Chris Del Conte Introduced as Texas’ New Athletics Director

Seven days ago, Chris Del Conte missed an important phone call. He was in New York City for the National Football Foundation meetings, and saw a number he didn’t recognize. So he redialed. On the other end of the line was UT Austin President Greg Fenves. Six thirty, Bob’s Steak & Chop House, back right corner of the restaurant. Fenves wanted to talk to him about perhaps the most high profile executive position in college athletics.

“I was floored,” Del Conte said this morning, as he was announced as the Texas’ new vice president and athletics director assuming the same position he occupied, just days ago, at TCU. “I was honored. Look back to where I came from.”

Since his hiring in October 2009, Del Conte transformed TCU’s athletics department from an afterthought to a major player. During his tenure, TCU entered the Big 12 Conference and raised more than $300 million in donor-funded construction projects, including the $164 million Amon G. Carter Stadium for football and a $72 million renovation of the basketball facility.

But on Monday morning, Del Conte was coy about his fundraising philosophy, when asked.

“We’re supposed to ask softball questions in your press conference,” he quipped, to laughter. “You two yard birds are supposed to start with softball questions,” he said, gesturing toward reporters in the front row. “We just love you, then tomorrow you can take me to the woodshed.”

He also revealed that he’s a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, tearing up multiple times during the press conference.

“By the way, I’m an amazing crier,” Del Conte said. “I cry when we win, I cry when we lose. It’s okay to show emotion because it means you’re real.”

Del Conte takes over for Mike Perrin, who Fenves hired in September of 2015 to take over for embattled AD Steve Patterson and whose contract was set to expire at the end of the 2017-18 academic year. Perrin’s tenure has seen the hiring of new football and baseball head coaches in Tom Herman and David Pierce, and a $250 million apparel deal with Nike. In addition to thanking longtime Texas AD Deloss Dodds, Del Conte acknodledged his predecessor for navigating Texas Athletics through a tough time.

“You knew what Texas needed,” he said. “It was a rocky road. You settled the road down, put us in a place where the university is first and foremost. You’ve been spectacular.”

When asked about the timing of the hiring, Fenves said he felt that he had to grab Del Conte before another high-profile program hired him away from TCU first, thus the secret meeting in New York last week.

“This was a good time to do a change.” Fenves said. “I wanted to be ahead of any other potential searches. Chris Del Conte is a hot commodity. I wanted to get him here to Texas before he had too many other alluring offers.”

Near the end of the question and answer portion of the press conference, Del Conte was asked about the challenges he faces as he takes on a higher profile role at UT. His answer may reveal why he left his perch at TCU, one he built himself, for one that comes with an extra level of scrutiny.

“I am prepared for this job. There will be things that happen along the way that we’ll have to make adjustments,” Del Conte said. “But it is still a 10-foot rim, it’s still 100 yards. You have 523 student-athletes trying to win championships. As long as you put them first and coaches first, everything else is immaterial, right?”

Photo courtesy Texas Athletics

 

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