Byrne to remain until late April

March 23, 2010 10:37:00 AM

David Miller -

 

Mississippi State University Athletic Director Greg Byrne, who announced Monday he''ll be leaving the school for University of Arizona, will be on board in Starkville until late April as MSU begins a search for his replacement. 

 

It is unclear whether Byrne, who enjoyed a successful yet brief stint as MSU''s athletics chief after taking over for Larry Templeton in 2008, will assist or recommend potential successors to MSU President Mark Keenum, who hasn''t named any candidates for the job. 

 

MSU will be looking for its third athletic director in three years after Byrne, 38, informed his staff Monday that he''d be heading west to take the same position at Arizona.  

 

The lure to Tucson proved too good to pass up for Byrne, who received his undergraduate degree from Arizona State in 1994 and had grown up in Eugene, Ore. 

 

Despite the significant pay increase from $302,500 to $390,000 for the Arizona job, Byrne said the move was a family decision in a news release Monday. Byrne''s new salary was first reported by the Arizona Daily Star.  

 

UA president Robert Shelton said Byrne could make more than his $390,000 base salary with academic and athletic incentives. 

 

"It took several conversations, and much prayer on my part, but their overwhelming interest was apparent as time moved along," Byrne said. "The combination of a professional challenge and a personal commitment to my family made the position very attractive to me." 

 

Byrne declined further comment until after he is announced and introduced in Tucson on Wednesday.  

 

Mississippi State University president Dr. Mark Keenum said he offered to sweeten the pot and enhance Byrne''s deal in an effort to keep him in Starkville, but Byrne declined and said his decision "was driven by family considerations more than financial compensation." 

 

Former Arizona AD Jim Livengood left the school in December and took over at UNLV when UA president Robert Shelton told him his contract would not be renewed.  

 

Byrne''s courtship by the UA brass was initially rejected and said his goal was to "discourage any future interest." But the pursuant and persistent forces in Tucson were able to lure him away from Starkville, while also eliminating one of the University of Oregon''s favorites to replace former AD Mike Bellotti, who left after just one year on the job to work for ESPN.