With spring practices in full swing and position battles at the forefront, Alabama football coach Nick Saban took a few minutes out of his press conference Thursday to reflect on a good friend, the late athletic director Mal Moore.

In his opening statement during his press conference after practice, Saban brought to attention how much Moore meant to him and the university. The coach emphasized the lessons he learned from Moore and asked the Alabama family to say a prayer for his former boss.

“I wanted to mention something that probably doesn't mean a lot to people but it means a lot to me that Mal Moore was really close, a good friend, a great supporter,” Saban said. “Really loved the University of Alabama, was here for a long, long time as a coach, as an administrator, athletic director. He was probably the biggest reason that we came here because of the relationship he developed with Miss Terry and us. I think it's been 10 years since he's been gone and we certainly miss him. Can't tell you how many things that are great sort of lessons and how much gratitude we have for the lessons that I learned from him and the things he did to support to help the program and help us get it turned around. Just a thought that everybody might say a prayer for Mal.”

Thursday was the 10th anniversary of Moore’s passing, and it was visibly on Saban’s mind. Other than Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, Moore has contributed as much as anyone to the Alabama program. Moore began his career at Alabama as a quarterback under Bryant from 1958-1962 and would later serve as an assistant coach under Bryant from 1964-1982. After an eight-year stint spending time between Notre Dame and the NFL with the St. Louis Cardinals, he returned to be Alabama’s offensive coordinator under Gene Stallings from 1990-1993.

In 1999, Moore became the Crimson Tide’s athletic director in one of the most difficult times in school history. In his first year, he had to let Mike DuBose go, which led to the hiring of Dennis Francione. Francione left after two seasons for Texas A&M, leaving Moore in another bad spot looking for a head coach. Moore hired Mike Price but had to fire him before coaching a single game and finally settling for former Crimson Tide quarterback Mike Shula in 2003.

Shula kept the Alabama program stable until 2006, and Moore had to once again fire a coach and look for another replacement. This time, he finally got it right with arguably the best achievement in his career and the best hire in program history, Nick Saban.

Later in Saban’s press conference, he was asked to share a favorite story that he had with Mal Moore. An emotional Nick Saban told a story about how Mark Ingram was having a good year but was holding the ball in the wrong arm too much and how Moore had told him if they are productive it’s not worth changing.

“Yeah, I do," Saban replied. "Mal used to always come in on Sunday when I’d be in the back room by myself watching film. And I usually go through the previous game with the coaches, which I’d watch it early in the morning, I go to church and then come in and watch it with the coaches then start on the other team. And at like every Sunday about 3:00 in the afternoon he’d come in and just sit down and I was complaining to him about when Mark Ingram was here his sophomore year, he’d carry the ball in the wrong arm a lot. Well, he was having a really, really good year and we were having a good year and I said something to Mal. I said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get this guy to carry the ball in the right hand.’

He continued, “And he said, ‘You know, when I was coaching the quarterbacks here’, and I forget the quarterback’s name, he said, ‘I told coach Bryant’, and it was the starting quarterback and he was a good player, ‘that if he did something different with his throwing motion that it would really make him a better passer.’ And coach Bryant looked at him and said, ‘Don’t mess with the guy.’ So what coach Moore was telling me is, ‘Don’t mess with Mark Ingram.’ But he used to tell me stories like that about players all the time, you know, from the past. I enjoyed it so much. I probably didn’t tell the story very well but it was a lesson learned because sometimes really good players, they might not do things exactly like you want them to but if they’re productive, it’s not worth changing.” 

Moore was a part of 10 national championships at Alabama, one as a player in 1961, six as a coach, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, 1979, and 1992, and three as the athletic director in 2009, 2011, and 2012.

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