Former athletics boss Chris Del Conte leaves TCU with impressive legacy

Chris Del Conte stands in the north end zone to speak to reporters about the renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium on Aug. 27, 2012.
Chris Del Conte stands in the north end zone to speak to reporters about the renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium on Aug. 27, 2012. Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

Chris Del Conte’s legacy after nine years at TCU comes down to fundraising, hiring coaches and building relationships.

Those qualities no doubt spurred Texas in its quest to attract the Horned Frogs’ top athletic official.

Here’s a look at Del Conte’s accomplishments while serving as athletic director from 2009 to 2017 — in no particular order.

Getting TCU into the Big 12. Del Conte basically started from scratch after being hired. Charged with getting the Horned Frogs into a Power 5 league, he found a home in the Big East but reversed course when it coincided with the league’s demise. Needing to find a new home and fast, Del Conte cold-called the league’s top power broker, then-Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, and sold himself and the school. It’s an all-timer among the best things that has ever happened to TCU.

Fundraising. For all of Del Conte’s skills, this may be the most up his alley. Under his watch, TCU raised money to rebuild the football stadium and basketball arena, build an indoor practice facility and scoreboard for baseball, and support other projects for volleyball, women’s basketball, soccer and equestrian. Most recently, TCU announced a plan to raise money for a club and suites on the east side of the football stadium. The most impressive of all might be convincing donors that TCU basketball, despite its dry history, deserved a new arena.

Extending Gary Patterson. Del Conte recognized early on the asset that Patterson is to TCU. He did not allow him to get close to the end of a contract. In November, Patterson announced that he had signed a new six-year deal that takes him through the 2023 season. He said he couldn’t sign it fast enough for Del Conte’s satisfaction.

Hiring Jamie Dixon. This is something Del Conte tried for years to do, but he had nothing to pitch. Dixon could not be pulled away from a major college basketball job by a school with sub-par facilities. Even a top-flight recruiter like Dixon would have been hamstrung, no matter that TCU was in the Big 12. A $70 million renovation of the basketball arena took that liability off the table, and Del Conte convinced university officials to give him the green light to pay what it would take to get Dixon on a plane back home. It has already paid off. TCU entered the season picked third by the Big 12 coaches, has won 15 consecutive games and is No. 20 in the AP poll.

Believing in baseball. Baseball is not a revenue sport, but Del Conte treated it that way. In 2010, baseball reached Omaha for the first time. The resulting exposure from the College World Series, followed six months later by a Rose Bowl championship in football, proved a potent pairing. Impressed, Del Conte fed the momentum by approving renovations to the baseball stadium and giving coach Jim Schlossnagle leeway to hire top assistants Kirk Saarloos in 2012 and Bill Mosiello in 2013. Since 2014, TCU is 198-69 (.742) with four straight CWS trips.

Valuing top assistants. When TCU wants to keep assistants, it usually happens. Two years ago, Del Conte kept Texas from snagging co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie by approving what he called significant raises for him and Doug Meacham. In baseball, Schlossnagle’s raises have been accompanied by more money for pitching coach Saarloos and hitting coach Mosiello. Schlossnagle said he does not stand in the way of his assistants taking other jobs, but his top two coaches have yet to leave despite their increasingly valued resumes.

Leaving a tidy house. TCU has winning programs in football, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, women’s soccer, swimming, tennis, golf, rifle, equestrian and track and field. All can claim playoff or postseason appearances in the past decade, most have won a conference title or multiple conference titles and some have made national finals appearances. TCU could not make that claim 10 years ago.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

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