Arizona Athletics

Byrne’s coaching hires with Arizona Wildcats mostly young, promising but also unproven

Departing Greg Byrne made 11 hires in his six years as Arizona’s athletic director, including four hires in the last two years, with most having promise although largely unproven results.

Multiple reports Sunday night indicated Byrne will soon replace Bill Battle as Alabama’s athletic director.

Byrne, 45, has developed a track record of longevity with his hires to date at Mississippi State and Arizona. None of his 14 hires at both schools have been fired, although former Arizona swimming and diving coach Eric Hansen was relieved of his duties after reportedly taking a leave of absence in October 2013.

Hansen left the program less than three years following his hire by Byrne in 2011.

Byrne’s 14 hires to date are marked by their overall youth. The average age of the coaches Byrne signed at Mississippi State and Arizona is only 38.7 years old at the time of their hire. The 11 hires at Arizona averaged 38.4 years old.

Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez was somewhat old by Byrne’s hiring standards at 48. Rodriguez experienced a rebirth in his career after his firing by Michigan in 2010 after only three seasons there.

None of the coaches Byrne hired at Mississippi State and Arizona have won national titles although former Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen (now the school’s athletic director) and Arizona’s Jay Johnson advanced to the College World Series final.

Some have found success at the conference level with beach volleyball coach Steve Walker earning the 2015-16 Pac-12 coach of the year honor and women’s golf coach Laura Ianello leading her team to the 2015 conference title.

Rodriguez coached Arizona to the Pac-12 South title in 2014 but lost big to Oregon in the conference title game and the Wildcats were 10-15 in the last two seasons.

Byrne did not hire men’s basketball coach Sean Miller, who is in his eighth season. That honor belongs to previous athletic director Jim Livengood. Byrne has supported Miller with the use of charter planes and revamping the infrastructure of McKale Center.

Overall, the best way to term Byrne’s head coaching personnel that he hired at Arizona: Still largely a wait-and-see show-me proposition. Nobody at Arizona can argue that claim.

Age is at time of hire

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FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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