Alabama Gives Athletic Director Greg Byrne Another Contract Extension, Big Raise

Alabama Athletics
Christopher Walsh

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — If you want to understand why the University of Alabama gave Greg Byrne another contract extension on Tuesday, keeping him signing through the end of the 2025-26 academic year, all you have to do is look around at the campus. 

The work has already begun. The concourse area is being altered, with a new addition taking shape. The press box is being reconfigured. Crews have been busy out by the street and behind the surrounding wall. One can get a feel for the new stage area for broadcasts, overlooking the field.

Only this all isn’t going on at Bryant-Denny Stadium, at least not yet. That renovation won’t begin until after the football team wraps up its 2019-20 home schedule against Western Carolina on Saturday, and then the work will be at a frenzied pace.

Instead, Rhodes Stadium is where some of the initial impact of the Crimson Standard is already being seen and felt. Alabama softball likes to boast of its multiple NCAA attendance records set over the years, and being the toughest venue to visit.

After this it might also be the nicest.

“We’re excited,” Crimson Tide softball coach Patrick Murphy said. “We can’t wait.”

Although the football stadium may be at the heart of the massive initiative, and will get the most attention not once, but twice, just about every facet of Crimson Tide athletics will be affected, both directly and indirectly.

For example, the new Sports Science Center, which will be located in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility, is also part of the Phase I plans. The area where construction will soon begin has already been prepared and cleared in the area in front of the Crimson Tide’s already eye-popping weight room.

Artist's rendering of Alabama's Sports Science Center
An artist's vision of what Alabama's Sports Science Center will look like. Christopher Walsh/BamaCentral

There’s a metaphor in that decision as Alabama is attempting to be bigger and better in an area that’s already impressive by anyone’s standards – even pro football.

Much of the work will be done in tandem with the next round of upgrades at the Mal Moore Athletic Complex, the everyday home of the football team and Crimson Tide athletics. The plans include upgrading the locker room and the medical treatment facility, among others.

That’s just the beginning.

Phase II plans include trying to turn Coleman Coliseum into a more modern, intimate facility in hopes of giving the basketball programs a strong home-court advantage.

Launched in August 2018, the Crimson Standard is a massive fundraising and athletic facility initiative designed to change the look and impact Alabama athletics over the next decade.

Although some of the details have changed, and will continue to be tweaked and updated to fulfill various needs, the aggressive goal of raising $600 million over 10 years has not.

When Byrne publicly announced the initiative Alabama had already raised $143 million, including a $1 million donation from Nick and Terry Saban.

A year later it had nearly doubled that amount.

“We’re already north of $275 million out of the $600 million goal,” Byrne said. “We’re very encouraged by what progress we’re making.”

Overall, it's by far the biggest athletic initiative in the history of the university. When former athletic director Mal Moore launched his plans for a five-year facilities and endowment initiative roughly two decades ago, the Crimson Tradition Fund evolved into a $150 million campaign.

In addition to a major overhaul and expansion of Bryant-Denny Stadium, Coleman Coliseum and nearly every other athletic venue was upgraded, while Bryant Hall was converted into an academic center. The initial project was completed in 2006 and helped set the stage for Alabama hiring Saban and enrollment doubling at the university.

Of course, the work didn’t stop. The top deck of Bryant-Denny Stadium was enclosed. The baseball stadium rebuilt. The weight room added.

Consider this the next step in the department’s evolution.

New Lights - Team Run-Out
The new LED lights are just the beginning of new changes at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“Greg Byrne set out an ambitious $600 million capital campaign, and donors have responded at a high level,” said J Batt, Alabama's Senior Associate Athletics Director for Development since 2017.

As a result, this year the Bryant Society, the brainchild of former player, coach and athletic director Bill Battle, which recognizes and honors athletic program’s top donors, is inducting its largest class yet. Many more are on target to join them in the near future, and they’ll be needed for Alabama to execute all three phases of the initiative.

“These folks not only give us their resources and time, but also help us to find the new and different people to be a part of this group,” Batt said. “I think it's terribly exciting and it’s a big honor to be a part of. This was Coach Battle’s vision to create lifetime giving societies, in particular the Bryant Society named in honor of Coach Bryant years ago. So it’s pretty cool lineage to be a part of.

As for the football part of it, new skyboxes will be inserted on the east side of the stadium, with premium Founders Suites on the west side costing $5 million each. All existing skyboxes will be renovated. The press box will be moved from midfield.

Other changes include a new team tunnel, which will lead directly into a fully updated home team locker room. The recruiting space will be expanded to more than double its current square footage.

Phase III, which is still years away from being implemented, will include a facelift to the exterior of the stadium, making it more fan friendly and turning the experience into something similar to what fans have enjoyed at one of the high-profile neutral-site games Alabama has played over the years, or on par with many of the College Football Playoff venues.

So there’s a lot for the Crimson Tide to be excited about, plus the high level at which Alabama teams have been performing, both academically and on the field.  

Last year, Alabama gave Byrne a raise and three-year contract extension through June 30, 2025. Byrne was making $980,000 a year with the salary rising to $1.13 million in his final year. 

Hired in March 2017, he's now signed through June 2026, with the salary going from $1.3 million this academic year to $1.54 million the final year. 

  • 2019-20: $1.3 million
  • 2020-21: $1.34
  • 2021-22: $1.38
  • 2022-23: $1.42
  • 2023-24: $1.46
  • 2024-25: $1.5
  • 2025-26: $1.54

It'll make him one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the nation, but still not in the top five.  

However, the contract calls for "supplemental retirement contributions" starting at $300,000 in the first year and escalating to $450,000 a year in 2026.

Nevertheless, the contract guarantees he'll be around for at least most of the Crimson Standard years. 

“We continue to make incredible progress in our 10-year plan,” said Byrne, a tireless worker who wears sneakers to football games to help him get around. 

“We have already some of the facility projects, softball, the sports science center, and as soon as our last home football game the work will start on Bryant-Denny Stadium and throughout the Mal Moore Athletic Complex.

“We’re starting to have early discussions about what the next phases will be.”

As for softball, which begins play for the 2019-20 season in December, the upgrades are expected to exceed the initial $2.2 million cost of Rhoads Stadium.

The work is moving along. The new bullpen area, allowing for more pitchers to warm up at once, is progressing, along with the clubhouse work. The new locker room for umpires and the brickyard path are both ahead of schedule.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Murphy said.