During his quarter-century at Arizona, Lute Olson built the top moneymaker in a sometimes financially challenged athletic department.
The former Wildcats basketball coach hopes his old program has more help carrying the load under Greg Byrne, the UA's new athletic director.
"I don't think it's something he can say, but I can say that it's important that the football program get their end of things up financially," Olson said. "You can't continue just raising prices in basketball and expect things are going to just work out. It has to be the efforts of both football and basketball if you're going to have a stable financial support area."
Fortunately for the UA, Olson indicated, the department has two advantages for making it work: Football coach Mike Stoops, whom Olson said "really has it going" with the size and quality of players he has recruited, and now Byrne.
While Olson said Wednesday that he didn't know Byrne, the former coach did know Byrne's father when he was the athletic director at Oregon. Olson was also impressed by Greg Byrne's career progress, with Oregon State hiring him from Oregon, and former OSU AD Mitch Barnhart hiring him at Kentucky.
"Then to be the youngest AD in Division I (at Mississippi State) is an indication a lot of people think very highly of him," Olson said. "I'm pleased that he's here. I think he's going to have the energy it's going to take, and he obviously has the support of his family, which is important."
Byrne has experience at athletic departments that are primarily football-driven (Oregon, Oregon State) and one that is known mostly for basketball (Kentucky). But he noted that Kentucky actually earns more from its football program (about $12.9 million in net revenue, compared to basketball's $6.1 million), while the UA still earned more net revenue from basketball ($11.4) than football ($8.3) in 2008-09.
Byrne said he wanted to continue growing football revenue, saying "there is no doubt there is passion, interest and support for the basketball program here, men's and women's, because of coach (Sean) Miller and coach (Niya) Butts. But also because of the foundation that coach Olson has laid."
Olson led the UA to 23 straight NCAA tournament appearances (1985-2007) with interim coaches Kevin O'Neill and Russ Pennell extending the streak to 25, second all-time to North Carolina's 27, before Arizona missed the 2010 event.
"Never did I dream that we would end up with a streak like that," Olson said. "But the program is in great hands with Sean (Miller) and his staff. I think they'll get their own streak started here pretty soon. It will be fun to watch that as it goes.
"I guess when the streak ended you just said, 'Wow, that was quite an accomplishment.' A lot of outstanding players came through this program, and I just look forward to the next one starting."