AD eager to make positive impact

Citing Arizona 'ties and roots,' Byrne brings fundraising skills to Wildcats
2010-03-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:53:24Z AD eager to make positive impactPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Greg Byrne, who rose to be one of America's youngest athletic directors at Mississippi State, is taking over the Arizona Wildcats program.

The Arizona State graduate was lauded for his fundraising acumen and academic oversight on Monday by UA President Robert Shelton.

"I think it's no exaggeration to say he's one of the rising stars in athletics across the nation," Shelton said.

Byrne's five-year contract is worth $390,000 a year. With academic and athletic incentives, Byrne's salary could increase, Shelton said. The UA did not pay MSU to buyout his contract.

Byrne, 38, is expected to start May 1, pending Arizona Board of Regents approval. Shelton said the regents' human-resources committee will meet the first week of April, followed by a regents' meeting April 30 and May 1.

Byrne - who once worked at the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix, and has relatives in the Phoenix area, - will fly to Tucson today. He and his wife, Regina, have two sons - Nick, 14 and Davis, 12.

"We have a lot of ties and roots to the state of Arizona," he told the Star Monday. "And we're very eager for the opportunity to come in and hopefully make a real positive impact to the athletic department, the university and the community as a whole."

Byrne declined further comment, saying he preferred to wait until a Wednesday news conference.

When Byrne was named to the MSU position in February 2008, he became the youngest NCAA Division I-A athletic director to hold the position.

Shelton said his Pac-10 ties were important - he worked for the Fiesta Bowl and as a fundraiser at Oregon and Oregon State. His father, Bill, has served as the athletic director at Oregon, Nebraska and, currently, Texas A&M.

The announcement ends more than three months of uncertainly for the Wildcats. Former AD Jim Livengood ended his almost 16-year tenure when he accepted the UNLV position in December. Shelton had told Livengood his UA contract would not be extended.

Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose, the UA's interim athletic director, did a "fantastic job," Shelton said. She was unavailable for comment Monday.

Shelton said he spoke with "at least five" people about the job, but that Byrne was the only one to whom he offered the position.

The UA president originally submitted a list of 19 names - including Byrne's - to his seven-person advisory committee. The group sent back a "nuanced analysis," Shelton said, but did not interview candidates. Byrne said in a statement the UA pursued him, and MSU President Mark Keenum said the school tried to keep him with a "generous package of financial incentives."

Advisory committee chairman Stephen MacCarthy, the UA's vice president for external relations, said Byrne had been "tremendously successful in fundraising, an area of obvious interest and concern for us."

The Wildcats still need to raise money for the largest construction project in department history, and are in the process of finding an architectural-design firm for the $85.7 million renovation plan for Arizona Stadium's north end zone. The school commissioned plans for $378 million in upgrades across all sports during the next 15 to 20 years.

At Oregon, Byrne helped raise money for an indoor practice facility. He helped find donations to renovate Reser Stadium at Oregon State and a basketball practice facility at Kentucky.

UA volleyball coach David Rubio - who heard positive reviews of Byrne from his MSU counterparts Monday - said "raising money" will be Wildcats' greatest challenge.

Al Schmidt, MSU track and field coach for the past 22 years, praised Byrne for helping to raise $3.2 million for a new facility at the Starkville, Miss., school that will open in September. He said the program designed the track itself, and Byrne found the money to build it.

Schmidt called Byrne "innovative" and "aggressive," and said the UA hired a "tremendous" athletic director.

"He never once said we could not do something," he said.

On StarNet: Find complete coverage of University of Arizona sports at azstarnet.com/wildcats

Greg Byrne

• Age: 38

• Born: Pocatello, Idaho.

• Family: He and wife Regina have two sons, Nick, 14 and Davis, 12.

• Degrees: Bachelor's from Arizona State in 1994, and a master's from Mississippi State in 2009.

• All in the family: Byrne's father, Bill, is one of the largest names in the business. The athletic director at Texas A&M also led the departments at Nebraska (1992-2002) and Oregon (1984-1992).

• Young gun: When he was hired to replace Mississippi State's Larry Templeton in 2008, Byrne, at 36, became the youngest athletic director in NCAA Division I-A.

• Etc: Was hired twice by Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhardt, both at Oregon State and then at UK. ... The ASU grad is no stranger to working for a rival, moving directly from a job at Oregon to Oregon State in 1998. ... Has a popular Twitter account, Greg_Byrne.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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