Bill Battle wants to learn from Nick Saban.
The 71-year-old, who played and coached for Paul “Bear” Bryant in the 1960s, is the former president and CEO of the Collegiate Licensing Company, served as chairman of Licensing Partners International (both companies were acquired by IMG) and was just named UA’s new athletics director, yes, he wants to learn from Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.
After Battle was publicly introduced as Alabama’s new AD Friday, he spent 15 minutes chatting with reporters. One question he was asked was how important his relationship is going to be with Saban.
“Coach Saban is important,” Battle said. “What he’s done in football, not many people have done in college sports. He’s gotten ahead of the field. So we want to be as supportive as we can be to his needs and his team’s needs, give him the best chance that he has to give his players the best chance to compete, as we want to do with all our coaches. But that’s a critical element with the relationship that I have to do.
“But at the same time, I gotta tell ya, I want to learn from that guy. He’s good. I mean, he’s really good. There’s a lot of lessons that he teaches in his program that could be applicable to all of our lives and certainly to our athletic department.”
Saban, who has led Alabama to back-to-back national championships and three in four years, spoke on behalf of all Crimson Tide coaches at Battle’s introductory press conference. Saban described Battle as a “first class person” and a “gentleman” and a “leader in our community as well as our university and our athletic department.”
“All the coaches, we are all very much committed to making this as smooth a transition as we possibly can in terms of coach Battle becoming very successful to continue the outstanding tradition of excellence that we have here at the University of Alabama,” Saban said.
Saban then invited him to Friday afternoon’s football practice and joked, “It’s against the NCAA rules for you to coach.”
Battle, who held coaching positions at Oklahoma, the United States Military Academy and Tennessee, took Saban up on his offer.
“Mal always loved coming to practice and we love having him there,” Saban continued. “And I always like to get a little bit of that old-time, sort of what it was like back then and how we could implement some of those principles and values in helping our team be successful.”
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