The conventional wisdom emerging from Alabama's hiring of Greg Byrne is that the Tide now have in place the person who will hire Nick Saban's replacement one day. But before Byrne can hire Saban's successor, Saban first had to hire Byrne. Or, at least give Alabama permission to hire him.
AL.com's John Talty on Tuesday published a great behind-the-scenes look at how Alabama hired one of the industry's rising star ADs without the position ever even coming open, a search which officially began when its then 74-year-old AD Bill Battle took a leave of absence last June to treat multiple myeloma. With Battle's contract set to expire in March, Tide officials decided to begin searching for his replacement and put out feelers to Byrne, among other candidates.
Byrne expressed he viewed the Alabama gig as his dream job, even turning back interest from Florida to wait out the Alabama job. The Tide did its due diligence on Byrne, then met with him at the National Football Foundation festivities in New York in December, then again in Tampa last week ahead of the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
It was at that point the two sides decided they had a match, but first the search committee had to present its choice to The Boss. As Talty writes:
There was growing optimism a deal would get done, but a major hurdle still had to be overcome: Nick Saban had to give his stamp of approval. Alabama wasn't going to make an athletic director hire if its most high-profile employee wasn't comfortable with it.
That couldn't come until after the national championship game. Alabama was able to get all the necessary parties together on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, with Saban inviting Byrne over for dinner. Saban liked what he heard from Byrne and left the meeting energized about the future, according to sources. He was on board with Byrne taking the AD job.
While Saban didn't technically hire Byrne, those running the search knew better than to make a hire without taking him to the palace to have him kiss the king's proverbial ring.
Oh, and by the way, a hacked off Nick Saban that is energized about the future should be a terrifying prospect for the rest of the country.