We already knew Bill Byrne's tenure as Texas A&M athletic director was living on borrowed time. As it turns out, that time ran out Tuesday.
CBSSports.com Aggie RapidReporter Brent Zwerneman reported Monday night that Byrne would announce his retirement at a Kyle Field press conference at 12:30 central Tuesday, having told his staffers the same information at a "social gathering" Monday. Associate athletic director John Thornton will serve as Byrne's interim replacement while a search is held.
"You take a lot of pounding in this job," Byrne said at the press conference. "I was ready to go."
A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said previously that the Aggies would "honor the terms" of Byrne's contract, which runs through August 2013. Byrne will serve as a "special advisor" to Loftin through August 31 of this year, at which point A&M will buy out the remaining 12 months of his contract.
“Bill Byrne leaves Texas A&M with a legacy of building champions and leaders of character, both in athletics and academics,” Loftin said in a press release. “He has built Texas A&M into one of the top overall athletic programs in the country not only in terms of winning championships, but operating with integrity and a never-ending dedication to our coaches and student-athletes."
Zwerneman reported that Byrne's handling of the news with his staffers was "very professional." Byrne had been in the position for nine years, having been hired simultaneously with former Aggie head coach Dennis Franchione, and he was responsible for the hiring of Franchione replacement Mike Sherman. Discussions over Sherman's future in College Station at the end of the 2011 season eventually led to a rift between Byrne and Loftin, with the A&M president eventually making the decision to fire Sherman before the program's first season in the SEC.
Byrne said that he had little-to-no input into the decision to take Texas A&M from the Big 12 to the SEC or the school's transition but said he had been taught to "salute and carry on."
Despite an outstanding track record in developing Aggie sports outside of football, Byrne's position may have also damaged by his alleged disinterest in the Longhorn Network, though Byrne strongly denies those accounts.
Whatever the ultimate reasons for Loftin's decision to make a change, the bottom line is that the A&M president has made it clear -- from his spearheading of the move to the SEC, to his role in Sherman's firing, and even to his exhorting Aggie fans to vote in an online contest on Twitter -- that he will play a major, hands-on role in shaping the future of Aggie athletics. If he and Byrne can no longer co-exist, then the sooner Byrne moves on is no doubt better for both parties.
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