Alabama hires Bill Battle as athletic director

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Bill Battle was hired as Alabama's athletic director Friday, coming out of semi-retirement at 71 to return the school that has won the last two national football titles.

University trustees unanimously approved Mal Moore's hand-picked successor and former Crimson Tide football teammate. Moore resigned Wednesday because of health problems.

"They told me that they were interested in me taking this job," Battle said at his introductory news conference. "My first reaction was, `Wow, this is a great honor. But, man, do I really want to do this?' For the last two weeks, that's what I've been wrestling with." He decided if he didn't do it, "It would be a big mistake."

Football coach Nick Saban called Battle a "first-class person and leader" and invited him to practice later Friday while joking that it's against NCAA rules for him to coach.

Battle called it "a labor of love" but also said it's a big challenge to take over a program that has been flourishing - four national championships in 2011-12 and three of the last four titles in football.

Alabama President Judy Bonner said Battle will make $620,000 annually over four years.

Battle played with Moore on Bear Bryant's 1961 national championship team. He spent seven years as Tennessee's head coach in the 1970s.

Battle founded Collegiate Licensing Company in 1981 and spent 21 years as president and CEO. He had been working as a consultant in recent years in the Atlanta area.

Moore has been hospitalized for more than a week at Duke University Medical Center. Battle said Moore has a long, hard road to recovery.

"He's in good spirits," Battle said. "He looks like he's gone through the worst two-a-day practice that he's ever gone through."

Trustee Finis St. John said Alabama is "incredibly fortunate to have someone available and willing to take this job with the integrity and experience coach Battle brings."