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

March 22, 2010 1:16:00 PM

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."