Robert Cessna of The Bryan-College Station Eagle has a message for the people who’ve helped show longtime Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne to the door. And it’s pretty straight forward:
“Those who helped push Bill Byrne into an early retirement better hire a darn good replacement as athletic director or they’ll become part of the problem, not the solution…
A&M is about to embark on the most critical decade in the athletic department’s history as it enters the Southeastern Conference. The opportunities are enormous as A&M has a chance to redefine itself in the country’s best league, but only if Aggies have their house in order.
A&M has spent the last 16 years in the Big 12 trying to keep pace with Texas and Oklahoma, which have two of the most respected ADs in the country in DeLoss Dodds and Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione. Well, the SEC is better from top to bottom, led by Florida’s Jeremy Foley, Alabama’s Mal Moore and LSU’s Joe Alleva, but this is the big leagues of college sports, where ADs hire Steve Spurrier and John Calipari. They’re all great at what they do. Arkansas AD Jeff Long gained a lot of notoriety recently for canning football coach Bobby Petrino over his inappropriate relationship with Jessica Donnell.
(The) SEC’s best ADs shoot from the hip and seldom miss, which pretty much was Byrne’s approach. He had great success in part because he had power and wasn’t afraid to use it.”
In nine years at A&M, Byrne oversaw 46 Big 12 championships and 17 national championships. But it was King Football and his failure to embrace the Aggies’ move to the SEC that did him in. A&M was just 58-54 on the gridiron during Byrne’s tenure. In football crazy Texas, that’s not good enough. Having a chilly relationship with your boss — A&M president R. Bowen Loftin — only made matters worse.
Now the spotlight falls on Loftin to see what kind of big splash hire he can make. If he makes a good one, Byrne will be forgotten like so many athletic directors across the country before him. But if Loftin makes a bad hire, Cessna is correct… it will be A&M’s bow-tie wearing prez who starts to feel the heat.