Byrne leaving Starkville for Arizona

Updated: March 22, 2010, 11:00 AM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Mississippi State has confirmed that its athletic director, Greg Byrne, is leaving the school for the same job at Arizona.

Byrne said he is leaving Starkville "with a very heavy heart," but has decided to do so with his family's interests in mind.

Byrne was the AD at Mississippi State for two years. During that time he forced the resignation of the Southeastern Conference's first African-American football coach, Sylvester Croom. Byrne replaced him with Florida assistant coach Dan Mullen, who is considered a rising star in the profession and went 5-7 in his first year at Mississippi State, capped by an upset of rival Mississippi.

"Our job here is not done, but the pieces are in place to bring success to Mississippi State athletics," Byrne said in a statement.

At Arizona, Byrne succeeds Jim Livengood, who left for a similar position at UNLV.

The 38-year-old Byrne has Pac-10 ties, with a degree from Arizona State and experience working as an assistant athletic director at Oregon State. His father, Bill Byrne, was the AD at Oregon from 1984-92.

"One of the absolute truths in college athletics is that you can not dictate the times and places in which opportunities present themselves," Byrne explained. "There is little question that this decision is a good one for my family. It places us back in a part of the country with which we are familiar, one that returns us near family and life-long friends."

In a statement, university president Mark Keenum said he respected and admired the job Byrne did at Mississippi State.

"I made every effort to convince Greg to remain in Starkville, including offering a generous package of financial incentives, but as he conveyed to me, his decision was driven by family considerations more than financial compensation," Keenum said. "The strong foundation he laid has created tremendous momentum and excitement and given MSU fans much to cheer about, with the promise of greater things on the horizon."

A national search for a successor will begin immediately, Keenum said.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com.