Confirming reports out of Texas, Bill Byrne announced that he would be taking the job as athletic director for Texas A&M. Though the decision was thought to be well thought out and planned, it was anything but, as Byrne reported that he accepted the position around 12:00 p.m. today.
Byrne did say that the decision though one he took with great expectations was one he finds (at this time) somewhat bittersweet. "I want you to know that it's with real mixed emotions that I tell you I am leaving Nebraska to go to College Station, Texas." Byrne stated. "I have loved the years I have spent in Nebraska. I have loved working with our student athletes and our staff and our coaches. They are a truly remarkable bunch."
The impressions various people left on Byrne were obvious in their importance, but Byrne pointed to something that left the biggest impression of all. "Probably the most remarkable thing (about being at NU) happens every Saturday afternoon during the Fall." Bill said. "When 78,000 fans show up in Lincoln, it's a place like no other and Marilyn (his wife) and I will miss it very, very much."
Many were the apparent reasons for Byrne taking the job down at Texas A&M. Some reasons were thought to be the eternally deep pockets of a Texas institution, while others were another chance to build a program up that is seen as currently in a state of flux. Byrne stated that the attraction to Texas A&M was indeed partially about building a program up, but also, because Texas A&M reminded him of a school he has become intimately familiar. "One of the things I always noticed about our visits to College Station was how much it was like going home, it was a lot like Nebraska." Byrne stated.
"The fans there treat each other with great respect and treat their opponents with respect just like Nebraska does. I looked at Texas A&M as another opportunity to do the things I like to do and that's build programs and that's really the reason I decided to take a hard look at it."
In addition to Byrne's presence, third year chancellor, Harvey Perlman was also in attendance at Byrne's side and he had this to say about the announcement of Byrne's acceptance of the new position.
"I am very disappointed that Bill is leaving." Perlman stated. "I think he has been a terrific director of athletics and I think he came in and did what this program needed to have done."
"I wish he would continue doing that, but I understand his decision and I understand the choice."
Perlman did say that the search for a replacement would be immediate. "I can assure that we will start immediately a search for a new director of athletics. We have already initiated some of the early steps to get that process underway."
The hastiness of this press conference again stemmed from the reports in Texas that Byrne would be the next A.D. for the Aggies. Thoughts were that this was a process well in the making, but Byrne indicated that not even the contract has been negotiated. "This was not how we planned to do this." Byrne stated regarding the hastily prepared press conference. "We didn't plan on hosting a news conference and I'll have you know that this happened very rapidly. We haven't worked out any of the details."
"I got a job offer today. I talked to the chancellor at noon. We have not worked out any of the details."
Though a certain timetable had not been set, Byrne estimated that he would be at the University until the first of next year.
With the announcement made, you might wonder as to what is next. Will Byrne take a "lame duck" status while awaiting his time to go down to College Station or will be continue in his duties at the University of Nebraska? Byrne stated that there was one mission that he would continue to emphasize and is positive will be an emphasis for the next A.D. at Nebraska. "Clearly we have to have a more successful football program." Byrne stated. "We must concentrate on improving football."
"We must emphasize that we want to get back in winning programs and want to be back on those nine-win seasons like we are used to. That has to happen at Nebraska. I think whoever follows me that will make certain that we will get back there. That is going to be a big thing."
The legacy that Bill Byrne leaves on the University of Nebraska will be pondered upon, probably for years if not decades to come. The timing behind his departure and the floundering of the football team seems dubious, but what will be speculated more on is Byrne's impact while here.
Nebraska has seen the overall success of the program rise in a variety of areas, such as the introductions of Women's Soccer, Bowling and Rifle. Along with that were the eliminations of other programs, but all was done in the name of gender equity.
The national titles, the conference championships that the rising competitiveness of Nebraska in virtually every sporting arena along with facility improvements such as a new track (one of seven of it's kind in the world), a new baseball park for the Huskers and continuing improvements to the football facilities have all cemented Byrne's legacy at Nebraska.
For the man himself though, he recognized that even all those achievements would still be looked at in a variety of ways, but said that it didn't detract from his experience here at all. "This is a job that probably has some controversy surrounding it." Byrne stated with a slight grin. "You make some hard decisions in this job and so, certainly there are some people who will think that the decisions we made are good. There will be some that will think that the decisions we make are not good."
"Every time that you make a decision, it's going to impact some people. Every time you don't make a decision, it's going to impact some people. All of them can be either positive or negative."
"I will leave Nebraska thinking I did the very best job that I could to make the Cornhuskers a great program and I think we are."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619