Greg Byrne: ‘We’re Excited to Be Back in the Manner We Are’
Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne joined Ryan Fowler on The Game to discuss this weekend's first home game, how Alabama is protecting its athletes during the pandemic, scheduling future games, budgeting and the Coleman Coliseum renovation plans.
Byrne told Fowler that since the pandemic shut down the spring sports season he and his department have been focused on making sure the university has a successful fall season.
"We want to make sure we do everything we can to pull the game off in a safe manner to where we can make sure we can continue to move forward the rest of the year," said Byrne.
He spoke about how important sports are to the community and to the well being of all involved.
"Hopefully its a three hour period where we all can forget about some of the challenges that this world's been facing since March and have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the Crimson Tide," said Byrne.
"I was really pleased with our commissioner Greg Sankey, he has been very thoughtful through this process. He has said many times that the more time we have the better decision that we can make and we weren't in a hurry to make long term decision and that has bode well for us a a conference," said Byrne.
Byrne discussed how much he is anticipating kickoff in Bryant-Denny this weekend after such a tumultuous offseason.
"I for one, and I know our fanbase is too, we're excited to be back in the manner that we are. It'll be a lot of fun on Saturday when the toe meets leather at 2:30 and we get a home season started because a few months ago we weren't sure what this was going to look like," said Byrne.
Alabama football is currently undergoing everyday COVID-19 testing. Players are undergoing PCR testing three times per week and in between the players are going through antigen testing in order to ensure the student athletes are being as careful as possible.
Byrne has been a proponent of Nick Saban's desires to shift for more conference games but while the Alabama athletic program has been alone in that desire, it hasn't stopped Byrne from working on beefing up the out of conference schedule in the four years that Byrne has been in charge. Byrne has scheduled multiple home-and-home series with Power 5 opponents, ensuring that the Crimson Tide and its fan base will be playing in marquee matchups for the foreseeable future.
"We're going to get to 10 games it just may not be the SEC and I think that's going to be good from listening to the leadership of the college football playoff committee, that's going to be good for our team, they love playing in those types of games. That's also going to be good for our season ticket holders as we ask them to continue to support as the world changes and it's also going to be good for Tuscaloosa," said Byrne.
Byrne is looking forward to making the trip to Wisconsin and Notre Dame but said bringing those kinds of schools into Tuscaloosa will be a positive thing for local commerce.
The stadium construction was recently completed on the Bryant-Denny stadium reconstruction and Byrne announced the new capacity for home games will be 100,077 on a normal football Saturday. This season due to COVID-19 restrictions the Tide will host just under 20,000 people. Byrne says the athletic department has sold out its allotment of tickets for the five home games this season.
Byrne explained that due to COVID-19 his department decided the best way to handle the reduced seating was to spread out the reduction across all groups of ticket holders. Letter winners, faculty and staff, season ticket holders, club areas, the band and the student body were all reduced to 20%, athletic department staff tickets were cut completely.
Byrne and Fowler discussed the state of the Coleman Coliseum renovations that were planned but were seemingly put on hold during the pandemic. The fund raising has eclipsed $300 million in donations towards its $600 million goal. However once the COVID-19 pandemic struck Byrne and his department put all its focus on what the department had to do to have a fall sports season.
While the athletic department is looking at a $75 million shortfall Byrne still called the Crimson Standard project an "absolute priority" for his department. He said he is hopeful that in the next several months he and his department can pick back up the discussions and planning of the renovations of Coleman Coliseum.
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