Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne announced his retirement today, effective Aug. 31.
School officials have begun a nationwide search for Byrne’s replacement with A&M regent Jim Wilson and Jason Cook, the school’s vice-president for marketing and communications, serving as co-chairs of the search committee. A&M hopes to have a new athletic director on campus before the start of the fall semester.
A&M joins the Southeastern Conference on July 1 and Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, the university president, has made it clear that school officials wanted a fresh face to lead the Aggies into their new league. During Tuesday’s news conference in College Station, Byrne acknowledged he was not part of the SEC deliberations but helped facilitate the move because that was the will of regents and other university decision-makers.
“Those were decisions made above my pay grade,” Byrne said.
During his 10 years as the A&M athletic director, Byrne oversaw more than $110 million in facilities upgrades. A&M’s teams won 45 Big 12 conference championships under Byrne’s watch, including nine during the 2010-11 school year that included national championships in women’s basketball, men’s track and field and women’s track and field. Since the start of the 2006-07 academic year, no school has won more Big 12 team championships than A&M.
For the duration of his existing contract, Byrne will assume the role of special advisor to the A&M university president, effective immediately. Byrne, who came to A&M from Nebraska, said, “The past 10 years in Aggieland have been some of the most memorable and enjoyable of my life. I will continue to be a big fan of Aggie athletics.”
In a statement, Loftin said Byrne leaves A&M “with a legacy of building champions and leaders of character, both in athletics and academics. He has built Texas A&M into one of the top overall athletic programs in the country.”
But the school’s journey into the SEC will be led by someone else.
Loftin announced Tuesday that Dr. John Thornton, who has been associated with the school for 31 years, has been named interim athletic director until Byrne’s successor is hired. Thornton, an A&M basketball player in 1974-75, has spent the last 10 years as the school’s senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development.
_ Jimmy Burch