March 23, 2010 10:37:00 AM
It''s hard to hang on to the good ones.
Monday''s news of the departure of Mississippi State University Athletic Director Greg Byrne proved that axiom. Anyone who spent time with Byrne, or heard him speak, knew instantly that he is an up-and-comer destined for great things.
Great things -- or at least the promise of great things -- were only starting to happen at MSU, which makes Byrne''s exit that much more tough to swallow.
Byrne made sweeping changes during his year and eight months in the athletic director''s chair. He switched out new coaches for football and baseball, two cornerstone sports at the university, for up-and-comers like himself, who are rebuilding those programs. Dirt only recently started moving on a new practice facility for the MSU basketball program, which will help to recruit and hone those student athletes into future champions.
With these endeavors all in their first year or two, the jury is still out on what Byrne''s legacy will be. But his charisma and ability to promote MSU athletics -- coupled with his fund-raising prowess -- will certainly be among them.
Byrne, an Arizona State graduate who grew up in Oregon, says his move back west was largely a "family decision." With friends and family on that side of the country, and his clear status as a hot property in university athletics, we can''t fault him for doing what feels right personally. We can only wish him the best, while pondering what an extended Byrne era might have meant for the university.