31 Flavors of Football: Greg Byrne’s Legacy

To help you and me get through the drudgery of August, I will present in this space a daily scoop of MSU football-ness, as inspired by a certain ice cream chain. August has 31 days, so I’ll let you work it out from there. Here is today’s flavor.


Doc Foglesong was president of Mississippi State for a short time – two years – and did not leave on good terms with MSU. But he must be credited with at least one important development: Promoting Greg Byrne to athletics director in February of 2008.

That move got the ball rolling for MSU football, and it’s not stopped. Byrne was just 36 at the time, but his résumé was already impressive, and he’d certainly made a good impression on Foglesong while serving as the athletic department’s lead fundraiser for two years. Byrne made his authority known early on when he hired John Cohen as MSU’s new baseball coach against the wishes of the legendary Ron Polk.

Byrne was just as swift and decisive a few months later, after MSU had wrapped up a disappointing 4-8 season with a 45-0 loss to rival Ole Miss. Byrne sent Sylvester Croom packing and then conducted a stealthy coaching search – earning himself the nickname “Ninja” – before deciding on Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen.

Mullen is 21-17 at MSU in three seasons, and the Bulldogs have posted back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in over a decade. This year’s team looks to be the best Mullen has had, and all throughout the program are signs of growth. The school is spending $100 million on big facility projects (the football complex and stadium expansion), and the fan base continues to throw its money behind the program.

Byrne, of course, served about two years before taking the AD’s job at Arizona. Scott Stricklin has so far run things with a deft hand and has the same ambitious approach that Byrne possesses, overseeing the master plan for athletic facility improvement that Byrne put a lot of work into. Such an approach is vital if a school wants to compete in the SEC, and MSU has become competitive and could be a surprise team this year.

Byrne deserves a lot of credit for that. Foglesong deserves some, too.