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Arizona has critical decisions to make as a university in the near future

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The two most important positions on campus are now vacant

NCAA Basketball: California at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

With athletic director Greg Byrne leaving Arizona for Alabama, the University of Arizona now has to fill two of the most important positions on campus at about the same time.

It’s been known for sometime that president Ann Weaver Hart would be done when her contract expires in 2018, making Byrne’s departure even more critical than normal.

And that’s not lost on Sean Miller.

“To get a great person in that position, it’s amazing what it does for everybody,” Miller said about hiring a new athletic director. “Every coach, you have a sense of comfort, and Dr. Hart gave me a sense of that comfort as well, and the time here at Arizona is unique in that she’ll be leaving us as well, and she’s been incredibly supportive of our basketball program and of athletics in general.

“She’s always been there in a positive light, and I respect her, and so with her leaving and also Greg leaving, obviously there’s going to be two new people that will have a real impact on the future of Arizona Athletics, and I’m excited to see it, and we have tremendous people making those decisions.”

“I think it’s obviously a critical time, but I’m confident we’ll get two really good people.”

It’s a critical time, and the Board of Regents is facing a critical decision on which position gets hired first. Erika Hanson Barnes officially takes over as interim A.D. on February 1, but Dr. Hart’s contract does not expire until June 30, 2018. That’s a year and a half difference, so it’s likely that Arizona’s next president will be walking in with an a relatively new athletic director that they did not have a hand in hiring.

“President Hart has been moving quickly herself,” Barnes explained about a timetable. “But in college athletics, I don’t know how long it could be at all.”

“We have 20 programs with 20 great coaches, so for them, I want them to feel that we have an executive staff, senior leadership, and staff that work for them as hard as we can in keeping this full steam ahead here,” Barnes stated.

But for right now, Miller is confident in Barnes’ ability to keep the ship in the right direction while the national search is being carried out.

“Erika’s very capable, and Mike Ketcham is somebody who’s very close to our program and works with us on a daily basis,” coach explained. “He’s a great sense of comfort that he’s with us every day, and that’s still in place, and I’m sure the process will be moving fast to find who eventually becomes the director of athletics.”

It’s certainly an interesting 18 months or so that’s on the horizon for not just Arizona Athletics, but the school as a whole.