Dallas Colleges: Bill Byrne

Bill Byrne says he was tired.

So after nearly 10 years as Texas A&M's athletic director, he announced his retirement at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

"It was time," Byrne said.

Byrne, 66, said his fatigue came from taking "a lot of pounding" in his job as Texas A&M's AD, but some will say he was pushed out.

Regardless, Byrne is stepping away less than two months before A&M officially moves to the SEC. While Byrne stacks hours of fishing and watching his grandsons play sports onto more hours of fishing, A&M official will be scrambling to find a replacement suited for helping the Aggies make the move to their new, more hostile home.

The move wasn't something Byrne, who will serve as a special adviser to A&M President R. Bowen Loftin until Aug. 31, was very keen on at first, but when it came down to picking the SEC or the Big 12, the Aggies went with the SEC and Byrne said all the right things.

"Those are decisions that are made above my pay grade," Byrne said when asked at his press conference if his voice was heard loud enough during SEC talks. "My dad was a soldier, my mom was an army nurse, you're taught to salute and carry on."

It appears associate athletic director John Thornton will serve as interim AD while the real search begins, but the person picked to succeed Byrne will have a tough act to follow.

Under Byrne's watch, A&M athletics won 17 national championships and 46 Big 12 championships, creating what he believed was a more confident, winning attitude in Aggieland.

"If you listened to what has happened over the last 10 years, our students, our coaches and all of you expect to win when the Aggies take the field," he said.

"That's been one of the best things that we've done here is change the culture. Texas A&M, whenever we take the field, your opponent better take their angles because we will be ready."

His successor will also have to stand much taller and do more in an area where Byrne never seemed to get it right: football. The sport Byrne knows the best, the one that brings in the most money and helps fund athletics just never got to where Byrne -- or most of Aggieland -- wanted it to.

During his tenure, the football team went through two head coaches -- Dennis Franchione and Mike Sherman -- comprising a 58-54 record. The Aggies won just one bowl game and finished a season ranked only once.

The 2011 season, in which A&M entered the season ranked No. 8, was "an absolute crusher" for Byrne after the Aggies went 7-6 and had a losing record in conference play for the second time in three years.

A&M's football program is walking into a meat grinder. Southern hospitality quickly dies on SEC fields and when football suffers.

Byrne put a lot of energy in non-revenue sports, but expect his successor to pay even more attention to the pig skin. Byrne raised funds to build McFerrin Athletic Center and Cox-McFerrin Basketball Center and to renovate Olsen Field, now the renovation of Kyle Field is in order. Expect that to be top priority moving forward and expect more resources to be put into the football program.

Byrne helped build some very strong parts to Texas A&M's athletic department, but it's time for the next person to go a step further.

The next person will be responsible for competing in a conference that prides itself on heavy support and lavish facilities. The next person will have to feed off of Byrne's past successes to make sure this school keeps up in the SEC in all sports. Being timid isn't an option in the land where some of the best ADs in the country reside.

It won't be about keeping up with Texas and Oklahoma. It'll be about keeping up with just about everyone.

Texas A&M is an attractive job for a good candidate and Byrne knows that. He just hopes that what he started is just the beginning for A&M.

"I expect us to continue to build champions at Texas A&M," he said.

Texas A&M gets Arkansas at home in 2012

February, 21, 2012

Arkansas will be facing Texas A&M in the state of Texas in 2012, but it won't be at Cowboys Stadium as originally scheduled.

Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne announced over the weekend that the Aggies would face the Hogs next season on Sept. 29 at Kyle Field, giving Texas A&M six home games. In 2013, Texas A&M will play at Arkansas. The series will then go back to Cowboys Stadium in 2014, and be played in Arlington, Texas, for the final seven years of the original 10-year contract that was signed prior to Texas A&M joining the SEC.

Consider it a two-year compromise. Texas A&M preferred to play the game on campus, and Arkansas wanted to keep the game at Cowboys Stadium. The Hogs like the idea of playing a game every year in the Dallas area for recruiting purposes.

With next season's Arkansas game being played at Kyle Field, that means Texas A&M will have a very attractive home schedule during its first season in the SEC. Florida will visit College Station the second week of the season on Sept. 8. Arkansas closes out the month by visiting on Sept. 29. LSU comes to town on Oct. 20, and Missouri will visit Kyle Field for the regular-season finale on Nov. 24.

Aggies announce final nonconference team

February, 16, 2012
Texas A&M finally has its last nonconference opponent set for the 2012 season.

Athletic director Bill Byrne announced Wednesday that Sam Houston State has signed a contract to face the Aggies in College Station, Texas, on Nov. 17 to close out Texas A&M's nonconference schedule.

“The football schedule for 2012 is nearly complete,” Byrne said.

The only other part of the schedule that needs to be completed is the location for the Arkansas game. The Southwest Classic has been played in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the last three years, but neither school is sure if that will continue in 2012 and beyond. Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino has already expressed his desire to keep the game at Cowboys Stadium instead of doing a home-and-home.

Here is what the Aggies' 2012 schedule looks like with the addition of Sam Houston State:

Aug. 30 -- vs. Louisiana Tech (Independence Stadium), Shreveport, La

Sept. 8 -- vs. Florida

Sept. 15 -- at SMU

Sept. 22 -- vs. South Carolina State

Sept. 29 -- vs. Arkansas (A&M is home team), Location TBD

Oct. 6 -- at Ole Miss

Oct. 13 -- Open date

Oct. 20 -- vs. *LSU

Oct. 27 -- at Auburn

Nov. 3 -- at Mississippi State

Nov. 10 -- at Alabama

Nov. 17 -- vs. Sam Houston State

Nov. 24 -- vs. Missouri

Texas A&M fires coach Mike Sherman

December, 1, 2011

Texas A&M football coach Mike Sherman has been fired, university athletic director Bill Byrne said Thursday.

The school has yet to decide on an interim coach for the Aggies (6-6, 4-5 Big 12), who are eligible to play in a bowl game, Byrne said in a statement announcing the decision.

Sherman was 25-25 in four seasons.

More coming on the blog shortly.

Spoiler alert: Not the right call, Aggies.

Byrne said Sherman had run the football program with "the highest levels of character and integrity" in four seasons and put the welfare of student-athletes first.

"He is truly one of the great offensive minds in football, both collegiate and professional, and I know that he has much to offer the game of football in the future," Byrne said of Sherman.

UT-A&M rivalry: Playing the blame game

October, 17, 2011
Trying to hand out blame for the Big 12's diminishment over the last 16 months is a bit too convoluted. By now, just about everyone involved has had a hand in it.

But the possible end of the Lone Star Showdown, at least in football?

That's a bit easier.

Texas A&M's stance has been consistent throughout, punctuated by a repeated, clear stance on the issue.

"We want to make it abundantly clear we will play the game anywhere, any time," new Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp told the Austin American-Statesman last month. "If that game dies, it will not be on us. That game is bigger than Texas and bigger than A&M. That game belongs to the people of Texas, and if it goes away, it's not going to be on our watch."

Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, who admitted last month that scheduling the Aggies would be "problematic," delivered what may have been the rivalry's final blow on Friday.

"In my e-mail to [Texas A&M AD] Bill Byrne, I wrote that we were not in a position now to look at future football scheduling," Dodds said. "We're scheduled out with nonconference games through 2018 and our Big 12 schedule is not yet settled. What we have right now is a full schedule but if any future options are available, the decision will not be made by just one person."

Last month, Dodds had this to say: "We didn't leave the conference. They did. ... We'll make a decision that's best for Texas."

Each side is looking to pass the blame off to the other.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin told the Associated Press on Sunday: "We're able to accommodate them anytime they want to make that happen. ... It's their choice, obviously."

Sorry, guys. This one must be shared.

And drink it in, Lone Star State rivals, because it might be the last time you share anything for awhile, save a mutual disdain for one another.

This may return at some point in the future. In time, I'm betting it does. But the loss of this heated, annual rivalry is the most disheartening consequence of any recent college football realignment move.

As much as fans were clamoring to see Wyoming and New Mexico come to Austin in 2012, I'm betting all sides would have understood if those contracts had to be broken to make room for the Aggies. Pay to get out of those contracts? No, Texas shouldn't have to because of the Aggies' choice, but I'm also betting Texas A&M might have been willing to chip in on the cost to keep the rivalry going.

If nothing else, it would have forced A&M to quite literally put its money where its mouth is.

This rivalry dates back to 1894, is each school's most-played rivalry, and has been played every single year since 1914, a stretch of 97 seasons. It's the third-most played rivalry in college sports and the most-played intra-state rivalry.

Texas refusing to schedule A&M may kill one of college football's best rivalries, but the Aggies helped.

Texas delivered the death blow with the rivalry still salvageable. Texas A&M's move to the SEC, though clubbed the rivalry over the head, and put it in jeopardy.

Divy out percentages all you liked, but Dodds is both right and stubborn. Texas has been nothing if not consistent, insinutating throughout the process that if Texas A&M left the conference, the rivalry would be discontinued.

Texas A&M left the conference. Dodds is willing to sacrifice tradition for ego.

You know, like A&M sacrificed more than a century of tradition for "increased visibility for its student-athletes."

What, pray tell, was keeping Aggie athletes out of the spotlight? I'll hang up and listen.

The Aggies made their choice. Nobody, especially not Dodds, forced them to leave.

Dodds made his.

Now, college football fans may have to live with the consequences.

Beebe: Big 12 ready to 'move aggressively'

August, 26, 2011
Texas A&M announced its intention to explore its options regarding conference affiliation on Thursday.

That was followed by the school's athletic director, Bill Byrne, stating that he'd support the Aggies intention to do so.

Now, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has responded, confirming reports that the Big 12 is set on expansion should the Aggies leave, but reiterating the league's "strong desire" that the Aggies stay.

"The letter received today from Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin will be addressed by the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors," he said. "It remains our strong desire for Texas A&M to continue as a member of the Big 12 and we are working toward that end. However, if it is decided otherwise, the Conference is poised to move aggressively with options."

The league's board of directors is set to meet on Saturday.

Byrne: Big 12 ADs to meet on Longhorn Network

July, 25, 2011

DALLAS – Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne Big 12 athletic directors and conference staff will meet to discuss the issues about the Longhorn Network “within the next few weeks.”

Byrne returned from vacation in Alaska on Sunday and does not know if the exact date has been planned or who will be attending.

“I don’t know if others have been invited but we’re having a meeting coming up here very quickly in the next few weeks and we’ll talk some more about that,” Byrne said. “If I have some things to say after that meeting, I will.”

Byrne did not mention what would be talked about during the meeting, but concerns have been raised about the new network giving Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting if it broadcasts high school football games.

The Houston Chronicle reported the NCAA and the University of Texas are discussing the issue but Byrne is surprised a ruling has not been made so far.

“I had anticipated something from the NCAA sooner than this and I don’t know what is holding them up,” Byrne said. “They’ve got a new staff there and a new president, so that might be the issue.”

Regardless of the result from the meetings about the Longhorn Network, Byrne reiterated his commitment to the Big 12 despite talks the school would leave the conference due to the Longhorn Network and the absence of a written agreement between the conference’s remaining 10 schools.

“We want the Big 12 to stay together,” he said. “I think it’s good for all of us to stay together. We all have natural rivalries. We’re all in the same time zone. I think it’s really important to stay together. You’ll remember about a year ago we worked, really worked, to make sure the conference would stay together. We haven’t changed our opinion on that.”

A&M: 'Good-bye to Texas University'?

June, 11, 2010
If Texas A&M's flirtation with the SEC becomes a full-blown love affair, the Aggie War Hymn will have to be taken quite literally.

Penned by James Vernon “Pinky” Wilson during a lull in World War I, the Aggies' "fight song" lyrics are dripping with Wilson's and every red-blooded Aggies' disdain for Texas University:

Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!
Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!
Good-bye to Texas University
So long to the Orange and the White
Good luck to the dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys that show the real old fight
"The eyes of Texas are upon you..."
That is the song they sing so well
So good-bye to Texas University
We're going to beat you all to --
Rough Tough! Real Stuff! Texas A & M!

Saw Varsity's horns off!
Saw Varsity's horns off!
Saw Varsity's horns off!

Would a split of these century-old rivals end the tradition-rich Texas-Texas A&M football game? Would the relationship become so strained that Texas, which would play in a revamped Pac-10, decide to make alternative Thanksgiving plans? Have we reached a point where Aggies feel as though they're living under UT's giant thumb and are ready to go? What would they do with their Saw 'em Off! t-shirts and bumper stickers?

With so much talk about saving rivalries as the current college conference landscape tremors with change, A&M athletic director Bill Byrne -- led by a hard sell by former A&M and Alabama coach Gene Stallings (now on the A&M Board of Regents) -- could be playing with fire. How does "Lou-is-iana State U-ni-ver-sity" or "Al-a-bam-a U-ni-ver-sity" sound in the Aggie War Hymn?

Now, does a split mean that the Texas and A&M rivalry is entirely dead? Well, no, both sides could still agree to a Thanksgiving non-conference game. Still, it wouldn't carry the same weight as conference archrivals, and there is a chance -- I think a very good one -- that the game doesn't get scheduled because of the lingering bad taste from the split.

Texas and A&M felt so strongly about their rivalries in all sports that they created the State Farm Lone Star Showdown for all men's and women's head-to-head competition. The Lone Star Showdown trophy is awarded to the winning school each year. Neither school has a similar competition with any other school.

It is true that culturally speaking, Texas, in liberal-leaning Austin, is a good fit for the Pac-10, while the conservative-minded Aggies would be well-placed in the SEC. Still, we're talking sports not politics and it's difficult, even sad, to envision the state's two oldest public schools parting.

A separation would create one of the few instances in which large, in-state rivals compete in different conferences. Obviously Florida (SEC) and Florida State (ACC) is a notabe exception, but even that comes with asterisk because Florida State only emerged as a football power with the arrival of Bobby Bowden in 1976 and it doesn't carry the same long-term conference affiliation as A&M (SWC and Big 12).

But, if A&M decides to head east, it will have to live with being the party that went rogue and severed ties. Are Aggie fans ready to Saw 'em Off! for good.

If so, it's good-bye to Texas University.