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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Greg Byrne talks facilities, Olympics, College World Series

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Luke Adams
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Greg Byrne is director of athletics at the UA. He stepped into the role in May 2010 as the university’s 11th athletic director, and has had a pretty successful run in Tucson thus far. Before the summer, Arizona’s best athletic achievement during Byrne’s tenure probably came when Derrick Williams and Sean Miller led the basketball team to the Elite Eight in 2011.

Now, within the past two months, the Arizona baseball team has won the National Championship, current and past Wildcats have taken home five Olympic medals during the London games and construction has continued on the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.

The Daily Wildcat sat down with Byrne to discuss Arizona’s recent events and how they affect the athletic department.

Daily Wildcat: Where do you see the realistic goal for taking this athletic department, specifically in terms of its facilities?

Greg Byrne: We should always strive to be in the upper half of the Pac-12 from a facilities standpoint, and we’re not right now. I always tell our coaches we’re not going to have gold-plated toilets, but we need to make sure we have good, efficient, clean and modern facilities for our student-athletes and for our fans. The example I always give is, think if you’re recruiting a medical student here to our medical center. If the technology, if the facilities they use are outdated and aren’t kept up, we’re probably not going to attract the best medical students.

The number of Olympians that we’ve had in our different sports, the number of professional athletes we’ve had in different sports who also come here and got a quality education, and the exposure that’s brought for them — the exposure that’s brought to The University of Arizona — and you look at what happened in Omaha in June with our baseball team. For two straight weeks The University of Arizona was on ESPN viewed by millions and millions of people every single day. You can’t buy that …

So (did you) keep track of the UA Olympic athletes then?

Oh yeah, absolutely.

How does having Olympic athletes help the athletic department and the university?

It shows the levels that we want to compete at. And it shows you can come here to the University of Arizona and compete with the best athletes in the world. That type of mentality we want to have in athletics, but we also want to have it in an educational standpoint too. Just to have the Mars landing and to know the University of Arizona was involved in that. That’s cool — it’s incredible and [UA students] should be proud of that. We hope that athletics is a way to highlight that for them. When we’re broadcasted around the Pac-12 Network and ESPN and Fox, there are going to be some institutional spots that can highlight things like that. And to me that drives people to be intrigued and interested in our university and our community in Tucson …

How does baseball winning the College World Series impact the athletic department and Tucson?

It’s given us another great reminder of our ability to compete at the highest levels … I’ve had recruits from all sorts of sports here in my office this summer as their families have come to visit, and they knew about [it]. They’d say, ‘Boy, that’s impressive that you can do that at The University of Arizona.’ We’ve been able to recruit at a very high level historically in baseball and that’s done nothing but increase since the National Championship. It’s amazing, now when I’m in whatever airport I’m in or when I’m traveling in different parts of the country and I’m in my ‘A’… People know who that is. It’s an incredible accomplishment by our university, by our athletic department, by our baseball program and its coaches and student athletes.

Historically football and basketball are the two revenue generating sports — did the championship help the athletic department financially?

It’s not a big moneymaker, no. We made a little bit of money on licensing from the National Championship shirts and things like that. But again you can’t buy that type of publicity for our university.

Does the championship in baseball put any more pressure on basketball or football to win?

No, if you spend a little bit of time around our coaches, the great majority of them put plenty of pressure upon themselves to want to go out and compete at a very high level. They don’t get to become a head coach at the University of Arizona in any sport without having a tremendous drive and desire to compete at the highest level.

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