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This is a Dec. 2, 2014, file photo showing Greg Byrne, Arizona Vice President for Athletics, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Arizona against Gardner Webb, in Tucson, Ariz. Alabama is hiring Greg Byrne to replace retiring athletic director Bill Battle. The university announced Monday, jan. 16, 2017, that Byrne will take over March 1. The hire needs approval from Alabama trustees. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
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Greg Byrne
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It's almost as if the University of Alabama had someone in mind.

Alabama took all of 13, mostly overnight, hours to announce that athletic director Bill Battle is stepping aside to assume a new role as special assistant to university president Stuart Bell and that Arizona AD Greg Byrne will be Battle's successor. Byrne will take over March 1, pending approval of the university system's board of trustees.

The 75-year-old Battle has been Alabama's AD since March 2013, when he succeeded the late Mal Moore.

"It's been a distinct privilege and honor serving as director of athletics these last four years," Battle said in a release sent out Sunday night. "When I took over this role, my wife and I made a commitment to serving four years, and I am pleased to have been able to do just that. There are so many people in the department who do a great job every day to make the Crimson Tide successful, and I am deeply grateful to each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts and loyalty to the university.

"I look forward to continuing to serve the university by working closely with the new AD to assist in a smooth transition."

The 45-year-old Byrne has been Arizona's athletic director since March 2010. He went to Tucson following a two-year stint as Mississippi State's AD, where his most notable task was hiring football coach Dan Mullen, who has guided the Bulldogs to a program-record seven straight bowl appearances and a No. 1 ranking during the 2014 season.

Byrne will become just the second Alabama AD in more than half a century who is not an alumnus of the school. The other was Bob Bockrath, who had that role from June 1996 to September 1999 and was linked to the tumultuous run of former Crimson Tide football coach Mike DuBose.

"I have incredible respect and admiration for both Coach Battle and Coach Moore, as well as all of the talented coaches and staff in place," Byrne said late Monday morning in a release. "We look forward to returning to the SEC and being a part of Alabama's outstanding tradition."

Byrne will be introduced to the media in Tuscaloosa later this week.

Alabama has won three national championships during Battle's tenure: football in 2015 and men's golf in 2013 and 2014. He enhanced the Bryant Society, Alabama's donors who've exceeded a million dollars, from nine members in 2013 to 26 this past year.

"Bill has accomplished so much during his career," Bell said in Sunday's release. "His business expertise, coupled with his coaching experience and his strong understanding of the role an athletic department has in the daily fabric of a university, has allowed us to achieve the great successes we have enjoyed during his tenure. We are blessed to have the continued benefit of his counsel."

Battle was a member of Bear Bryant's first national championship team at Alabama in 1961. Within a decade, he was the head coach at Tennessee, guiding the Volunteers to a 59-22-2 record before being replaced by Johnny Majors.

After coaching the Vols, Battle founded and chaired the lucrative Collegiate Licensing Company.

Battle took a leave of absence last June to undergo treatments in Atlanta for multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. He insisted that this decision has nothing to do with his health.

"At this time, I am in full remission, and I feel great," Battle said. "Last summer, before my medical procedure, I told Dr. Bell that I was expecting, as were my doctors, to come through that procedure very well and that I intended to serve out the last year of my contract. I told him that he should be looking for a replacement, and that process has been going on over the last few months."

Locksley added

Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban announced Monday morning that former New Mexico coach and former interim Maryland coach Mike Locksley has been hired as a full-time offensive assistant. Locksley, like new Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, spent this past season as a Tide offensive analyst.

"We are excited to add Mike Locksley to our staff as an assistant coach on the offensive side of the football," Saban said in a release. "He is an outstanding offensive mind who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as both a head coach and offensive coordinator. Mike is also one of the best recruiters in the nation and will be an excellent addition to our staff.

"His time as an analyst with us over the past season should also ensure a smooth transition and a full understanding of how our organization operates."

Locksley's responsibilities were not detailed Monday. He replaces Mario Cristobal, who handled offensive tackles and tight ends before leaving last week to join Willie Taggart's staff at Oregon.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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