TUSCALOOSA, Ala. | Anthony Grant has been hired as Alabama's coach after three successful years with Virginia Commonwealth, leaving a school with no football program to take over one where the gridiron reigns.
Grant and the Crimson Tide reached an "agreement in principle" on Friday and the coach will be formally introduced Sunday evening, athletic director Mal Moore said.
"As our search progressed over the last few weeks it became readily apparent that Coach Grant is an excellent fit to lead our program," Moore said in a statement. "His record at Virginia Commonwealth is outstanding and his coaching background is filled with championship success at the collegiate level."
The 42-year-old Grant, a former Florida assistant, led VCU to two NCAA tournaments in three seasons. He becomes the most prominent black coach hired at Alabama and the first in the two major sports, football and men's basketball.
Alabama was criticized by some after hiring Mike Shula over the more experienced Sylvester Croom before the 2003 football season, though neither had been a head coach. This time, the Crimson Tide targeted Grant early, and no other candidates were known to be interviewed.
Grant informed his team and VCU officials of his decision Friday.
"We have been given the opportunity to create a very special situation for men's basketball at the University of Alabama and we look forward to getting started," said Grant, who played at Dayton. "There's a commitment throughout the athletic department to make sure that we have the resources necessary to compete for championships."
Moore and executive athletic director Dave Hart interviewed Grant in Richmond last weekend. He spent Wednesday touring Alabama's campus and meeting with other university officials, then took nearly two days to weigh his options. Grant spoke to football coach Nick Saban before coming to Tuscaloosa and met with him while in town.
Saban has spoken about the importance of a strong basketball program to complement football, since recruits often go to hoops games on official visits. But the six-time national champion football program has long been king at the Southeastern Conference school, where Paul "Bear" Bryant once roamed the sidelines in his trademark houndstooth hat.
Grant replaces Mark Gottfried, who resigned under pressure from his alma mater in midseason with the team on its way to missing the postseason for the third straight year.
Gottfried had led the team to its most successful NCAA tournament, making it to the final eight in 2004. The Tide had won its first SEC title since 1987 two years earlier, the type of drought that would be intolerable to 'Bama fans in football.
Grant has been an instant success — and hot commodity — as a head coach. After helping Billy Donovan win a national championship with the Gators during a 10-season stay at Florida, he guided VCU to three straight Colonial Athletic Association regular-season titles. His first season was highlighted by a victory over Duke in the NCAA tournament.
The Rams nearly pulled off a second-round encore before losing to Pittsburgh in overtime. Grant was targeted by Florida to return after that debut season when Donovan left for the NBA's Orlando Magic, but Donovan changed his mind and came back.
Grant accepted the Alabama job a few hours after Donovan issued a statement saying he was staying put amid rumors that he would replace the ousted Billy Gillispie at Kentucky.
Grant will receive a salary in the $2 million range, according to several reports. That would nearly double what Gottfried was making, though it's only half of Saban's compensation.
VCU was paying Grant a base salary of $400,000, with bonuses and incentives that boosted his pay to about $850,000.
The Rams' season ended with a 65-64 loss to UCLA in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Alabama finished 18-14 after losing to Tennessee in the second round of the Southeastern conference tournament.
Grant also has a proven track record of bringing in top talent. He recruited and coached nine McDonald's All-Americans and seven NBA first-round draft picks at Florida.