In case you missed it, The University of Texas made what could be its most important hire in the last decade, and potentially the next several decades to come. Somehow, university President Greg Fenves was able to lure away TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte to hire him at the same position at UT.
Now I’ll admit, I don’t know the name of a good Athletic Director from a bad one, but it is obvious to me which athletic programs are on stable ground. And the fact that I actually know the name Chris Del Conte means he must have been doing something right to get my attention. He’s built quite the program at TCU, so the hope is high that he will do the same at Texas.
The reason this is a monumental hire in my opinion is because the Texas athletic department as a whole has been a complete mess ever since Deloss Dodds left in 2013. Steve Patterson was hired and fired within two years, and for very good reasons. Patterson is one of the main reasons why Texas athletics is in the poor shape it’s in right now, mainly because of the wholesale changes he made in order to transform the program into more of a professional sports franchise.
I’m not going to get into the disaster Patterson created, and the mess interim Athletic Director Mike Perrin inherited (and did a remarkable job of damage control), but you can read a local Austin media member’s account of the situation here. If you have any interest in Texas sports at all, take 10 minutes and read it. You will understand why the Texas program has been a dumpster fire for the last several years.
What the hiring of Del Conte as the permanent AD means is the program is finally on the right track for stability. Often times, the hiring of a new AD means changes will be made, particularly on coaching staffs. However, I can’t see that being the case here.
Let’s face it, for the better part of two decades, I only knew of three coaches and one AD as a Texas supporter. Mack Brown, Rick Barnes, Augie Garrido and Deloss Dodds were prominent figures and represented the stability of the program. When you look back at the stability, it’s really no surprise the success all three of the major programs at Texas had during their time.
Since 2013, there have been three Athletic Directors, two head football coaches and multiple staff changes among the three major programs. Shaka Smart is the longest tenured coach of the big three sports, and he was hired as the basketball coach in 2015.
Will Del Conte come in and immediately create a stable program? Time will tell. However, based on his track record during his nine years at TCU, I would say he knows a thing or two about stability. During his time there, TCU has become nationally relevant in football and is a constant participant in the College World Series. He hired a new basketball coach last year and now that program is rejuvenated and considered to be an above-average team in the Big 12.
The main issues I can see Del Conte having is dealing with the pressure from the fans, media and mostly the big money donors. Patience is not something that’s very common around UT fans and donors today, so every move Del Conte makes will be under the microscope. I have all the confidence that he will shake the hands that need to be shaken and get in good graces with the most important people involved with the university, though.
But as we saw with arguably the most stable group of people the university has ever seen, no one is safe if the results don’t match the expectations.
Signs of stability are good, since there hasn’t been much of it surrounding the athletic department in recent years. I personally think Del Conte is a homerun hire and just hope the pressures of being the Athletic Director at Texas doesn’t force him to alter what has worked for him in the past.