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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Byrne names new basketball coach

On Monday, Texas A&M Director of Athletics Bill Byrne named his second head coach replacement since being appointed in December of 2002, announcing that renowned women’s basketball coach Gary Blair would leave the University of Arkansas to take over the vacancy at A&M left when Peggie Gillom’s contract was not renewed.
Byrne, formerly the director of athletics for the University of Nebraska, was largely influential in the hiring of Dennis Franchione as the Aggies’ head football coach.
According to The Associated Press, Blair was reportedly offered $400,000 a year by A&M, which doubles his annual salary at Arkansas.
Like Franchione, who built a name for himself at Texas Christian University before taking over at the University of Alabama, Blair will be returning to the Lone Star State. Blair compiled a 210-43 record at Stephen F. Austin University prior to his 10-year stay at Arkansas.
Byrne said that Blair’s roots should ease his transition to Aggieland.
“Gary is an outstanding coach with tremendous success in women’s college basketball,” Byrne said. “He’s a native Texan and so is his wife, and I think they will fit great into the Aggie family.”
During his 18-year career, Blair’s teams have gone 408-163, making him one of the 25 winningest coaches in women’s collegiate basketball. He has taken teams to the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including a trip to the Final Four in 1998. Last season, he took Arkansas to the second round of the NCAAs.
Blair said that some might question why he chose to leave a successful program.
“I wasn’t looking for a job, but sometimes a great job comes looking for you,” he said. “Texas is my home state, and I’ve been familiar with Texas A&M for a long time. I know what kind of program A&M can be, and I want to be the architect to get it done.”
Gillom’s contract expired at the end of the 2002-2003 season, which ended with a loss to Baylor University in the Big 12 Tournament on March 11.
Still, despite Blair’s hiring within the month, Assistant Director of Athletics Steve Miller said that Gillom’s fate was not determined prior to last season’s end.
“There was no decision made until after the completion of the basketball season, just as every coach on campus is evaluated at the end of their season,” he said.
Gillom, who did not post a winning season with the Aggies, has since been named an assistant coach at the University of Mississippi.
Blair has never posted a losing season and has had 14 seasons of 20 wins or more.
Byrne said that finding a proven winner was one of his primary goals in the search for a new women’s coach.
“He’s had a lot of experience in building programs, and we’re awfully glad he’s coming back to the state of Texas to rejuvenate our women’s basketball program to the level of success that we expect,” he said.

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