I noticed the author picked the most minor of Texas A&M's "minor sports," the equestrian team, in order to make a comparison with football. He didn't bother to point out that under Byrne, who hired Billy Gillespie and Mark Turgeon, the Aggies made the NCAA men's basketball tournament for six consecutive years. That has never been done before in College Station.
Bill Byrne oversaw a decade of great success at Texas A&M before stepping down from his post as athletic director yesterday. Aggie teams collected 46 Big 12 championships and 17 national title banners during his stay in College Station. It’s hard to find fault with that kind of success.
If only some of that success and some of those titles had come in football.
Former Texas A&M football coach Jackie Sherrill has decided to pass on being politically correct and has instead spoken his mind regarding Byrne’s watch:
“No question Bill did a great job with the upgrading of facilities with the non-revenue sports, and when you look at the overall athletics department, certainly you see great improvement in those areas. Unfortunately, when you look at every university, it is remembered by what it did in football. When you talk about Alabama, you’re not talking about golf. When talking about Southern Cal, [you're] not talking about tennis…
Unfortunately, we have not been successful in one area, basically the one most universities are judged on. There were a lot of successes [for A&M], more than any other school in the Big 12, but when you talk Big 12 you mention Oklahoma or Texas first because of football.”
The parents of A&M’s equestrian team might not want to hear that, but it’s the truth. If A&M had been winning championships in football, Byrne — whether he backed a move to the SEC or not — would probably still be in place today. Presidents and trustees aren’t as quick to force guys out when they’re overseeing winning, money-making football programs.
Byrne wasn’t. And now he’s out.