‘SEVEN ON SEVEN’ SERIES WITH GREG BYRNE, ARIZONA ATHLETICS DIRECTOR
Greg Byrne is currently in his seventh year [2010-present] as Vice President for Athletics at Arizona. He formerly [2008-10] was in a similar capacity at Mississippi State. His father, Bill, was athletics director at Texas A&M. Byrne sat down with FBA Communications to talk about several of the different facets of his job and how each component has evolved over the past decade.
With football and basketball coaches moving around so much now, what is your hiring philosophy as an athletic director in being ready when/if it occurs?
“You always have to have a thought process each year of what you would do. It is a fluid list that you usually do not want to actually use but you must be prepared.”
What is your opinion of the bowl system as it stands now? Some critics say there are too many games, yet the student-athletes themselves have never said this.
“There are a lot of games and I do not think we need to add any additional games. I can understand the debate that you should have a 7-5 or better record to participate. However, our students do enjoy their experience and we should keep that in the forefront of our decision-making process.”
You have made two notable football coaching hires, Dan Mullen at Mississippi State and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. In what ways were the hiring processes similar, and in what ways did they differ in terms of what each program needed at the time?
“The similarities were that I had a small number of people involved in both hires…you have to keep the information in a tight circle to prevent inaccurate information being shared publicly. With both searches, I told each candidate I spoke with that if it leaked that they had interviewed or were the leading candidate “according to sources” then I assumed they did not want the job.
“The biggest differences between the two hires: The MSU hire was done in a short window, ten to twelve days, if I remember correctly, because we made the change after the end of the regular season. The U of A hire took about a month and a half because we made the change midseason and I had a lot more time to work with. The other difference between the two is that we used a search consultant for the MSU hire and did not use one for the U of A hire.”
Your father was an athletics director. When you were growing up, did you decide as a teenager that was a viable career path for you, or did this not take root until later on?
“I actually wrote a career report in fourth grade about being an athletics director. I probably was the only middle schooler that read the NCAA News. I loved early on being around the college campus, the student-athletes and the passion of the fans. To grow up around that environment was a true blessing and I can’t thank my Mom and Dad enough.”
The Arizona baseball team moved into an off-campus facility in 2012 and went on to win the College World Series that year. What was the thought in moving the games off-campus?
“Our on-campus stadium was not equipped to host NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals. The former spring training home to the Colorado Rockies was sitting unused 2.5 miles from campus. Tucson had a historical affinity to the facility. We re-engaged our community with Arizona Baseball and hosted our first NCAA Regional in 20 years and our first ever Super Regional to advance to Omaha. Once we made it to Omaha, our hot streak continued and we came home with the title. It was special.”
Is fundraising easier, harder or about the same as it was 10 years ago?
“I would say it is about the same. You have to keep the basics of fundraising 101…identify, cultivate, solicit and then back to cultivation. In some ways, if you are using technology effectively, you can get to the masses and cultivate your annual giving efforts in a much more efficient manner than you could before.”
What is the #1 question you are asked on a daily basis as you go about your workday?
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like George Clooney?
“Okay, I think I should get asked that a lot more than I do, which is never.
“The most common questions/comments are usually about a few different things. Team performances and DirecTV with the Pac-12 Networks.”