Reading up: Byrne did his homework in process of Rich Rodriguez hire

Jonathan Daniel

Greg Byrne read three books to research head coaching candidates that would lead the Arizona Wildcats. The end result was the hiring of Greg Byrne.

Greg Byrne wouldn't reveal Tuesday how many candidates the Arizona Wildcats took notice of in their search for a new football coach -- nor whom. The Wildcats eventually settled on Rich Rodriguez, but the process was a complicated one.

What the Arizona athletic director did tell us, however, is that the search intruded upon his reading time.

Byrne read three books in the process of backgrounding himself with information that would eventually help him make the right decision. One of those books was author John U. Bacon's "Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football."

"It did a good job really getting intimate details that you really couldn't get by a Google search," Byrne said of the book. "I told (Rodriguez), 'I picked up the book 'Three and Out.'

"He was like, 'Oh, you did?' I said, 'I think it helps you.'"

The other two books?

"There's one I won't tell you about because that will show some cards," Byrne said when I asked following the fan-friendly media session. "The other one I read would show some cards, too.

"I read three books in the process," he added, smiling. "You can probably figure it out."

What's hot on the bookshelves with college football as the topic?

Here are the easy guesses.

A book on former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer, titled "Urban's Way: Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators, and His Plan to Win" goes along with last week's story. When the New York Times reported that Meyer had spurned Byrne for the Arizona job last week, it turns out that wasn't a completely useless meeting.

Byrne said Tuesday that Meyer told him hiring Rodriguez would be bringing in one of the "five best football minds" in college football.

And of course, we can make the obvious guess about the third book. "Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life," was former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach's book that Leach promoted in Tucson just last month. While he was an easy target, much of the media has said Leach wasn't a serious candidate to get the Arizona job.

But who knows? Byrne considered everyone off the bat.

From there, he whittled it down.

Byrne said that while he didn't get a lot of sleep, it was more of the action of doing rather the pressure of coming to a final conclusion about whom to hire.

"You do feel that pressure," he said when asked whether he had sleepless nights. "At the same time too, I knew getting nervous about it wasn't going to do us any good. You've got to stay calm, cool and collected. When I got to sleep, I slept well."

It wasn't just big guns that Byrne questioned in the search.

He talked to Scottsdale Chaparral High School football coach Charlie Ragle, who had two players commit to Michigan under Rodriguez's regime. Ragle told Byrne he was impressed, and the two met in person multiple times to chat life and football.

Byrne said that impressed him.

In addition, Byrne said he flew out to Indianapolis to talk to people at the NCAA, who had investigated Rodriguez's program at Michigan for breaking practice limitation guidelines during the offseason. He had many other phone conversations with the NCAA, he said.

He talked to compliance offices, league officials, athletic directors and other head coaches.

And Byrne even went out of the sport.

Talking with Sean Miller, Byrne said Arizona's basketball coach told him to look for two things: Firstly, someone who is hungry, and secondly, someone who any of the other 11 Pac-12 coaches would fear.

Byrne said he even talked to media members.

"The name we kept coming back to throughout was Rich Rodriguez," he said.

(If you missed the press conference, read an in-depth recap from reader Meager Reader in the Fan Post section.)

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