The Cat pounces: UA picks ASU grad as new athletic director

An Arizona man is coming home to take over athletics at one of the state’s major universities.   But he got turned around somewhere.

Greg Byrne, an Arizona State graduate, has been announced as the new Athletic Director at University of Arizona.  He leaves a similar position at Mississippi State after less than two years in Starkville to fill the vacancy in Tucson that opened when Jim Livengood left to become AD at University of Nevada Las Vegas.  Kathleen “Rocky” LaRose has been serving as interim AD since December while the Cats searched for a replacement.

Prior to taking over as the AD at MSU, Byrne was the school’s associate athletic director for development and external affairs.  He has a masters degree from MSU.  On his way up the administrative ladder, he also worked in the athletic departments at Oregon State and Kentucky.

MSU’s president, Mark Keenum, sounded genuinely sorry to lose Byrne and said great things about his work there.  “The strong foundation he laid has created tremendous momentum and excitement and given MSU fans much to cheer about,” Keenum said in a statement announcing Byrne’s departure.

While at MSU, Byrne made a controversial move when he forced the resignation of the Southeastern Conference’s first African-American football coach, Sylvester Croom, and hired Florida assistant Dan Mullen to replace him.  Most observers consider that a successful move and he has also overseen upgrades to the athletic programs, including breaking ground on a $12 million practice facility for men’s and women’s basketball.

Byrne himself said in a prepared statement that, “Our job here is not done, but the pieces are in place to bring success to Mississippi State athletics.”

So why did the 38-year-old leave behind a thriving program and head for the desert?

In addition to his degree from ASU, he has family ties to the Pac-10 Conference; his father, Bill, served eight years as Oregon’s athletic director.  His father is now the AD at Texas A&M.

“There is little question that this decision is a good one for my family,” Byrne continued in his statement.  “It places us back in a part of the country with which we are familiar, one that returns us near family and lifelong friends.”  He and his wife are raising two boys.

Byrne will be introduced at a news conference scheduled for Wednesday in Tucson.  He will start his new job May 1, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

University president, Robert Shelton, who was directly involved in the interview process, called Byrne “one of the rising stars in athletics across the nation.”

Sounds like the young man is going to be faced with some pretty high expectations – and he hasn’t even had time to trade in his horns for new Cats’ paws.

Looks like we’ve got a new twist to an old rivalry.

(Photo: MSU Athletics)