OSU names Birdwell athletic director

Monday, June 10th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma State's new athletic director got right to the point.

``My name is Harry Birdwell. I'm a Cowboy for life,'' Birdwell said Monday after being introduced as the replacement for the departing Terry Don Phillips.

``My physician has confirmed that I have a terminal case of orange blood syndrome,'' he said. ``I deeply love this university.''

Birdwell, an OSU graduate and a 13-year member of the administration, was named by university President James Halligan, who noted Birdwell's loyalty to the school, his fund-raising ability and his thorough knowledge of the athletic department.

As university vice president for business and external relations, Birdwell has been closely involved in major athletic department projects. He also was OSU's point man after the January 2001 plane crash that killed 10 men associated with the basketball program. He led a task force that overhauled the department's travel policy.

``Given the circumstances with the stadium and Harry's involvement in facilities and his love for the athletic program and what needs to be done, I just think it's a home run. I think it's a great selection,'' said Phillips, who announced last week that he was leaving to become AD at Clemson.

``I've said publicly and privately that if it wasn't for Harry Birdwell, we wouldn't have this athletic facility and this arena. He is that important,'' Phillips said.

Birdwell said there wasn't a day during Phillips' tenure that the two didn't work together. Birdwell helped develop the master plan for the OSU Athletic Center, which included renovation of Gallagher-Iba Arena. He has been involved in the key decisions regarding the planned renovation of the football stadium.

As the university's chief fiscal officer, he said. he has a thorough understanding of the athletic department's budget and needs.

``I know this role will be a challenge,'' he said. ``I love challenges. I view them as opportunities, and I plan to tackle this job with every ounce of energy I have.''

Phillips' resignation came only a week after Halligan announced his intention to retire, fueling speculation about whether the university would wait for the new president to fill the AD's role. Halligan opted not to wait.

``There was a sense of urgency that we needed to go forth and get a person in place,'' said Fred Harlan, chairman of the university's regents.

Birdwell's hiring, which is effective July 1, is subject to review by the new president but Halligan said he didn't expect that to be an issue.

Monday's announcement was well received.

``I think that he will do anything to help a coach,'' said basketball coach Eddie Sutton. ``But I think at the same time, if we are not doing what we are supposed to, I think he has the courage to stand up to a coach and tell his side of the story.''

Football coach Les Miles said Birdwell is ``a great pick.''

``I think it keeps the momentum of the direction that was in place and going,'' he said. ``You get to build on what we have, with the idea that things will be better. It's a guy that's going to be here for a long time and get it done.''

As athletic director, Birdwell said he would work to develop first-rate athletic programs and continue developing facilities. Improvement of the football stadium, he said, must be the top priority.

``We will be relentless,'' he said. ``We will continue the progress until we complete it, period.''

Birdwell said he was approached by Halligan on Wednesday, the day after Phillips announced his resignation. The school president told him to consider making the switch to athletic director, and by Friday, Birdwell said, he had decided to do it.

Birdwell said he looks at it as a calling.

``I think it's a great opportunity to do something special for my institution, and I really want to,'' he said.