As the great John Wooden said:
Be quick, but don’t hurry.
It’s the middle of a crazy week as Greg Byrne slides off the headset after a just completed interview with Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat from the University of Arizona’s Lowell Stevens Football Facility.
Per usual, he politely thanks us for coming down for the day to do the show with a firm handshake and a genuine smile.
Inside his head it’s easy to see the wheels turning.
The morning is almost over.
Where do I need to be?
He chats for a couple of minutes, says goodbye and vanishes through the secured double glass doors as quickly as he appeared.
The Vice President for Athletics and Director of Athletics is needed…for something…by somebody…somewhere on the UofA campus.
Even when Byrne was hired in early 2010 said wheels were spinning in the form of a $378 million sports expansion, which included much-needed updates to Arizona Stadium. Two years later Arizona baseball moved off-campus to Hi Corbett Field which resulted in a huge spike in attendance and a College World Series title that same summer. This year the McKale Center went through a $30 million renovation, as well.
However, where many believe Byrne has “made his money” is in hiring head coaches. While the AD at Mississippi State he hired Dan Mullen back in 2008. The unbeaten Bulldogs are currently the number one team in the country.
18 months into his time in Tucson he put his stamp on the Wildcats’ football program firing long-tenured Mike Stoops and hiring Rich Rodriguez who was let go after three rocky seasons at Michigan.
The always forward-thinking Byrne made the announcement on Twitter.
Rodriguez has revitalized Arizona football, guiding the ‘Cats to consecutive bowl victories his first two seasons and now a spot in the Top 20 with a 5-1 record, including an upset of second-ranked Oregon in Eugene. It was the second win over the Ducks in as many years.
So what’s the method to Byrne’s madness?
Silence is Golden.
“When you’re hiring a football coach,” Byrne explained to Cesmat. “You gotta keep quiet. I’ve seen coaching searches where they may have their second choice up their on the podium up there announcing it but because of where the leaks have been they may look like the seventh or eighth choice. We’ve tried to keep the information extremely tight.”
Byrne has a policy if word gets out “according to sources” that a candidate is talking to Arizona about a coaching vacancy, he’ll assume they don’t want the job.
He also takes into consideration geography.
“Each place is different,” Byrne explained. “What will fit in Tucson, Arizona may not fit in the northeast, may not fit in the northwest…you have to find that person who you think is the right fit.”
Part of said “right fit” has to do with personality. Character and integrity are just as important as X’s and O’s because if you’re being considered for a head coaching position in a power conference it’s pretty apparent you know how to put together a game plan and scheme on the field.
“The thing I love about [Rodriguez] and coach [Sean] Miller and our coaches across the board here at Arizona one is they’re good people,” Byrne told Cesmat. “Two…if [my sons] were being recruited in that sport, would I want my son to play for them?”
So far the 42-year-old ASU alum (yes, that’s right) and Tostitos Fiesta Bowl administrator is batting 1000% on college football hires.
As we speak he’s likely off doing what Greg Bryne does. Maybe chatting up students around campus for feedback on how to enhance the in-game experience or “cleaning out his closet” randomly giving away UofA gear on twitter as he’s been known to do.
There’s always something on the list.
Some more important than others but Byrne doesn’t let the size of the task dictate his thoroughness through its’ completion.
Be quick, but don’t hurry.
And Bear Down.