TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With Bob Bockrath's resignation, the question now is who will be brought aboard to right Alabama's ship?
Barry Mason, dean of the university's Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, chaired the search committee behind Bockrath's hiring and said there will be plenty of suggestions when the search for candidates begins.
"There is enormous interest from alumni," Mason said. "And they all think they have the right answer and a willingness to share their opinion."
Suggestions came flooding in even before Bockrath's official resignation Tuesday. Finus Gaston, Alabama's senior associate athletic director, will fill in on an interim basis. A national search will be launched to find a permanent replacement.
Mason was chairman of the 1996 search committee that narrowed a list of 25 potential candidates to five that were recommended to University of Alabama President Andrew Sorensen. It was from that list that then-Texas Tech Athletic Director Bockrath was hired.
"Finding willing candidates was not difficult," Mason said. "The difficulty was in boiling the candidate pool down to four or five, and trying to do detailed background checks on each one in order to present them to the president for his final decision."
There have been eight ADs, including two interim athletic directors with Gaston as the most recent, since the 1983 death of Paul "Bear" Bryant, former athletic director and football coach.
Although there may be plenty of ideas on who should lead Alabama into the next century, finding the right person won't be easy, said University of Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, who was consulted in the previous search.
"Alabama is a hard job because of the legacy established by Bear Bryant," he said. "That is the standard, and it's a tough standard to follow. I'm familiar with that, because I had that in following (longtime Texas football coach and athletic director) Darrell Royal."
Dodds said that it's important to remember that times have changed.
"Darrell Royal and Coach Bryant were successful on the field and as athletic directors at a time when you could do both," he said. "But the world of college athletics has changed, and you can't do it that way anymore. It's hard to do a good job as athletic director and be God."
In Alabama's last search for an athletic director, the search committee set criteria for finding someone with a proven record in athletic administration, Mason said.
"This is not a place to learn the ropes." he said.
Then, there's the issue of finding someone with ties to Alabama.
"I've been in this state more than 30 years. Wanting someone from the university family does not surprise me, and I don't think it's any different here than it is at any state university with a successful athletic program," Mason said.
Sometimes, though, a candidate with the right qualifications may be from another program, Mason said.
"It's a hard job," he said. "Sometimes the alumni are their own worst enemy, because they hold on to what used to be. Sometimes you've got to move past that and understand that times have changed."
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