Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne was swift in his decision to fire head baseball coach Brad Bohannon in early May when it was reported the coach had been in alleged communication with someone betting on an Alabama-LSU baseball game. A few weeks later, Byrne reflected on how coaching hires reflect up the chain of command.
Joining the “Paul Finebaum Show” on Friday in a taped interview from the Regions Pro-Am earlier this week in Birmingham, Byrne didn’t run from the fact that accountability for Bohannon’s tenure ends with him, the person who made the hire. But he also defended the process, noting that the second any sort of issue came up involving Bohannon, it was swiftly addressed.
“So what I tried to think back is, anytime you go through a coaching hire, Paul, you try to look under the hood and get as much information as you can. As you can imagine, there was never any sign by anybody of anything like that. And once we learned about it, we dealt with it. We took it seriously from the get go and made the challenging decision. I’m really proud of the team and the resiliency they’ve shown. I came in and told the team Thursday that this was going on and by that evening we went and beat the No. 5 team in the country and took two of three against Vanderbilt that weekend,” Byrne said.
The reports that there was an impropriety involving Alabama baseball and gambling started to surface over the first weekend in May. By May 4, Bohannon had been fired.
Though the circumstances of Bohannon’s exit were unfortunate, Byrne also found some silver linings. The Alabama baseball program is better than it was when Bohannon got the job, Byrne noted. The players on the team earned plenty of praise from the athletic director, too.
“Obviously as an athletic director, one of the things you’re judged on is your coaching hires. And as much as, using a baseball term, as much you want to bat 1.000, you’re not going to. Coach Bohannon — our program’s better. A lot better,” Byrne said. “And it’s a great group of young men that are on the team.”
Earlier in the week, Byrne was asked by AL.com about the firing of Bohannon and general proliferation of sports gambling.
Byrne sought to be clear about something: College sports and its participants need to have a strong firewall between them and sports gambling. It’s a lesson that Alabama has learned quickly in recent weeks and Byrne shared his perspective as Iowa and Iowa State are being investigated for a number of student athletes committing gambling violations.
“And I do think that from an integrity standpoint within the game, to make sure that our student athletes, our coaches, our staff understand that there has to be a separation there, it’s critical,” Byrne said in a video posted by AL.com. “You’ve seen some schools be pretty aggressive with embracing different gaming outlets. We haven’t done that as much. And I do think it’s something — there just can’t be any question from an integrity standpoint, that we understand that there has to be a separation.”