The first thing you notice about Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne is his height. At 6’6” he towers over most people. Byrne is young (47), energetic, tech savvy, and in tune with today’s generation. He and wife Regina have two grown sons, and the oldest, Nick, graduated from Arizona and now works with the University of Florida athletic department.
Byrne was born for the job he has, his dad Bill was an athletic director for many years at Nebraska, Oregon, and Texas A&M. To my knowledge Byrne is the first athletic director at Alabama not to be a former player or coach. In this day and time the position requires more of an administrative lean than in the past. Negotiation and fundraising have become a major part of the job, and Byrne is well versed in both areas.
This lunch meeting came about from Byrne tweeting a picture of he and five athletic department employees dining in his office with a caption, “had five employees in for lunch today, we are going to do this once a week.” Fans that saw the tweet responded with the suggestion to do the same with fans. Byrne liked the idea and put out a contest for fans to tweet in why they should be chosen. I was one of 15 selected, and was picked to come in the first group of five, on Tuesday, July 10th.
An informal gathering in Byrne’s office, with Full Moon brought in, was held at noon on July 10th. We began with each giving a condensed bio of ourselves, and transitioned into questions for the AD. Byrne candidly answered all, with the caveat on a couple of things that they not leave the room, so some things will not be told here, yet.
- Byrne said he has known Nick Saban’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, for years, and that they have a good relationship. Sexton vouched for his character with Saban, and the relationship has been great. Byrne went on to say that he “hopes Nick is here for a long time, and he will be extremely hard to replace.”
- Byrne feels Brad Bohannon, his first hire, was absolutely a home run. He mentioned what a great recruiter Coach Bo is, and that they were actually at Kentucky together for a short period of time. Byrne went on to say from his office he has watched Bohannon personally take more recruits through the weight room than another coach on campus. Byrne thinks that the baseball roster should be divided about 50-50 between instate and out of state players.
- Byrne is an avid golfer and has played two rounds at Augusta National this year, shooting 82 and 92 in his two trips.
- Byrne was very proud of the University finishing 13th in the Capital One Cup this past year. The ranking was the highest that Alabama has ever finished. With 21 programs on campus Byrne isn't looking to expand anytime soon. A mention of hockey, water skiing, lacrosse, and mens soccer were quickly shot down. Byrne wants to “put as much of our resources and effort into giving the student athletes we have every opportunity to compete for championships.” Twenty one sports teams at Alabama is more than most SEC schools field.
- Byrne said that there will be metal detectors at every SEC stadium for the 2019 season. He wasn't sure if the staff would continue to check the clear bags in addition to patrons going through the detectors.
- Byrne said the cell service for BDS and Coleman should be significantly improved. The WiFi will be addressed when a decision is made on what to do next with Bryant-Denny, and will be an extremely expensive undertaking.
- Byrne said although he likes white helmets, he doesn't believe that coach Saban is very keen on them.
- Byrne said he was very proud of the coaching staff and players for the way they handled the White House visit this year. He said Saban told the players that they have gone with Democratic Presidents and Republican Presidents, and the trip is to honor the team, the office, and the sitting President at the time. Byrne was very complimentary of the behavior of the players and staff.
- Byrne mentioned that his office had formally been the head football coach’s office before becoming home base for Mal Moore and Bill Battle. He said that he recently told Gene Stallings “thanks for letting me use your office, coach.”
- Byrne said that you can't get complacent and continue to do the same thing just because “its always been done that way.” He wants to continue to seek out ways to enhance the game day experience for all the fans, both in premium and regular seating.
- Fighting TV for butts in the seats is a problem for all programs, Byrne feels.
- Byrne reiterated that he and Regina were extremely happy in Tuscaloosa, and he “hopes to be here a long time, and retire from this job.”
Several other things that were discussed should be able to be released at a later date. After lunch and conversation Byrne was gracious enough to have a picture taking session, and offer a quick tour of the weight room, which is just steps from his office. Each of the five guests were given a gift of a Nike Thermal hoody and pants set. All in all a extremely good time spent with a personable, affable, smart, man that I feel will be a great steward of the Alabama athletic department for years to come.
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