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U of A's Byrne meets and greets Yumans
But when Byrne met John Klingenberg and his wife Mary Jean inside the Yuma Golf and Country Club's clubhouse, John had a different question for Byrne.
“You are the new AD, aren't you?” John asked.
Byrne, who was hired in March as the University of Arizona's athletic director, is used to a wide variety of comments and questions. And as someone who said he likes being around people, Byrne sees Klingenberg's question as a chance to get to know Yumans.
“In Tucson, where there's a lot more daily coverage, people like to come up and talk to me about the (Pac-10),” Byrne said. “People outside of Tucson, the Arizona fans, a lot of them are not always sure who (the new AD) is. So this gives us an opportunity to get around and talk to everybody.”
Sporting a red polo shirt, khaki shorts and an Arizona visor on his 6-feet, 6-inch frame, Byrne visited Yuma for the first time when he met with more than 100 people Tuesday, participating in the Yuma Chapter of the Arizona Alumni golf tournament. In fact, Byrne made it a priority to be there.
Byrne said he was in Dallas on Monday for an athletic directors meeting involving Division I schools. Instead of staying for Tuesday's meeting, Byrne woke up at 4:30 a.m. and arrived in town at 11 a.m.
Jeff Byrd, president of the Yuma chapter of the University of Arizona Alumni Association, was impressed with Byrne's commitment.
“I think that's great,” Byrd said. “He's making an effort for Yuma and we appreciate it. He's holding up what (former Arizona AD) Jim Livengood used to do.”
Byrne said Tucson may be where the Wildcats are based, but if the athletic program is going to be as strong as it can be, he said they need to travel around the state. So far, Byrne said he has visited Phoenix, Scottsdale and Prescott. Byrne said Flagstaff will be one of his next stops.
Thus far, Byrne has elicited questions ranging from the basketball program to Olympic sports such as softball and golf. Of course, there are always Pac-10 expansion talks.
Byrne said he has spoken about the topic with random people while walking down a street, major donors, the media and even with peers such as Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione.
The next step in the process, Byrne said, is deciding how revenue sharing will work. Currently, Byrne said the Big Ten, the SEC and the ACC all share revenue equally while the Pac-10's money is divided based on TV appearances.
“In some ways, it makes sense,” Byrne said. “But there's a direct advantage the L.A. schools have because of the market they are in. It makes a lot harder for Pullman, Wash. to compete with that. The other leagues that I mentioned earlier, they think there's value as a league that's sharing.”
Byrne knows a thing or two about equal revenue sharing since his last stop was in Starkville, Miss. as Mississippi State University's AD.
“I thought it worked great and Florida thought it worked well,” he said.
Answering questions isn't the only thing Byrne does to reach others.
Joseph Blair, president of the Arizona Basketball Alumni Foundation, said Byrne has involved the community by starting the Wildcat Walk before football games, a new game day tradition where fans line Cherry Avenue as the team walks to its stadium, and uses social media such as Twitter and Facebook to reach others.
He described that interraction as “a breath of fresh air.”
“I've just seen him so busy in the community, making himself available to those who want to speak with him, coming to different events like this,” Blair said. “He's definitely a good people person.
“Every person I know that spoke to him even before I met him, I'd always ask other people the same thing, ‘How is he?' They all say, ‘He seems like a wonderful guy.' I can only second all those thoughts.”