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Byrne: Decision to leave MSU 'a good one for my family'


MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne

MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne
Photo by: Kelly Tippett  Buy this photo.



David Miller



STARKVILLE -- Talk about a case of the Mondays.  


An early a.m. news release today from Mississippi State University announced Director of Athletics Greg Byrne will take the same position at the University of Arizona.  


Byrne, who will be announced Wednesday in Tucson, Ariz., informed the athletic department staff this morning but spoke to head football coach Dan Mullen prior to the meeting. Mullen said Byrne was "emotional" during that conversation.  


Byrne, who will be on board in Starkville until April, said he had a "heavy heart" letting everyone affiliated with Mississippi State know of his departure. 


No decision has been made about a replacement. 


"As we have discussed many times, intercollegiate athletics is a very emotional industry," he said. "It is why all of us are so invested in this business, whether it is as administrators, coaches, student-athletes, or fans. We all have strong feelings about what happens here. My emotions today range from the highest highs to the lowest lows. While I am excited about a new opportunity, I am heartbroken to be leaving a lot of friends." 


Nevertheless, Byrne takes over an Arizona job that will give him roughly $12 million more in athletics budget each season. But Byrne, who originally came to MSU as the director of the Bulldog Club, said the move West was largely a family decision.  


Byrne grew up in Eugene, Ore., where his father, current Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, was the University of Oregon athletic director from 1983-92. Greg Byrne also worked at Oregon as a fundraiser for the Duck Club. 


"Center-most in those items I consider is the effect a professional decision would have on my family," Byrne said. "There is little question that this decision is a good one for my family. It places us back in a part of the country with which we are familiar, one that returns us near family and life-long friends. But this decision was more than just family." 


University president Dr. Mark Keenum said the search for Byrne''s replacement will be "nationwide." He said he offered to enhance Byrne''s financial deal with the school.  


"I made every effort to convince Greg to remain in Starkville, including offering a generous package of financial incentives, but as he conveyed to me, his decision was driven by family considerations more than financial compensation," Keenum said. "They have an opportunity to be in a place where they have roots and deep connections." 


Byrne''s appointment at Arizona comes after former AD Jim Livengood left in December to take the same position at UNLV. There was speculation that Byrne could take the AD job at Oregon after Mike Belotti announced last week he was leaving the school to take a job at ESPN.  


However, through Byrne'' statement, he said his goal was to "discourage any future interest" after he was first contacted about the job. But the pursuant and persistent forces in Tucson prevailed, and Byrne leaves behind a short, but otherwise progressive stint as MSU''s AD.  


He hired Mullen to replace Sylvester Croom and lured baseball coach John Cohen away from Kentucky, where friend Mitch Barnhart is AD. His fundraising efforts saw major revamping around campus and an effort to strengthen the fan base.  


Multi-million dollar projects at Humphrey Coliseum and Davis Wade Stadium were initiated under Byrne''s watch and the groundwork for further facilities upgrades is in place for track and golf upgrades.  


"He brought a tremendous vision for what direction he wanted the athletic department to go in," Mullen said in a meeting with media members Monday morning. "You look at all the sports and what he had done with bringing in the different coaches he hired and the motivation he had of promoting all of our athletic department and Mississippi State -- it was tremendous. It''ll be tremendously missed, not just by the athletic department but by the entire university." 





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Reader Comments

Article Comment DSL commented at 3/22/2010 2:05:00 PM:

"generous package of financial incentives" is still what sticks out at me in this article. As they cut departments, staff, facility, programs, etc, the President offers a "generous package of financial incentives".


Article Comment topdawg commented at 3/22/2010 2:06:00 PM:

The president offers a pitiful retirement package to employees this year, but if you're involved with athletics, then you get a generous offer to stay. I'm sure that makes the faculty and support staff feel real special, since they haven't seen a raise in 3 years - going on 4.


Article Comment brad commented at 3/22/2010 2:18:00 PM:

Im sure the package offered to him was heavily subsidized by the Bulldog Club and other sources of alumni funding. Sorry that's how the alumni want to spend their own money.


Article Comment MB commented at 3/22/2010 2:55:00 PM:

These salaries are paid by the Bulldog Club. I think I remember that Mullen is paid about $175,000 to $210,000 a year from the university and that the Bulldog Club pays the rest of his $1.3 million a year salary. I agree that the money spent on athletics is really high but look at the impact that athletics has on the local economy. Millions of dollars are donated every year to the Bulldog Club for athletics and the athletic department operates on about a $40 million dollar a year budget and about $12 to $15 million of that comes from the ESPN/SEC TV deal, along with other money from the SEC office. People will pay to watch kids play college sports but not to watch some smart kids go head to head in a debate. Are our priorities wrong? Maybe so, but athletics is big money to the local economy and the universities.


Article Comment DSL commented at 3/22/2010 3:15:00 PM:

MB- You might want to look at some statistics on money generated by sports.
The NCAA estimates in a given year that only 20 to 30 athletics programs actually generate enough external revenue to cover operating expenses.


Article Comment Starkvegan commented at 3/22/2010 4:11:00 PM:

"athletics is big money to the local economy and the universities".... I guess those faculty members that get no pay raises don't really generate big money to the local economy and the university with their research grants, start-up companies and university-licensed technology. That makes me wonder why, in these hard time, that bigger universities are swooping in and hiring away our best and brightest faculty.


Article Comment hank commented at 3/22/2010 4:18:00 PM:



Article Comment joey commented at 3/22/2010 4:21:00 PM:

I don't think his heart is as heavy as his billfold !!!!!!


Article Comment will commented at 3/22/2010 4:40:00 PM:

It's not about the money. He just likes Hotter weather! yea, RIGHT !


Article Comment milldawg commented at 3/22/2010 5:35:00 PM:

Its my money I will give and spend it where I want to until someone gets elected and decides to over tax it and give it to those that do not work or save.


Article Comment Dave commented at 3/22/2010 6:30:00 PM:

Tempe or Starkville - He made the same decision most would make.


Article Comment willie commented at 3/22/2010 7:28:00 PM:

Milldawg, You will have to share the wealth. You President said so !


Article Comment jane commented at 3/22/2010 7:30:00 PM:

Is that Scott Ross in the picture?


Article Comment Jim commented at 3/22/2010 7:32:00 PM:

Dave - Byrne is headed to Tucson (U of A) not Tempe (ASU). But either way, I guess I'd take the desert southwest.


Article Comment MB commented at 3/22/2010 9:01:00 PM:

DSL: "The NCAA estimates in a given year that only 20 to 30 athletics programs actually generate enough external revenue to cover operating expenses."
That's because the politically correct NCAA mandates money be spent on non revenue generating athletic programs in the interest of "equality". It's a cash cow, especially if programs have to live on their own. Maybe you are the one that needs to check a few facts.


Article Comment DSL commented at 3/22/2010 10:28:00 PM:

MB- In every study I have found all say the same thing. While football and basketball in major schools do bring in a large amount of money, the money is not enough to actually cover the expenses. In the study that I gave the link to states that even in the to biggest conferences the Universities usually have to take money from the general funds to cover the shortfall.


Article Comment btu commented at 3/22/2010 11:03:00 PM:

Athletics- MSU an agriculture school and we don't own any cows or pigs or hardly any farm animals except some dairy cows and there's hardly a dairy left in the State due to EPA and fear of how a cow smells! As a 76 alum I've quit sending money to MSU- all sports and not much else. Where are we going here? Large majority of our MSU teachers are not even from the USA? Students can't even understand the teachers and the class size is growing- more students per teacher and we're paying coaches more?

Let him go and go find someone from Mississippi who needs a job to fill his spot!!!!


Article Comment Jim Bell commented at 3/23/2010 8:28:00 AM:

As Bear Bryant once said, "how are you going to get 70,000 people to pay to watch a math class?" When the non-athletic staff starts bringing in the $'s the athletic staff and programs do, then let's take a look at their financial packages! Way to go, Dr. Keenum!


Article Comment DSL commented at 3/23/2010 9:33:00 AM:

Athletics DOES NOT bring in a large amount of revenue to the Universities. Research brings in the largest amount of money. Everyone sees the prices and pay outs from sporting events but do not consider the expense to pay for such. The statistics are there to prove this.


Article Comment Bully commented at 3/23/2010 9:59:00 AM:

Here are the numbers for the MSU Athletic Department for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. MSU had revenues of $36,536,152 and expenses of $36,467,532, so they did not lose any money. Being in the SEC helps our Athletic Department when it comes to money and the way they distribute it.

Research brings in a lot of money to the universities but there are usually strings attached to that money. I am glad that they universities have this money but they still need more money to operate. Research dollars alone can not run the university. If it could they legislature would not be telling all of the universities they have to make cuts.

Kyle Veazey with the CL wrote an article back when Mullen was hired and if I am not mistaken he is paid like MB said above. The State of Mississippi pays part and the Bulldawg Club pays the majority of his salary. The Athletic Department may pay some of it also but I do not remember exactly how it is divided up.


Article Comment DSL commented at 3/23/2010 10:24:00 AM:

Bully- I am glad you confirmed my point. As I stated the Athletic Department did not bring in a lot of revenue. According to your figure it brought is a whopping $68,620. Not quite the "cash cow" everyone thinks.


Article Comment OMG commented at 3/23/2010 10:25:00 AM:

I personally think it's a color factor. I'm sure the president didn't offer Croom a package to stay here at State and give him a fair chance NO because he is a black man c'mon you don't have to be very bright to see what's really going on at MSU.I would like to know why is Rick Stansbury still there and his program is worse every year?????????????OOOOOOOOOOOOOO I see he's a white guy that's it.We as black people needs to wake up and smell the roses. Brynes ran Croom off and now he's gone that's normally how it goes. He has to be a Crook but may God bless you all


Article Comment Anonymoose commented at 3/23/2010 10:29:00 AM:

I am a graduate in Sociology from MSU and would find the concept that college sports, be it football or basketball, is any form of a "cash cow" for the university laughable at best. I cannot comment on the impact on the local economy of Starkville, but I believe I can with some small measure of assurance say that in no way does either program truly turn a profit for the university.

During my time as a student I had to do an extensive research paper regarding the costs of athletics versus the revenue it brings it. My findings where quite conclusive in indicating that unless a team is in the top twenty in the nation it is in fact not a financial asset but a burden, and even within this elite top twenty the ability to turn a profit is not assured.

Ticket and merchandise sales, with very few exceptions, fail to come close to covering the often inflated overhead required to operate a university level athletics program. Soaring expenses including salary, facility management, traveling fees, and game expenses serve as pits down which flow the money received from sources ranging from private donations to commercial contracts.

In fact, most university athletic programs, MSU included, too often rely on hidden fees such as a percentage taken from student tuition to keep their head above the deficit they incur. I do not have the actual numbers in front of me but per semester MSU students shell out between 3.5 and 4.3 million dollars as a whole to the athletic department (based on the low/high national averages for money deducted from tuition and an average of 18 class hours taken a semester multiplied by roughly 16,000 students) when instead this money could be going to education (instructor salaries). On top of this students must still purchase tickets for most high profile sporting events.

Now, some will claim that either these expenses are made up via the attendance of bowl games or that these expenses could be offset through the cancelation of other non-traditional sports programs. Both of these claims are false. In regard to the non-traditional sports, the operating costs of these programs versus the revenue they bring in barely compares to the budgets of the football, basketball, or baseball programs. At most universities non-traditional sports function at a fraction of the cost of their big brothers. This discrepancy is most notably caused by the differences in salaries between the sub-programs.

Finally, regarding the first point a study in 2003 found that on average most athletics programs (in the case of this study football) which go to a bowl game spend nearly 1.5 million dollars more then they make from NCAA and commercial payments they receive. This money is most commonly lost through transportation, food, and housing costs for the team, band, staff, and family/friends of the aforementioned. That is a net loss of -1.5 million dollars per bowl game which must be made up by some other source of revenue and this net loss was accrued by one of the top 20 teams whose programs actually have a chance to turn any kind of profit.

In conclusion, data gathered from a number of sources in no way indicates that colligate athletics in fact turn a profit for their schools. In stark contrast to popular belief (which we so often find to be wrong upon closer examination) the programs are actually a financial millstone hung around the neck of higher education, merely adding to the deficit currently facing colleges across the nation in these trying economic times.

A brief aside: In comparison to athletics, research brings in an incredible amount of money to any research based university, MSU included. Both public and private grants can range from the hundreds of thousands to the millions in dollars. I personally know of no less than three that garner between 2.3 and 4 million in funds each. In comparison to athletics, research serves as a more stable and profitable base with which to fund an institution of higher learning.

Now, my question is this: Why are we offering money we don't have from a college that is already cutting programs to try and keep a member of the staff of a department which doesn't really turn a profit?


Article Comment willie commented at 3/23/2010 12:25:00 PM:



Article Comment Bully commented at 3/23/2010 2:59:00 PM:

The athletic department did not lose any money! I never said that it was a cash cow. It needs to operate this way and it is not in business to make a profit. It also does not need to not lose any money either.

I do not know the numbers on the university but I would love to see the books for it. I graduated from MSU and I know all about the fees and other things students are charged for. Tuition in no way covers all of the operating expenses for the university. Tax dollars and research dollars (which most of the time is tax dollars) helps the university. Athletics are a different deal. The private foundation funds a lot of the coaches salaries and even half of the AD's salary. The private foundation is donated money. Now if all of the people that are concerned about academics and do not support athletics want to set up a private foundation to help with teachers salaries and things along that line then that would be awesome! There may even be one that I do not know about.

I do know this, college athletics give a lot of young men and women the chance to get out, so to speak, and go to college on their abilities. I for one support that and like to see them succeed!


Article Comment Bully commented at 3/23/2010 3:07:00 PM:

Crooms did get a package. He got a raise the year before he was forced out. If he had produced a winning season his last year and we had not lost to OM in the Egg Bowl by a score of 41-0, he might have lasted at least one more year. He had 5 years here and only one winning season. He left with a lot of cash in his pocket and the foundation bought them a $900,000 home in the process. I liked Coach Croom along with all of my other friends that are State fans and we all wanted him to succeed but if you do not produce winning teams you can not keep your job.


Article Comment Anonymoose commented at 3/23/2010 4:37:00 PM:


One point I would like to make, if I may, is that if you were to take the subsidies that students pay, often unknowingly, to athletics via tuition and reallocated it to purely educational pursuits they would be anywhere from six to nine million (once again, an estimate due to lack of hard numbers at my disposal based on national averages) dollars in debt each year rather then turning a meager 68,000 dollar profit. That six to nine million would certainly help address the educational budget crunch that is currently tightening like a noose around the necks of so many departments and programs.

Perhaps that should be the solution for the financial crises we find ourselves in as a university: Allocate all tuition funds to purely educational pursuits and allow those alumni who are concerned with our vaunted sports program to reach into their apparently considerable pockets to fund it. Maybe we could cut down on tuition hikes with this program; perhaps even start a new scholarship program, thereby allowing a lot of young men and women to get out and go to college based on their academic abilities. I for one support that.

Once again, an aside (it seems to be my trademark): I find it appalling that a percentage of student tuition is used to prop up the athletic program while academics and other departments are on the chopping block at MSU. Even more bothersome is that any member of the MSU staff would consider offering yet more of our diminishing money supply to any program or individual that is not integral to the education of the students of the college.


Article Comment Starkvegan commented at 3/23/2010 5:00:00 PM:

As to who is the "real" economic engine to the university and local community, consider these facts:

From an earlier post:
The MSU Athletic Department (FY2009) had revenues of $36.5M.

External awards for research and service totaled $146 million for FY 2009. Agriculture and engineering continue to be the University's major research strengths. The university is 5th in the country in agricultural sciences research expenditures and 34th in engineering research expenditures.

So the faculty research generates exactly 4x that of the athletic department. Any of our athletic programs would be thrilled to be ranked 5th or 34th nationally, year-in and year-out. You will also find few faculty members make the $302.5K per annum that Byrne made at State. Easy to see where our priorities are.


Article Comment Life Long Bulldog commented at 3/23/2010 5:39:00 PM:

We have alot of very dedicated professionals in our athletic department at MSU and their love for MSU is unquestionable. What is wrong with promoting from within? It can be a degree because Byrne only got his masters degree after coming to MSU. Say anything you want about Larry Templeton but he was always loyal to MSU and did great things for our university. We need someone who sees it as our university and not just a stepping stone.


Article Comment Life Long Bulldog commented at 3/23/2010 5:40:00 PM:

sorry - meant to say can't be a degree


Article Comment don''t give a crap commented at 3/23/2010 7:49:00 PM:

To liferdog, You are so sad. Get a LIFE !


Article Comment Bully commented at 3/24/2010 8:32:00 AM:

First of all I am enjoying discussing this because I have learned a little. The main reason why I got involved in the discussion is because the coaches salaries and the AD's salaries are not completely paid by tax payers. The private foundation pays 50% to 75% of the salaries.

When I was in school the only mandatory fee that I remember included in my tuition was the $50 activity fee for the Sanderson Center membership or something along that line. I do not remember anything else. We would actually go and pay for our student tickets for football when they became available. Do they include that in the tuition now? If there are other fees from tuition going to the athletic department then all you have to do is hold Dr. Keenum's feet to the fire and get that changed, if that is the case. I would also support changing that if it is that way. The main thing I am trying to say is that the Athletic Department and the university are two different things. I do not have a problem with how the athletic department is run as long as they are not losing money. Football, basketball, and maybe even baseball are our major cash sports. They carry the rest of the sports. We have to have a certain number of female athletes on campus based on Title IX as required by the NCAA. Baseball also only has about 10.2 scholarships for a 25 man roster and that is actually based on a percentage of female athletes and something else.

I also know that there is a lot of dead weight on campus in a lot of departments. I would like to see this dead weight eliminated. I am for cuts since tax revenue is down here in Mississippi. In all aspects of government we should operate lean!


Article Comment DSL commented at 3/24/2010 9:32:00 AM:

I agree with you Bully. This has been an enlightening discussion for the most part. My main point was not aimed at you but people who think Universities make millions on Athletics. I am glad to learn MSU is holding its own.

I personally am looking at the possibility of losing my job at the end of June at the University due to budget cuts. They is why I am a bit jaded on money offered to retain someone. I also understand, to some degree, that Athletics is a separate entity but not totally.

I appreciated your input to the discussion.


Article Comment Anonymoose commented at 3/24/2010 11:13:00 AM:

Bully and DSL,
I, too, have enjoyed this discussion. It has been quite illuminating as far as the spending habits of MSU are concerned. Knowledge is power and all that... Now on to business as it were.

Unless MSU is the single exception in the world of college sports some quantity of the money that students pay to the university to fund their education goes to the athletics department. In the instance of student paid tuition it is not a specific fee (such as the Sanderson Center one which is still in effect and I believe up in the $70s now) that you will find outlined on any receipt from MSU but instead a percent of the funds brought in via tuition which is allocated to the athletic department. This money is usually a flat cash amount ranging between ten and fifteen dollars per semester hour (on national average) and will not be listed as a "fee" to the students as it will be a simple case of reallocation of funds to the athletics program, much like the allocation of funds to pay for instructors salaries. Hence it is a "hidden fee" paid by each and every student in addition to the purchase of tickets that students must make to attend games.

My point is if this money were to be used strictly for academic purposes you would find, I believe, it would help alleviate at least some of the pressure felt by the various academic programs facing cuts. Instead it is doled out to the athletics program which does not directly contribute to the education and instruction of the MSU student body beyond the point of a handful (respectively) of athletic based scholarships and which could not exist without such subsidies. For Keenum to offer a financial incentive to the head of a department which could not operate without subsidies directly from the student body is a bit irresponsible or at least in poor taste.

Personally I'm encouraged to hear that you believe that athletic and academic funding should be separate, now if that were only truly the case. Unfortunately it is not. Instead athletics is dependent on the finances it receives from more traditional sources such as tuition and this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Oh well, what will be will be.


Article Comment Life Long Bulldog commented at 3/24/2010 1:37:00 PM:

That's Life Long Bulldog to you DGAC and apparently you don't. Unlike you I do care about MSU.


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