TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Bill Battle was cutting trees downed in a recent storm on his suburban Atlanta farm when alma mater Alabama called a couple of weeks ago.
Now, the former Crimson Tide football player has ditched a comfortable semi-retirement of charity work and consulting to run a flourishing athletic department that had a $133 million budget in 2011-12 and has a football program enjoying a new heyday.
The reason sounds awfully similar to his old coach Bear Bryant's explanation when he returned to 'Bama from Texas A&M: "Momma called, and when momma calls you have to run."
"It dawned on me when some trustees and leaders of the university said, 'We really want you to do this. This is a special time at the university,'" Battle said at his introductory news conference on Friday. "I thought to myself, if I didn't do this, I would regret it for the rest of my life. Because it's an opportunity to pay back the university, if I can, a great debt that I owed the university. If I don't do it, it would be a big mistake.
"I'm here as a labor of love to try to help any way I can. I know I have time. I'm rested, I'm not tired. I look forward to this challenge."
If Battle didn't necessarily run to the job, the silver-haired 71-year-old ultimately agreed to replace former Tide teammate Mal Moore, who is moving to a job as special assistant to President Judy Bonner because of health problems.
Trustees, including Paul Bryant Jr., lined seats next to the podium while football coach Nick Saban and wife Terry sat in the front row. Saban was the only coach to take a turn at the podium.