Big news out of Tuscaloosa Sunday evening as athletic director Bill Batlle will step down from his role as head of Alabama’s athletic department following a long and storied career with the Tide.

The news of Battle’s retirement comes as a surprise as his contract was set to expire in March.

“It’s been a distinct privilege and honor serving as Director of Athletics these last four years,” Battle said via an official release from the school. “When I took over this role my wife, Mary, 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. I am deeply grateful to each and every one of them for their extraordinary efforts and loyalty to the University. Being able to lead this department has been an honor and a privilege for which I am most grateful.

“It is my hope that during my tenure here, we have been able to make a difference in young people’s lives and at the same time move forward on many different fronts. I look forward to continuing to serve the university by working closely with the new AD to assist in a smooth transition. At the end of that period I look forward to working with President Bell in the role of special advisor assistant to advance his strategic initiatives for The University of Alabama. I look forward to remaining active with the Crimson Tide Foundation and supporting Crimson Tide athletics.”

Well before taking over as AD at the school, Battle played for Alabama from 1960-1962 before becoming a coach at Army and Tennessee.

It appears Alabama won’t be without an athletic director long, as current Arizona AD Greg Byrne is reportedly prepared to step in for Battle:

Byrne went to Mississippi State and has served as athletic director at Kentucky and MSU before taking the job at Arizona. Byrne’s notable hires include Dan Mullen and baseball coach (now AD) John Cohen at Mississippi State, Rich Rodriguez and basketball coach Sean Miller at Arizona.