Coach Mike Stoops, quarterback Nick Foles and the other Wildcats face a daunting schedule this fall, but athletic director Greg Byrne says the goal still is winning the Pac-12.


Editor's note: This is the second in a three-day series featuring University of Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne reflecting on his first year here and his expectations of what's to come.

Less than two weeks after the Arizona Wildcats' Alamo Bowl loss last year, Greg Byrne sat alongside coach Mike Stoops at a news conference to express his support.

Since then, the UA athletic director has made strides toward improving the football experience - from adding a video board at Arizona Stadium to receiving Arizona Board of Regents' approval to build a $72.3 million north end zone complex.

In Part II of the Star's three-part sit-down with Byrne, conducted last week, the athletic director talks about Stoops, the program's growth and what lies ahead:

What's your expectation for the football team?

A: I want us to compete for a Pac-12 championship. And I want us to have the infrastructure in place to allow us to do that.

I believe Coach Stoops has put us in the position - just two years ago, we were one (Oregon) series away, pretty much. So we've been knocking on the door. We've got to get through the door.

How does the way the past two seasons have ended affect, in your opinion, the mood of fans and of donors toward the program? And toward the idea of whether progress has been made?

A: I think it would be naïve for somebody to say we're not a whole lot better with Mike Stoops being our football coach than we were before he took over.

And the reality, though, too is that when you have success people want to say, "What do we have to do to get better and take that next step?" We've taken a lot of steps under Coach Stoops. I'm pleased with the progress the program has made under his leadership.

At the same time, too, he wants to, I want to, I know our fan base wants to get to Pasadena - and not for a regular-season game.

The schedule lines up as being more daunting, perhaps, than the past few years. At some point, if losses accumulate, fans will ask you - and the media - about his security. Is that anything people should concern themselves with?

A: That's human nature. That's our industry, that happens. One (thing) is, I don't talk a whole lot about coaches during the season. And that will continue.

But I think our comments after last season reflect what my feelings are about the job that he's done, getting us to three straight bowl games for the second time in the program's history.

Academically, we've made great strides under him. I've been very pleased about rules compliance under him. We continue to attract well at the gate - I'll never be satisfied with that until we're sold out on season tickets and have a waiting list.

So there are a lot of variables that take place when you're evaluating your coaches and the job that they do. And at the same time, too, the reality is we've got to win ballgames.

How much stock do you put in how enthusiastic and optimistic your donors and fans are about the future of the program?

A: It's important to have people supporting your program; that's critical. What's happened in college athletics is that we've invested heavily a lot of times in people. When you invest heavily there's an expectation for return on it.

When you look at each of your programs - and we have 19 sports - you look at it from a lot of different angles. From a football and men's basketball side, especially, we have to look at it from a revenue standpoint as well and the impact that has on the rest of our department and our ability to support those 19 sports.