TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama athletic director Mal Moore is stepping down to become special assistant to the president because of health problems after a lengthy reign at his alma mater that ended with the Crimson Tide's football program back on top nationally.
The university announced the move Wednesday. The 73-year-old Moore, who played and coached for Paul "Bear" Bryant" and then hired football coach Nick Saban, has been hospitalized at Duke University Medical Center since March 13 with pulmonary problems.
He has been the Tide's athletic director since 1999, and will work under university President Dr. Judy Bonner.
"As many of you may know, due to factors related to my health, I am at a point that I can no longer fulfill my duties as athletics director in the true championship manner the position requires," Moore said in a statement released by the university. "While I have to focus on my health issue, I look forward to maintaining an ongoing working relationship with this great university as special assistant to Dr. Bonner.
"I cannot adequately express what the university means to me. It has been a part of my life for more than 50 years, and I feel honored to have served the Crimson Tide as a player, coach and administrator."
Moore has been part of 10 national championship football teams in those various capacities. His biggest move as athletic director was hiring Saban away from the Miami Dolphins in January 2007 after a failed attempt to hire Rich Rodriguez.
Saban has led the Tide to three of the last four national titles, and said Moore set the table for that success.
Moore, however, started with a nice recruiting job on wife Terry Saban.
"I wasn't even going to talk to him," Saban said. "But I called Terry and said, 'I don't think I'm going to talk to these guys.' And she said, 'Oh, well Mal is already here. We've been talking for an hour.' So, that was his first step in the right direction. But you know, I always had a tremendous amount of respect for Mal since I was at LSU. As a coach, you always have a special appreciation for the other coaches who are ADs.
"I think he's always contributed in a positive way to the league. Mal has really become a good friend and somebody that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I'm happy for him. I'll be most happy for him if he can get healthy and be around here with us. But I'm going to miss him."
Saban said Moore had talked about stepping down for a while.
Alabama said it would hire a replacement as AD "as quickly as possible."
Moore oversaw an athletic department that made more than $200 million in facilities improvements — including two expansions of Bryant-Denny Stadium totaling about $112 million — and won national championships in football, gymnastics, softball and women's golf in 2011-12. The stadium now holds 101,821
The football building and his own memorabilia-covered office are housed in the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, named after him in 2007. Alabama opened a $9 million athletic training facility in February.
"Mal Moore is Crimson Tide sports," Bonner said. "During his tenure as athletics director, our student athletes have experienced unprecedented success in every aspect of their careers at UA, on the field of play and in the classroom. His contributions to UA athletics on every level are unsurpassed. And, while he will no longer be in charge of day-to-day operations, I am so pleased that we will continue to be able to rely on his wisdom and expertise going forward."
Moore was a freshman on Bryant's first Alabama team in 1958 then spent 22 seasons as a coach, including stints with the NFL's Cardinals in St. Louis and Phoenix and at Notre Dame.
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 Gene Stallings' offensive coordinator from 1990-93 in a tenure that included the 1992 national championship.
He interviewed to take over the program after Bryant retired in 1982 but was passed over in favor of New York Giants coach Ray Perkins. Suddenly jobless and pondering getting out of coaching, Moore accepted an offer to coach Notre Dame's 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."
Moore was inducted into the state of Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 and won the John L. Toner Award given by the National Football Foundation and the Hall of Fame to the nation's best athletics director for the 2011-12 school year.
Stallings recommended Moore twice for the athletic director spot, and the second time he got the job. Moore hired three coaches — including Mike Price, who was fired before coaching in a game — before landing Saban.
The program has flourished since.
"I just think he's done a super job," Stallings said of Moore. "He's kept an excellent profile. Nearly everything under his watch has continued to grow. The stadium is as pretty as any in the country. I just can't say enough good things about Mal."
Arkansas vice chancellor and athletic director Jeff Long compared Moore to a Razorbacks icon.
"Mal Moore has left an indelible mark on the University of Alabama, much like Frank Broyles has done here at Arkansas, and the Crimson Tide athletic program has achieved tremendous success under Mal's leadership," Long said. " I have enjoyed getting to know him and working with him over the past five years and appreciate the manner in which he welcomed me to the circle of SEC athletic directors. I will miss Mal on a professional and personal level and wish him the very best as he focuses on his recovery."
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Moore will remain "a true asset to the university that means so much to him."
"I have always had tremendous admiration and respect for Mal Moore both professionally and personally," Jacobs said. "He has served his alma mater exceptionally well for five decades as an athlete, coach and administrator. Mal is a terrific leader and an even better man, and I am fortunate to call him a friend."