WildcatAuthority.com: A lot of people know by now about the possibility of the baseball team moving to Hi-Corbett Field. What are the reasons for why the team should move there?
Greg Byrne: The reason we're considering it is because for one thing, until a couple of years ago, it was a major league facility that housed the Indians for years and the Rockies. It also has an infrastructure for space that we would have a hard time ever duplicating at Sancet Stadium. It gives us the opportunity to get a clubhouse and a locker room for our student athletes and that's attractive for their experience and it's attractive from a recruiting standpoint.
It's a stadium that our community has gone out and supported in recent years with good crowds. We also feel from a financial standpoint that it makes sense. Our net loss right now as a baseball program each year is about $750,000 give or take. That's obviously a significant amount of money. By moving to Hi-Corbett, we don't think we would just wipe that out immediately, but we do think because of some of the amenities that are there, we have an opportunity to reduce that loss each year.
Let's just say a young man is out of Orange County, California and we offer him a 50 percent scholarship to come to the U of A and play baseball. Tuition is about $25,000 and then you have another $10,000 for room and board, so you're talking about $35,000 a year. So if we give you a 50 percent scholarship, you and you're family still have to figure out a way to pay $17,000 a year.
Let's say a Southern California school that's a public institution, they offer you a 50 percent scholarship and it's only four or five miles from your home and you can pay in-state tuition. So instead, with a 50 percent scholarship there, you would probably be paying around seven or $8,000 compared to the $17,000 you would have to pay if you came here. That's a big difference.
So how do we separate ourselves and have a young man say ‘I want to come to Arizona and I want to invest a little more in my college education'? One of the unique ways we can do that is by getting to tell guys they can train in a major league facility. Now is that a guarantee that we would get every recruit we want? Absolutely not, but I think it would create a unique advantage for us.
WildcatAuthority.com: At this point how realistic is the move?
Greg Byrne: We're seriously considering it, but it's not a done deal.
WildcatAuthority.com: Any time table for when a potential deal could be done?
Greg Byrne: (smiling) We're working on it on a regular basis right now.
WildcatAuthority.com: Obviously a lot of money has already been spent on the basketball and football programs with some of the various renovation projects, so obviously there might be less money available to spend on a sport like baseball. Does that play a big role when considering moving to Hi-Corbett instead of renovating Jerry Kindall Field?
Greg Byrne: We did a facility master plan a few years ago and part of that was a renovation of the baseball field. Granted there isn't land to do a clubhouse for the team and the fan base may say well that's not important, but it is important for the players' experience. The estimates to renovate the stadium in a manner in that we feel would help move us forward would probably be about 15 to $20 million dollars.
We feel, and we have done studies to give us this information, that we could brand and create an Arizona facility down at Hi-Corbett for about four to $5 million. So obviously from a business standpoint, that's more attractive, but again we will only do this if we feel it's the right thing to do for our program.
WildcatAuthority.com: Hypothetically, if the team does eventually move to Hi-Corbett, are there any plans as to what would be done or happen to Jerry Kindall Field/ Frank Sancet Stadium?
Greg Byrne: We have some ideas and thoughts. But when we first started talking about this, the driving force of this was 100 percent about baseball. There was no, ‘hey we can do such and such if we have this area freed up.' Now, understandably as soon as you start talking about moving baseball, then you start thinking about ‘well what could be next?' But being as serious as I can be, that was not the driving force of this, but we have thought about different ideas.
WildcatAuthority.com: What are some of the ideas? Is there a chance you would actually tear the stadium down?
Greg Byrne: (smiling) We've had a lot of different thoughts and ideas.
WildcatAuthority.com: Alright well I can't leave here today without asking you this. Obviously your dad Bill (Byrne) is the AD over at Texas A&M, so did you guys have a little bet or competition going on when Arizona and Texas A&M hooked up in the regional championship game in the spring?
Greg Byrne: (smiling) No, no, it's against NCAA rules to bet so we avoided that.
WildcatAuthority.com: Good answer.
Greg Byrne: Actually neither of us could go because my great, great, great aunt was turning 110 years old, so we were in a hotel room together in Boston listening to the game.
WildcatAuthority.com: What is your long-term vision for the baseball program here at the University of Arizona? What requirements would this program have to meet to be considered a successful one in your mind?
Greg Byrne: I want us to be in the top third in the country in graduation rates. I want us to follow the rules and I want us to represent this university in a first-class manner and also doing that within our budget. I think if you do those things, we should be able to get to Omaha on a regular basis and we should be able to compete for a national championship as well. I believe that for all the sports we compete in.
It's been quite a while since we last won a National Championship in baseball. We have not been to Omaha as regularly as anybody wants us to be, but I also believe that coach Lopez has done it before. He's gotten us to Omaha, he's won a national championship and he has that experience. We also have to make sure we have the infrastructure around our coaches to make that happen. We can't just tell them to go do it and not give them any support.
When I talk to young people that want to get into college athletics, I tell them this isn't a job, it's a lifestyle and you and your family have to be absolutely committed to it or else everyone that you're competing against will fly right by you. So we want to do everything we can to make sure Arizona baseball is as strong as it can be.
WildcatAuthority.com: Just to make this clear, you believe coach Lopez is the right man for the job.
Greg Byrne: Yes, I absolutely do.