SEC: R. Bowen Loftin

Lunchtime links

June, 3, 2013
6/03/13
12:00
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I seriously can't believe it's June already. Time flies when you're having fun, right?
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 athletic director Bill Byrne will announce his retirement Tuesday at a news conference in College Station, Texas, a source told The Associated Press.

Byrne, 66, was hired in December of 2002 and helped guide the Aggies to the SEC from the Big 12. Byrne's contract is up on Aug. 31, 2013, but Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said last month that Byrne's future at the school would be discussed between the two of them.

For the most part, Aggies sports flourished while Byrne was the school's AD. During his tenure, Texas A&M sports won 17 national championships and 46 Big 12 championships.

However, Texas A&M's football program hasn't been as successful. It went 58-54, won just one bowl game and finished only one season ranked. Now, it's taking new coach Kevin Sumlin, who came from Houston, to the SEC.

The move to the SEC, effective July 1, brings what Byrne believed would be a much more stable situation for Texas A&M, but it didn't come without controversy. The move has put a once-great rivalry with Texas on hold for the foreseeable future and it appeared to set in motion all the recent expansion movement taking over college football.

There certainly were mixed feelings about Byrne's tenure at Texas A&M, but his departure right before the move to the SEC will no doubt put a lot of pressure on his successor and Loftin.

Check back to the blog later to read more about Byrne's departure and what's next for Texas A&M.

Lunchtime links

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
12:00
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A vacation and moving into a new apartment couldn't keep me away from links on a Monday.

Lunchtime links

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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Making the SEC rounds with some lunch links.

A&M-SEC presence already evident

October, 1, 2011
10/01/11
2:22
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas A&M won't be joining the SEC until next year, but the Aggies were welcomed with a brief ceremony at halftime.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long and chancellor Dave Gearhart presented Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin and athletic director Bill Byrne with a football commemorating the Aggies' new conference membership.

The big screen at Cowboys Stadium also showed a promotional video for Texas A&M to the SEC in 2012, which was welcomed by one of the day's loudest "Whoops!" from the Aggies fans.

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