TUCSON--University of Arizona athletics director Greg Byrne broke some new ground today in playing part in an innovative public appearance through a Google+ Hangout that was available to viewers and participants worldwide.
Byrne, from his McKale Center office, was joined by Deputy AD Rocky LaRose in her own nearby office, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott from Ireland, and various public guests who signed up for the online video chat through participation in UA's social media features. Wilbur the Wildcat, UA's mascot, who's not cleared to actually speak while in costume, also took part in his own muted fashion.
Scott joined in the 30-minute chat from a Google headquarters in Dublin, and conversed with Byrne for about 15 minutes. Byrne also answered questions from some of the video participants as well as queries submitted via email or Twitter to host Brian Jeffries, who moderated the session. Jeffries is UA's award-winning play-by-play announcer for football and men's basketball and many department ceremonies.
Byrne, 40, has been an advocate of innovative uses of technology and social media, and has released, among other information, the hire of football coach Rich Rodriguez through his Twitter account, as well as handling the announcement of other new developments in the UA's athletics department through that avenue. He's developed a substantial national profile in that out-front fashion.
Today's session included questions and answers about a number of current department topics and included some visible showcasing of Arizona's copper-look football helmet potentially slated for special-game uses this year and beyond.
"This is just another way for us to reach our fans and supporters," Byrne said. "We think we can 'hang out' in other ways in the future. Technology is something we're quite interested in using to our advantage. It's fun, too," he said.
Officials said about 100 people watched the #ArizonaHangout during this first run, and anticipate that could exponentially expand in the future if the process was used for pertinent sessions.
The "hangout" offered by the Mountain View, Calif., firm and Internet giant, is a simple audiovisual tool using web cams and computers to join up to 10 people together -- with any number of others able to watch live through any of various presentation methods.
The first run had some small technical difficulties, as expected, but most issues appeared to be solved by the use of more current browser versions, officials said.
If you missed the hangout live, you can watch the archive here: