Battle, 72, was a starter at end for Bear Bryant during 1960-62 and was a teammate of retiring athletics director Mal Moore. Battle coached Tennessee's football team during 1970-76 before moving into private business.
“Over the past several weeks, we have had multiple conversations about who should follow Coach Moore as AD,” Bonner said in a release. “Based on Mal’s strong endorsement as well as Coach Battle’s affiliation with UA as a player, partner and donor, his experience as a coach and his significant business background, I am confident that he is the right person to serve UA in this position.”
Battle founded the Collegiate Licensing Company in 1981, and served as its president and CEO until 2002. He also has served as chairman of the board of Licensing Partners International, which was created in 2001 to represent licensing interests of non-collegiate sports properties, as well as corporate and entertainment properties. Both CLC and LPI were acquired by IMG in 2007.
“When the University reached out to me, my instinct was to say no," Battle said. "However, after speaking with Dr. Bonner, Dr. Witt, Coach Saban, Mal and Paul Bryant, and seeing what I’ve seen at the University, I couldn’t find a way to say no.
“The University of Alabama is at an all-time high in athletics, academics and most every other way, and I am deeply honored to be asked to serve in the position of athletics director. It is an extraordinary challenge and a responsibility that I take very seriously. I will do my dead-level best to continue the successes on and off the playing fields that Alabama fans have enjoyed over the past few years. I look forward to working with the great coaches, student athletes and administrative staff at the University to continue the momentum they have created."
After playing for Bryant, including being part of the 1961 national championship team, Battle served as a graduate assistant coach at Oklahoma under legendary head coach Bud Wilkinson in 1963. He was an assistant coach at the United States Military Academy while serving a two-year military tour in 1964-65. In 1966, he moved to Tennessee, where he was an assistant coach for four years. He was named head coach at Tennessee in 1970, and during his seven-year tenure, his teams went 59-22-2, and won four out of five bowl games.
“When it became apparent that I was no longer going to be able to direct the athletics department,” Moore said in a news release, “I felt that Bill Battle was the one person who could sustain all the good things that have happened the past few years while also moving us forward with planned improvements.
“Certainly, his background at the University as a student-athlete coupled with a career as coach and his creativity and unparalleled success at Collegiate Licensing gives him an extensive background to lead the Crimson Tide athletics department. Bill is a man of unimpeachable integrity who understands the heritage and tradition of The University of Alabama."
Battle was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He received the 2005 Paul W. Bryant Alumni Athletic Award at Alabama and was inducted into the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2008. He was the recipient of a National Football Foundation award in 2008 for his outstanding contributions to amateur football. In 2010, he was selected as one of the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators two-member Hall of Fame class.