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Byrne settles into hectic AD role

Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat

Greg Byrne, the new Wildcat Athletic Director from Mississippi State, officially replaced Jim Livengood as of May 1st, 2010. In his new position, Byrne will oversee the general operation of all UA sports.
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat Greg Byrne, the new Wildcat Athletic Director from Mississippi State, officially replaced Jim Livengood as of May 1st, 2010. In his new position, Byrne will oversee the general operation of all UA sports.

Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne sat behind his desk staring at the walls of his spacious office, trying to remember all the places he had visited over the past two months.

Struggling to remember all the cities he had stopped in, it was as if a light bulb had turned on and city names began flowing out, “”L.A., San Diego, San Francisco, Houston,”” said

Byrne before pausing to remember whether Dallas was one of many cities visited. “”Trying to remember whether I’ve been to Dallas or not,”” he said before going on to add Mississippi to the list.

It’s clear that the new athletic director is a man with a hellacious schedule.

Since officially replacing former athletic director Jim Livengood on May 1, Byrne has seemingly been traveling around the U.S. and back, and will be flying to Chicago this week.

In the last couple of months, Byrne has spent time looking at budgets, marketing plans, fundraising plans and facility plans. None of that includes the time he has spent meeting with donors and the leadership on the UA campus; the majority of his work is done outside of Tucson.

“”A lot of my time is spent trying to get my arms around it all,”” Byrne said. “”But I feel a lot better about it now than where I was a couple months ago.””

Though Arizona’s athletic director has been mostly away from the office taking care of business, he still has managed to keep in touch with the Arizona community through social media. Byrne has a Twitter account, which he uses regularly to stay connected with fans of the program, something no UA athletic director had done before.

“”What Twitter and Facebook allow you to do is get your message out there,”” Byrne said. “”It has people thinking about UA on (a) regular basis, there’s a lot of value in that.””

Byrne, 38, has 2,435 followers and is sure when students come back after summer break, that number will go up.

“”I’m counting (on) when students come back that a lot of them will follow us,”” he said.

“”We’ll do some giveaways, in fact I gave away two tickets to the Yankees and Diamondbacks game up at Chase Field a few weeks back.

“”It’s (an) easy way to communicate in an effective manner, that you get up-to-date information out quickly to a large number of people,”” Byrne added. “”We’ve had a good response to it thus far.””

During the time that Byrne has been tweeting and scrambling around the country, he has also had to set up his staff.

“”We’ve done some reconstructing. We’re having two fundraisers go to UNLV,”” he said. “”Our staff will stay pretty consistent; we’re trying to make this as efficient as possible.””

Gayle Hopkins, who was in charge of keeping in contact with letter winners, retired on July 1. She will be replaced by Frankie Acosta. Hopkins worked in the athletic department for 27 years and was a track and field athlete from 1961-64.

“”Gayle did a great job for many years representing the university,”” Byrne said. “”He was a wonderful ambassador and we hope to continue that.””

Byrne said a new position will be added to his staff, with the member being based in the Phoenix area.

“”We’ll have a fundraiser up there full time, pushing the Wildcat Club, season tickets and the UA as much as possible,”” Byrne said.

One of the Arizona Athletics top goals under Byrne is to make the university more visible across the state.

“”Phoenix is critical for us; we have a lot fans up there,”” Byrne said. “”We need more Phoenix-area people coming down to Tucson supporting the UA. Phoenix is such a large population base; we’re really looking into how viable we can be there.

“”We’re not just Tucson’s university, we are the University of Arizona,”” he added.

Working most days from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Byrne finally has the chance to settle into Tucson. In fact, he and his family have just come to an agreement on a home and are excited about the people they will have over for dinner in the fall.

“”We should be moving in by the middle of August,”” he said. “”We want to have dinners before home football games on Friday nights and we want to have our teams over to the house.””

Byrne plans to invite opposing teams’ athletic directors to his house on Fridays before Saturday home games. He recalled meeting former Arizona athletic director Cedric Dempsey and current associate athletic director Rocky LaRose during past dinners at his home.

“”When you invite someone into your home, you’re creating that bond. I think that’s important part in what we do,”” Byrne said.

The hectic schedule that Byrne has had over the last couple months is nothing he isn’t accustomed to. Growing up, his father Bill Byrne, now the athletic director at Texas A&M, was the athletic director at a few schools. Byrne remembered doing a project in the third grade where he said he wanted to be an athletic director when he grew up.

In a sense, Byrne feels that he is made for the daily grind that is required of him.

“”I sat around the dinner table talking about college athletics from a early age,”” he said. “”I began paying attention to the industry at a very early age — I’m wired pretty good for it.””

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