Jeremiah Donati knows he isn’t Chris Del Conte. He also knows that he doesn’t have to be.
Over the weekend, TCU’s now-former athletic director announced he was taking the same role at Texas. A little more than 24 hours later, TCU had found his replacement with the internal hiring of Donati.
At an introductory press conference on Monday afternoon, the new athletic director didn’t exude the same bombastic passion as his highly accomplished predecessor. But Donati was incredibly confident that his work experience, personality and leadership ability made him the perfect choice to further elevate the Horned Frogs’ athletic program.
“I’ve told everyone this: there’s only one Chris, there’s only one Jeremiah Donati, there’s only one everyone,” Donati said. “Chris and I are very different. We have a lot in common, a lot of similarities, and you’ll see that in some of our business practices, but I need to be my own me, and I will.”
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After praising Del Conte’s legacy at TCU, Donati added: “It would be silly to come in here and think this is a rebuild or a place you need to tear down and start over. There are a lot of great things going on right now, and it’s up to me to continue the momentum and figure out a way to take it higher.”
By filling the position so soon after Del Conte’s departure became public knowledge, TCU administrators showed that they place a high value on continuity. Since Donati was hired as the head of the TCU Frog Club in 2011, he has quickly risen through the ranks of the athletic department, eventually becoming the program’s deputy athletic director in August 2016.
Over time, Donati’s primary task was to serve as Del Conte’s fundraiser-in-chief. Throughout his time at TCU, Donati has helped raise money for massive renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium, Schollmaier Arena and Lupton Stadium, in addition to workout facilities, locker rooms and athletic lounges.
University Chancellor Victor Boschini believes that while Del Conte was instrumental in grooming Donati for this role, the two have distinct professional styles.
“I think Jeremiah is more process oriented, and I think he’ll bring that flavor to the staff that we didn’t have before,” Boschini said.
Donati also made it clear that he understands that for the men’s basketball and football programs to generate revenue, they will require a great deal of attention and resources. As will the school’s $100 million plan to upgrade the football stadium, which is set to include an additional 1,000 club seats and and 20 luxury suites.
At TCU, there is a well-established triumvirate in football coach Gary Patterson, men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon and baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle. All three are currently signed to long-term contracts, but Donati has a somewhat unique view of how he will continue to enhance his relationship with the school’s three most prominent coaches.
“It’s my job to serve them, so I may technically be their boss, but I don’t see it that way,” Donati said. “I see my job is to serve them and if I do that then they’ll be successful and they’ll be happy.”
Patterson and Schlossnagle have been head coaches at TCU for 17 and 15 seasons, respectively, and have had plenty of interactions with Donati. They also gave Donati words of encouragement when they heard about his promotion.
This is only Dixon’s second season at TCU, but he, too, has worked closely with Donati since he began coaching at his alma mater. Considering Dixon had nine athletic directors in 13 seasons as the basketball coach at Pittsburgh, it’s easy to see why he would appreciate strong leadership and stability among administrators.
“We know what the commitment to athletics is with Chancellor Boschini and the board of trustees here, and that’s where it starts,” Dixon said. “Because athletic directors in today’s day and age, they are going to move. They move at an even higher rate than coaches.”
When asked how he envisions the first five years of stewardship over the athletic department, Donati once against highlighted his understated, yet confident approach.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself right now,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is that the expectations haven’t changed from what they are.
“As I mentioned we’re going give kids an unbelievable experience. We’re going to graduate them. We’re going to turn them into leaders and responsible people, and we’re going to give them every single opportunity to win championships, conference and national.”