Greg Byrne recently reached the three-year mark as Arizona athletic director, and Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star took an interesting snapshot of the Wildcats' athletic department under Byrne.
Arizona football is trending straight upward after Byrne's hiring of Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats posted an 8-5 record in year one after a 4-8 season in 2011. The Lowell-Stevens Football Facility is set to open next month and by all accounts will kick the football program further into high gear. Sean Miller has the Arizona basketball program positioned to retake its long-held place atop the Pac-12. And Arizona baseball is still polishing its 2012 national championship trophy.
At age 41 with a half-decade of athletic director experience to his credit, Byrne has already taken a leadership position within the college sports community. He cares about the overall health of college athletics beyond the doors of the Arizona athletic offices and is willing to roll up his sleeves to prove it. He serves on NCAA president Mark Emmert's 10-member athletic director advisory committee.
"This is in its infancy," Byrne said. "But I had been vocal about some concerns, about the future, in our conference meetings. I guess it made a little bit of sense to recommend me for (Emmert's) group.''
In his comprehensive view, Hansen notes that the Arizona women's basketball, women's soccer, men's golf and men's tennis programs have seen better days. The track, tennis, soccer and softball programs could use new facilities.
If your biggest problem is a struggling softball program and some behind-the-times facilities, especially when the big three sports are humming, you're doing pretty well as an athletic director. No matter how successful, an AD's work is never done. No athletic department is ever going to be spotless across the board.
With three years at Arizona and four more (the final two as athletic director) at Mississippi State before that, Byrne is off to a fast start in what will certainly be a very long career. Based on our brief interactions with him in person and via twitter, what we hear from the football staff and from others outside of the program, we have nothing but positives to add to what Hansen wrote. We can't promise he'll still be at his post atop the Arizona athletics department two decades from now, but we can guarantee he'll be impacting college sports wherever he may be.