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The Daily Wildcat

 

Athletic director introduced

Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Greg Byrne (left) formally announces his acceptance of  his new position as the next UA Director of Athletics at a press conference in the Lohse Room at the McKale Center on Wednesday, March 24. UA President Robert Shelton and Ernest Calder
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Greg Byrne (left) formally announces his acceptance of his new position as the next UA Director of Athletics at a press conference in the Lohse Room at the McKale Center on Wednesday, March 24. UA President Robert Shelton and Ernest Calder

UA President Robert Shelton introduced newly hired athletic director Greg Byrne at a Wednesday morning press conference.

The theme of both Shelton’s decision to hire the 38-year-old and Byrne’s own reasons for leaving Mississippi State University was family first.

“”As happy as we are to get Greg, we are doubly thrilled to have such a fine family join us here in Tucson,”” Shelton said. “”I sensed this was a real family decision. That just reinforced my whole regard for Greg.””

Joining Byrne during his first UA press conference were a number of family members — many of whom live in Arizona — including his 94-year-old grandfather. Byrne’s wife, Regina, and his two sons Nick, 14, and Davis, 12, were also in attendance, as was former head basketball coach Lute Olson and Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderón, who said he will support the new AD “”100 percent.””

Byrne’s salary is $390,000, slightly higher than former athletic director Jim Livengood’s $372,000 price tag. His hire will become official April 30 pending Arizona Board of Regents approval.

While Byrne said it was too soon to have a prioritized vision, he did lay out four goals for maintaining an athletic department: graduate the student-athletes, comply with NCAA rules, remain first-class and act fiscally responsible.

“”If we do the first four things right, we have the opportunity for a fifth thing, and that’s compete for championships,”” said Byrne, a 1994 ASU graduate.

“”The reality is that we’re a highly visible part of the university,”” he added, “”and we want to do everything we can to reflect positively on our student athletes (and) on our university.””

Helping recruit Byrne from MSU was former Arizona athletic director and former NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey, whose post at Arizona came before recently hired University of Nevada, Las Vegas, AD Jim Livengood’s 16-year tenure at the UA.

“”It was the most challenging decision of my life,”” Byrne said of leaving MSU. “”I was not looking to leave.””

After spending time in Oregon’s athletic department, the then-26-year-old moved to Oregon State to turn around a football team with a 20-plus year losing season streak in football — the bathrooms in the football stadium didn’t even have doors, Byrne joked. He then followed University of Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart to the Bluegrass State.

Two years ago, Byrne was hired at Mississippi State, becoming one of the youngest NCAA Division I athletic directors. Youth caught up with him the night he was hired when he went to a celebration dinner.

“”I’m not a big drinker whatsoever, but I had a glass of wine to celebrate,”” Byrne said. “”I got carded.””

But the confident and admittedly competitive Byrne said age wouldn’t hamper his abilities.

The son of current Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne, Greg Byrne said his involvement in collegiate athletics was meant to be. Growing up, dinner table conversations with his father were all about Nike, coaching changes and contracts.

“”I started reading the NCAA news in the eighth grade,”” Byrne said.

On Wednesday, the ASU graduate quickly clarified his commitment to working for the Wildcats. He had fond memories of watching men’s basketball player Steve Kerr play in front of the McKale Center crowd and the band playing in the end zone at football games.

“”This is not foreign territory to me or my family at all,”” Byrne said.

“”I am absolutely, 100 percent proud to be an Arizona Wildcat,”” he added. “”You will never have to doubt where my loyalties are.

“”(Taking the job) was just something that felt like was too much to not come and be a part of this.””

 

THEY SAID IT

“”Obviously, he has support in his family and that’s so important. With Regina, I’m sure she’s going to be willing to be at the forefront with him. Certainly, I would point out how important my team was with Bobbi. That will be the case with Greg and Regina.”” — Former UA men’s basketball coach Lute Olson

“”He’s young and I think he brings a lot of good ideas. He’s a good fundraiser. I think all the ingredients are there. I think there’s challenges ahead. I like what I heard. I think he’s a great people person, a real classy guy.”” — UA softball coach Mike Candrea

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