Updated at: 01/07/2013 4:37 AM
By JOHN ZENOR
(AP) FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Mal Moore’s career was adrift.
A quarter century of winning games and titles as an Alabama player and assistant to Bear Bryant had ended, and Moore was passed over to succeed the famed coach.
He was thinking about getting out of the profession altogether before Notre Dame’s Gerry Faust called one Sunday morning to gauge his interest in a job.
"At the time, I kind of felt like a man without a country," Moore said. "I was in a strange position that I’d never been in before."
He flew to South Bend that day for an interview, then served as running backs coach from 1983-85. From one elite program to another and, ultimately, back to his alma mater to stay.
Moore’s stopover in northern Indiana is now a footnote in a 50-year career defined by the eras of Bryant, Gene Stallings and now Nick Saban. He has been around for nine national titles at Alabama and is hoping to crack double digits Monday night when the Tide faces No. 1 Notre Dame.
But back in the 1980s, Moore’s career moves were the height of intrigue and drama in the college football world.
He was either a player or assistant for Bryant during all but one season of a historic 25-year run. Bryant, who died a couple of months after stepping down following the 1982 season, won 323 games, six national titles and 13 Southeastern Conference championships during his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
When he left, Moore and fellow assistant Ken Donahue interviewed for a job that went to Ray Perkins, then coaching the NFL’s New York Giants. And Notre Dame made an attention-getting hire.
"It was considered quite a coup, an amazing coup," said Lou Somogyi, senior editor of 247Sports’ Notre Dame site and Blue and Gold Illustrated. "All of a sudden, here’s Mal Moore, who’s been part of so many national titles with Bear, and he’s looking for work.
"Out of the blue, Gerry Faust called him. That was a pretty extraordinary set of circumstances."
It was also quite an adjustment for a Southern Baptist heading to a Catholic university.
Moore lived for several months in the Morris Inn on campus, where he could step out the door, glance left and see the golden dome. Wife Charlotte, who died in 2010, and daughter Heather moved to South Bend after their home was built.
"It was a good three years," said Moore, who had become Alabama’s first offensive coordinator in 1975. "We weren’t a great team during that time. We went to two bowl games, but it was quite an experience. Especially for Charlotte. Charlotte was Catholic growing up. She loved her time there and on the campus."
Moore then went on to coaching stops in the NFL before returning to his alma mater as Stallings’ offensive coordinator in 1990, helping the Tide to a national title two years later. He’s been athletic director since 1999, hiring Saban from the Miami Dolphins in his best career move. The football and athletic administration building is named after him.
Moore was on the opposite sideline for the first four of six meetings between Notre Dame and Alabama. The Fighting Irish won by one point in 1973, two in 1975 and three in 1976.
Notre Dame’s 7-0 win in 1980 broke the pattern of one-point increase in scoring margin.
"Bear Bryant said after the (1976) game: "I don’t think I’m going to be around for the four-pointer," Somogyi recalled.
He noted that "Notre Dame fans were groaning" after Alabama missed a field goal in `80 that would have created that four-point margin.
Moore and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbuck had several discussions about trying to set up regular-season meetings, perhaps at some neutral site like New York or Orlando.
"We just never could quite pull it off," Moore said. After the BCS matchup was set: "I called him and said, `Jack, you and I couldn’t put a game together but now we let the players do it.’"
After ups and downs for both programs, they’re once again vying for national supremacy. And Moore, of course, will have a prime view.
His stop at Notre Dame showed him the similarities both programs share. Notre Dame had Knute Rockne and Ara Parseghian, Alabama Wallace Wade and Saban. Both have had five different coaches claim national titles.
"A powerful university. Great history, great tradition," said Moore, who has talked to several of his former Notre Dame players leading up to the matchup. "That is what’s so similar between the two programs, is the great success that both have enjoyed through the years.
"There’s a lot of people that have had success at both universities. The alumni at both expect greatness. This is what here at Alabama I hope never changes. Once it doesn’t matter then you are in trouble."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)