March 22, 2010 9:20:00 AM
After less than two full years, Mississippi State University Athletic Director Greg Byrne is leaving to become athletic director at the University of Arizona, Mississippi State officials said this morning.
"Greg Byrne has informed me that he will leave Mississippi State to accept the athletic director''s job at the University of Arizona," MSU President Mark Keenum said in an e-mail sent to news outlets. "A Wednesday press conference has been scheduled in Tucson to make that announcement.
"Personally, I am saddened by this news because of the deep affection that Rhonda and I have for Greg and Regina. I am professionally disappointed because of my respect and appreciation for the outstanding job he has done here."
In the statement, Keenum said he "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. They have an opportunity to be in a place where they have roots and deep connections."
Byrne''s tenure began July 1, 2008, after then-President Robert "Doc" Foglesong hired him to replace Larry Templeton, who had been MSU athletic director since 1987. Byrne was previously MSU associate athletic director for development and external affairs, and had worked in the athletic departments of Oregon State and Kentucky.
Byrne holds a bachelor''s degree from Arizona State University and a master''s degree from MSU.
His tenure included hiring football coach Dan Mullen, who has brought new energy to the football program. He has also overseen upgrades across MSU''s athletic programs. Volleyball, baseball and softball fields have been redone; new video screens have been added to the football and baseball stadiums; and ground has been broken on a $12 million practice facility for men''s and women''s basketball.
"I cannot say enough about what Greg has meant to our athletic program," Keenum said. "I began working with Greg even before assuming the presidency at MSU, during the search for a new football coach, and our relationship has always been a close one. The strong foundation he laid has created tremendous momentum and excitement and given MSU fans much to cheer about, with the promise of greater things on the horizon."
Keenum said a national search for a new AD would begin immediately.
"I am committed to building on that foundation by hiring an energetic and visionary leader to keep the momentum going. I am confident we will find that highly motivated, enthusiastic individual to lead our great Mississippi State University athletic program," he said.