Meet the New Women’s Basketball Coach Vic Schaefer

When University of Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte was contemplating moving on from women’s basketball head coach Karen Aston, the first person he turned to was program architect Jody Conradt. “I had a conversation with Jody about, ‘If we were going to make a change, who would you like to see be the head basketball coach at The University of Texas?’” Del Conte recalls. “And in my conversation with her, she said only one person: ‘You need to go get Vic Schaefer.’”  

It was almost inevitable. Over the past eight seasons, Schaefer had built Mississippi State into a women’s hoops powerhouse, including two trips to the national championship game. The Bulldogs’ buzzer-beating 2017 Final Four upset of UConn, who hadn’t lost in 111 games, was one of the great basketball games of the century. And while Schaefer’s team was unable to get past South Carolina that year (or Notre Dame in 2018), it was surely just a matter of time before he brought a title to Starkville, where Schaefer and his wife, Holly, had just finished construction on a farmhouse.  

But Schaefer is also a Texas native—born in Austin, raised in Houston and LaGrange—with professional stops in Huntsville and, ahem, College Station. Schaefer was associate head coach under Gary Blair when Texas A&M won the 2011 national championship. So when the flagship university from the state you’ve lived in for 45 of your 59 years on Earth comes calling …  

“I have a great understanding of the prestige of this university,” Schaefer says. “What it means to our state, what it means on a national scale. The academic prestige as well as the athletics. It’s the pinnacle in my profession: the best job in the country.”  

Del Conte announced Aston’s departure on April 3. Less than 48 hours later—even amid the COVID-19 pandemic that had already canceled the men’s and women’s Final Four—Schaefer, Holly, their daughter Blair, and their son Logan were standing next to Del Conte in Austin, throwing their horns up to his thousands of Twitter followers.  

Between his Texas pedigree and his resume, Schaefer was the best man for the job, even if it also meant UT would be hiring a male coach for the first time since Conradt took over for Rod Page in 1976. And even if it meant hiring an Aggie (hey, it worked with Dana X. Bible, former Texas head football coach , who spent nearly a decade at each school). Both Schaefer and his father, a colonel in the Army, got their degrees at A&M, and the family used to go to Austin or College Station for the UT vs. A&M game nearly every Thanksgiving. But the Aggies were also terrible when he was growing up, so his fondest memories of Memorial Stadium were watching Eddie Phillips and Steve Worster run Darrell Royal’s wishbone offense. Every game was also a literal homecoming, given that Schaefer was born at Brackenridge Hospital. “Nobody knows ‘The Eyes of Texas’ better than Vic Schaefer,” Schaefer says.  

Schaefer knows why he’s here. For all of UT’s historic success in women’s basketball, they only have the one national championship, won by Conradt in 1986. And while in Conradt’s day the competition was Tennessee and Stanford and Louisiana Tech, now it’s a little closer to home: Baylor has won three national championships under Kim Mulkey since 2005, and owned an 18-1 record against UT under Aston.  

As Conradt has previously told ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, when she first got the UT job in 1976, Royal told her it was easy to win at Texas—all you have to do is be No. 1 or better. “Expectations here are quite high in every sport,” Conradt says. “People from the outside look and say, ‘Oh, that’s got to be the easiest job in the world because every student wants to come to The University of Texas.’ But that doesn’t tell you the whole story. The higher the expectations, the more demanding the job is.”  

That suits Schaefer fine. “That’s what my staff and I are all about,” he says. “We have absolutely no desire to be good. We want to be great. We want to compete for that national championship every year.”  

Maybe it’s not going to happen in year one, and who even knows what year one is going to look like (at press time, the NCAA had set Nov. 25 as the start date for Division I basketball season). But given Schaefer’s track record, intensity, and the whole new world of recruiting that being in Austin gives him, it is bound to happen eventually. There’s even a reason to think it’s meant to be.  

“I’ll give ya a little bit of history—there are two coaches that have coached at both Mississippi State and The University of Texas. Do you know who the other one is?” Schaefer says to me. “How ’bout Darrell Royal?”

 
 
 

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