After Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin announced last week that Bill Byrne would not be retained past the end of his contract in 2013, it was only a matter of time before Byrne tried to find a dignified way to leave College Station. The 66 year old athletic director has called a press conference for today to announce his retirement.
Byrne's record at A&M was mixed, much like his 11 year record at Nebraska. Byrne was best known for building up the non-revenue sports at both schools. He hired Dave Van Horn for Husker baseball and Connie Yori for Husker women's basketball; both great hires. At A&M, he hired Gary Blair, who led the Aggies women's basketball program to a national title.
At both schools, he was a builder of facilities, such as the west stadium skyboxes at Memorial Stadium and Haymarket Park. At A&M, he led expansions at Kyle Field.Byrne was derided at Nebraska for his focus on the budget, and not always investing in the flagship sport. The west stadium skyboxes did improve academic facilities, but were mostly developed for supporters, not directly for the football program. At the same time, Nebraska's football facilities fell to second-tier status as most other programs invested in their football infrastructure. At one time, Nebraska had the premier weight training facility in college football, but under Byrne's watch, Nebraska was lapped by many schools.
Byrne's track record at hiring football coaches was not good. He had little say in the hiring of Frank Solich at Nebraska, as that was a designation of Tom Osborne. At A&M, he helped hire Dennis Franchione, then hired Mike Sherman and finally Kevin Sumlin last December. But when A&M was considering joining the SEC last year, Byrne pushed for A&M to stay in the Big XII, all while fans and Loftin pursued the SEC. In the end, Byrne lost, which no doubt set the stage for his exit.
Byrne was derided at Nebraska as "Dollar Bill" for his focus on money; he once deflected criticism by claiming that the "Boosters of substance" didn't share that criticism. He wasn't missed greatly when he left for A&M, and frankly, I get the feeling he won't be missed greatly at A&M either.
Byrne leaves both schools with things to be proud of (new facilities and some success in non-revenue sports), but at both schools, the flagship sports never reached their potential.