The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

81° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Q&A Greg Byrne

Since taking over the UA athletic director job in March 2010, Greg Byrne has in the middle of a number of decisions that will permanently affect UA athletics. From facility upgrades to a larger compliance department, Byrne is putting a personal touch on the UA. The Summer Wildcat sat down with Byrne to talk about progress on the Arizona Stadium renovations, the possibility of the baseball team playing at Hi Corbett Field and whether building a basketball arena downtown is still an option.

Summer Wildcat: You’ve been here a little over a year now and have left a pretty big mark on the Arizona athletic department. How important is your legacy to you?

Greg Byrne: I’m fortunate to be a part of it. We have really good coaches, we’ve got a really good staff, and we’ve got a bunch of student athletes working their tail off every day. And we’ve got a fan base that’s been very supportive and passionate about the university. I’m just lucky I can be a little piece of that puzzle. I’ve got a picture that says the least important word in the English language is ‘I,’ and I realize that we will be good by us being united and working together.

Is everything still on schedule with the new scoreboard at Arizona Stadium?

Knock on wood, it’s on schedule. The LEDs have arrived from China, and now they’re getting transported to Tucson, but they are on American soil. If you saw last week, the stairwell and some infrastructure of the board is still being installed. It’s been pretty good weather during the day, so we haven’t had a lot of weather delays since most of the rain has come at night.

When will everything be put together and ready for testing?

That’ll be the last week of August.

That’s cutting it close to the Sept. 3 home opener, isn’t it?

Absolutely, we are.

Are there any concerns about that not being finished in time?

I’ll feel a lot better when we kick off that first game and that thing’s working. Any time you’re dealing with a structure and technology of that magnitude, there are certainly opportunities for bugs. We’ve got our technical team and operations folks and the people installing the board working real hard on it.

How is the fundraising coming along for the North End Zone Project?

It’s good. We’re scheduled to break ground in January, and we’ve gotten Board of Regents approval. We have a number of large committed gifts, public gifts, and then we also have a number of smaller ones that we haven’t announced. We have a debt service plan that we feel confident in being able to handle to be able to break ground in January, and it’ll be about an 18-month build.

Do you have any timeframe on the renovations to McKale Center?

Not yet. We’re just having very early discussions. We’ve looked at a lot of the options, and we’re gonna start to get more serious about that, we hope, this winter.

With the McKale renovations, there’s been talk that building a new arena downtown may be the better option. Has there been any more thought on that?

We’ve continued to explore it, but we’re not close at all to getting ready to build an arena downtown. I think we’re going to have to have a plan on what we’re going to do. At this point, we’re leaning heavily toward a renovation on McKale.

Would that include a capacity raise?

It’s too early to tell. The thing to keep in mind with that is that when you increase capacity, even if you build skyboxes up at that level, the higher your seats are, the harder they are to sell. The construction costs to build new, higher seats may be hard to cover. In a lot of ways, it may make more sense to keep that demand on the ticket and make sure that people feel like ‘I’d better keep my season tickets, because if I don’t, I’m going to lose them.’ I think that helps drive the market into purchasing tickets too.

A lot of athletic directors will take a job and be concerned about getting their people into coaching jobs. Have you just felt a fit with everyone that was already here?

Jim Livengood deserves a lot of credit; we had a good coaching staff here in place. One of the things that I’ve challenged them though is that we’ve slipped. Not this previous season but the one before, we finished 30th in the Director’s Cup, which is our worst finish ever. We should be in a position to be a top-10 institution. To our coaches’ and student-athletes’ credit, we finished 16th this past year. So it was a dramatic increase. That bodes well for what’s ahead. There’s an old saying that if you’re going to keep score you might as well win.

Has there been any progress on the baseball team playing at Hi Corbett Field?

We’re having serious discussions about it, and we hope to have some resolution in the near future.

If you had to put a percentage on that happening, what would it be?

It’s a definite maybe.

What are some of the benefits of playing there as opposed to on campus?

From a baseball standpoint, we’d be able to recruit players and look them in the eye and say, ‘listen, you’re going to go train and play in a facility that, just a few years ago, was a MLB training facility,’ and that’s attractive. It would be something where we’d have access to one of the annex fields, so we’d have as good of a practice and training setup as anyone in the country. We know the community of Tucson has gone to many baseball games over many years at Hi Corbett, and we feel it would give us an opportunity to re-engage some of the community, that for whatever reason, isn’t going to our games right now.

Would there be any facility upgrades at Hi Corbett Field?

We think we could update it and brand it as an Arizona facility, and have it as probably one of the top two or three facilities in the West with a very minimal investment compared to having to go out and build a new stadium. It would separate us from everyone else in the league and put us on a level playing field with the best facilities in the country.

Everything that’s going on with Ohio State, North Carolina, Oregon, has that gotten the wheels turning on bolstering the compliance department?

That’s a great reminder; we are adding a new compliance officer. Since I’ve been here, we’ve lost six administrators at a management level, and I think we’ve replaced two of them. We’re trying to be efficient with what we have. We take our financial responsibility very seriously, but we will not do that at the jeopardy of following the rules and making sure we’re supporting our student-athletes academically as well.

From a stability standpoint, how important is it for you to keep coaches here as long as they’re getting the right results?

Stability is a wonderful thing. You understand that every time you start the clock and have a game, the opponent on the other side wants to win just as much as you do. Hopefully a little less, but you’re not going to win every single game. However, there’s real value in not having constant turnover at your leadership positions. The stability that our coaching staff has had as a whole has been really good.

More to Discover
Activate Search