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April 2, 2013

Battle shares vision in Q&A

TUSCALOOSA | New University of Alabama athletic director Bill Battle met with The Tuscaloosa News on Tuesday and answered several questions about his vision for UA athletics and how he plans to implement that vision.

Q: What do you see as the first step in your role as athletic director?

A: I've got a steep learning curve ahead to familiarize myself with all the moving parts here. I know I've really got a good staff here, both in the coaching positions and in the support staff. I know we have great leadership at the top of the university. I know the progress Mal (Moore) had made and was continuing to make, because it was ongoing.

I am going to take the next six weeks to two months to see what we need to do, to not do and form my opinions on that. What I want to know is what we are doing well, what we are doing not so well and how we can do those things better. But I am going to take a close look before I decide anything.

We have great momentum here. This is an enormous responsibility, and I do not take that responsibility lightly. I carefully considered the decision to come back. I would not have come back if I could not have committed all of myself to this task. This is not a caretaker's job. It is like a business. You don't just stand still. You either get better or get worse, and I intend for us to get better.

Q: You mentioned Mal Moore, who passed away Saturday. How will his absence, in an advisory capacity, affect you and the department?

A: We all miss Mal. He was a great friend to me, one I knew for such a long time. I was hoping that, even after his health took a downturn, that he would be able to come back and enjoy the fruits of his labors. He would have been a great advisor and resource for me, and I will miss that very much. My goal is to continue what he has done and build on it. But if we come to a place where we need to take a different direction on something, I plan to take us where we need to go.

Q: You come to UA after a long and successful career in the licensing business, particularly collegiate licensing. How will that experience translate into your new position?

A: Everywhere I have been, the contacts that I have made have had a positive impact. I have dealt with many colleges and universities in the licensing business, kept up with the developments in college athletics through a different window, so to speak. But it has let me stay in close contact, let me make a lot of friends and, hopefully, those relationships will be beneficial.

Q: In your coaching tenure at Tennessee (1970-76), you posted a 59-22(-2) record over seven seasons but never sought another head coaching position. Why?

A: We had some really good teams at Tennessee and a few that weren't that good. I decided well before my time there ended that I didn't want to be a 65-year old coach. Now, I didn't want to get out when I did. But my kids were growing older and I wanted to have time with them, and I wanted to try the business end of athletics. I didn't know if I would be out of it for a year and want to get back in. I had some friends in coaching who were that way, who were miserable when they weren't coaching. I had some chances to get back in, especially in that first year after I finished at Tennessee. But I had a great opportunities with Larry Striplin. I enjoyed what we were trying to build. Larry was a dynamic man, a smart man, and we experienced great growth. It was a great experience for me and I decided to stay with that, to stay out of coaching. Managing a business is a lot different than coaching, but there are parallels. You've got to get great talent, you've got to work hard, you've got to stay ahead of the competition. So I loved business. But I do want to say I had a wonderful experience at Tennessee, wouldn't take anything for it.

Q: Does your experience as a coach give you a different view of the hiring/firing process when it comes to coaches?

A: I have the same perspective on hiring and firing coaches as I would have in business. You want to recruit the right people to do the job and then help them in any way you can. I think Mal approached it that way, and that is exactly what I would have done, and will do. But it is ultimately about the student-athletes and giving them a chance to compete at the highest levels.

Firing someone, a coach or anyone else, is never an easy job, and there are a lot of factors involved. But you do have to make those decisions sometimes, and at the end of the day, it is as much about how you go about doing it as it is about what you have to do.

Q: Do you anticipate having to make any coaching changes in the immediate future?

A: We will take the blueprint we have in place, we will meet with the executive staff members who have the responsibility for each sport and we will see what we are doing well and what we need to improve. And if there are issues, or opportunities that we are missing, we will deal with those things. Over the next few months, we will do a lot of that.

Q: Have you had a chance to evaluate the head football coach yet?

A: (laughing) I have, and I like him.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0225.





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