Last month, University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley stepped down after 25 years as the athletic director and more than 40 years with the school.
With that announcement came the understandable chatter that Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne would probably show up on Florida’s short list. I mean why wouldn’t he?
He’s young (both in age and in the sense that he fully embraces technology), he’s charismatic (when have you not seen him interacting with the Arizona faithful at sporting events?), and he’s turned Arizona into a fundraising machine.
He’s also undeniably reshaped Arizona Athletics, considering the new endzone on Arizona Stadium, the much-needed upgrades to McKale Center, moving the baseball team to Hi Corbett Field, and a focus on education with the C.A.T.S. facility currently being built.
Now, more than a month after Foley resigned from his post, it has emerged that Byrne is "indeed the first choice" according to the Florida Scout.com website.
The author, Franz Beard, writes, "There are enough sources from various places including some out in Tucson who say Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne is indeed the first choice. Everybody I have talked to says Byrne would be the perfect fit at Florida because he’s got a great eye for coaching talent and understands that it’s the AD’s job to give coaches what they need to succeed."
And here’s more reasoning from Beard:
"Here is what I like about Byrne. A year before he accepted the AD job at Arizona, the school took on massive amounts of debt as part of a $378 million campaign to upgrade the facilities of all of UA’s sports teams. That kind of debt load made a lot of folks squirm but Byrne took on the challenge and has retired more than $100 million of the debt in the last five years through aggressive, effective fund raising. He’s confident enough in his abilities to raise the money necessary to field a first class athletic program with second to none facilities that he’s busy raising the money for $50 million more in upgrades to Arizona Stadium…
...I have no idea who else Florida will interview for the AD job, but I am convinced this is the right guy. He’s got SEC experience (associate AD at Kentucky; AD at Mississippi State), has proven he can balance the budget even with enormous debt, knows how to raise funds and isn’t afraid to think outside the box."
Now, what would keep Mr. Byrne in Tucson?
By staying, he gets to continue to oversee the growth of the department and build a lasting legacy in the Tucson community. Secondly, Sean Miller and the basketball program are on the precipice of a Final Four and National Championship and the football team, while it struggled last season, seems to have new life which will start to pay off with an expected top-20 recruiting class in 2017.
Then there’s the money.
Thanks to a generous donor, Rodriguez, Miller, and Byrne all have retention plans based in stock.
Byrne’s retention plan includes 100,000 shares (the coaches have 175,000 each) and was originally set to vest in the year 2022. However, that time frame was moved up two years to 2020. As of last September, Byrne’s stock value was worth $2.3 million. In addition to that, if he stayed until 2016, he would get another $500,000 from the university.
In terms of salary, Byrne was given a $25,000 raise at the last ABOR meeting which will take his net income to $750,000 in 2019-2020. In comparison, Foley was payed $1.23M in 2013, third most in collegiate athletics. (This was the most recent database I could find.)
Regardless if Byrne truly wants to pack up and move across the country, it would be smart of him to at least see what Florida has to offer and take the meeting.
In the end, though, the guaranteed multi-million dollar stock bonus, plus what I can only assume will be another renegotiated salary, plus the 2016 bonus, plus an adoring fan base, plus an athletics department, which seems to be firing on all cylinders, would, to me, be too much to pass up.
You can follow Alec on Twitter @UofAlec for the latest in Arizona Wildcats news and college basketball recruiting.