SBJ/April 1-7, 2013/Colleges

Alabama’s new AD Battle also a star in card set

When Upper Deck set out to create a limited-edition set of Alabama football trading cards last year, Crimson Tide legends like Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson were certain picks.

Bill Battle, who played split end for Bear Bryant in the early 1960s and was part of the Tide’s 1961 national championship team, was less obvious — until his influence off the field was considered.

“We had to include Bill,” said Brandon Miller, Upper Deck’s brand manager. “He’s the reason a set like this could even exist.”

Battle, who was named Alabama’s athletic director March 22, founded Collegiate Licensing Co. in 1981 and forged what is now a $4 billion collegiate licensing industry. Upper Deck acquires the school marks it uses on its trading cards from CLC, which is now an IMG College business that serves as the licensing agent for more than 200 universities, conferences and bowl games.

IMG acquired CLC in 2007.

Upper Deck began making special team sets two years ago, and Alabama football is one of just four that have been released, along with North Carolina basketball, Texas football and Oklahoma football. Notre Dame football and Kansas basketball sets are due out later this year.

“When the Alabama set came out, we sent some blown-up cards of Bill to CLC, just so they could embarrass him a little bit,” Miller said with a laugh. “But it was seriously a big deal for us to include Bill because of everything he’s done with CLC and meant to licensing.”

And now that he’s the AD at Alabama, Battle’s card might be worth a penny or two more.

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