John Perrin is the last man (or woman) standing from Cedric Dempsey’s original athletic department staff at Arizona, 1983, a group of administrators and coaches who capably completed the transition from WAC to Pac-10 and then some.
Perrin has been the Money Man at Arizona, caressing a yearly budget that began at $6 million and has now reached $67 million and climbing.
Under Dempsey’s direction, and along with Bob Bockrath, Mary Roby and Rocky LaRose, Arizona became a major player in college athletics as much because of its administrative abilities as its on-field coaching and athletic skills.
Perrin is retiring in June, a rock, a bottom-line guy who ran the UA business operation the way John Wayne ran a cattle drive. There was no doubt who was the boss.
Quietly, over the last six months, UA athletic director Greg Byrne began a national search to replace Perrin and ultimately hand-picked Ross Cobb of Texas-San Antonio.
UTSA isn’t a major player in college sports, but Cobb distinguished himself by his selection as the 2012 College Athletics Business Manager of the Year. It’s an award that is almost always won by those at big schools with big budgets; in recent years Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado administrators have won it.
Cobb operated a $25 million budget at UTSA as the Roadrunners moved from a small-commuter school to FBS football.
Byrne can’t afford for Cobb to be overwhelmed by a promotion from Conference USA to the Pac-12. The financial risks involved with more than $150 million of investments in Arizona Stadium and McKale Center demand Perrin-esque leadership and direction.
Dempsey was fortunate in that he inherited Bockrath, Roby, Perrin and LaRose, all of whom were Hall of Fame-type athletic administrators. Now, after losing both LaRose and Perrin in the same fiscal year, Byrne embarks on a new era of UA sports with a new staff of lieutenants.