play a real opponent for spring, even if it was Troy or Georgia Southern or something.

    1. Saw on another site (from an Alabama fan) that Alabama and Tennessee have already admitted to infractions in this. Miss St’s couldn’t be verified; which is why they’ve been cleared. But word is Alabama and Tenn are looking at penalties, though no one knows if they will be minor or severe. Alabama already had a strike against them with Ha-Ha Dix. And the fact that Davis is a former player that’s a runner for agents and he’s been allowed to hang around the program.

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