Mac Engel

Del Conte: “I didn’t want that regret”

Chris Del Conte announced Saturday that he is leaving as TCU athletic director to take the same position at the University of Texas. The Horned Frogs’ athletic programs thrived in Del Conte’s nine-year tenure.
Chris Del Conte announced Saturday that he is leaving as TCU athletic director to take the same position at the University of Texas. The Horned Frogs’ athletic programs thrived in Del Conte’s nine-year tenure. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

No one at TCU wants to hear this but athletic director Chris Del Conte made the right, easy, decision.

For years, Del Conte waived off any notion that he could, or should, leave TCU for a different job.

In September of 2015, I wrote Texas should hire Del Conte. I wrote, “I doubt he would leave TCU and Fort Worth for Austin, but I could not blame him if he did. It’s Texas. Texas is one of the top two or three jobs in the United States.”

His response to me was that he had the best job in America, and he meant it. At that time, in his mind, to leave TCU was just going to be a lateral move of addresses. In his mind, TCU was the top.

But when Texas calls, it’s not just a change of address. Perhaps if the timing was different, Del Conte does not leave Fort Worth for Austin and the University of Texas, but he has done everything he sought to accomplish here.

Texas reached out to Del Conte several weeks ago, but he had not made up his mind until this week to accept the job and a seven-year contract with an annual salary of $1.3 million. No one says no to that.

The timing was right. If he was ever going to leave, do it now. Had he passed on the job, UT may have never called again.

“You only get one crack at this life, and I didn’t want to think, ‘What if?’ I didn’t want that regret,” Del Conte said in a phone conversation Saturday night. “[Texas] is one of the most iconic names in the country and in this profession. I don’t know how many chances I’ll get at this, and I couldn’t say no. The timing is right.

“When TCU hired me they said, ‘Can you get us into a BCS conference and can you build us a new stadium. We did that. I had the best job in America. And, with Gary Patterson, Jamie Dixon and Jim Schlossnagle, and all of the other great coaches and Chancellor Boschini, TCU is set. I really think we have built one of the best athletic departments in the country. We did everything we set out to do. We blew it out of the water. I mean, what else is left?”

There are a myriad of ways to look at Del Conte’s decision to leave TCU for the same job at the University of Texas. Del Conte isn’t rejecting TCU, so applaud the man for a job well done and give sincere best wishes for the future.

He did what he was hired to do by TCU, and leaves the athletic department in fine condition. Whoever succeeds him will have a difficult time of replacing a personality that had become a national name in college athletics.

In his time at TCU, Del Conte was instrumental in raising money and over-seeing a grand upgrade to the football, basketball, baseball and soccer facilities. Despite spending over $300 million in facility upgrades, the school’s athletic department is not in debt.

He helped to navigate TCU’s invitation into the Big East over to the Big 12 in a matter of months.

He was also visible and accessible to students, alums and fans. Del Conte was renowned for meeting and greeting fans, going so far as to help build tailgate setups on football Saturdays. The man could work 27 hours in a day.

He continually pushed to grow, and to change boundaries, even though sometimes his agenda for increased revenues did not always fly in direct line with a school that wanted to remain more conservative and traditional.

Don’t underestimate the value generated from his ability to deal with the media, either. Del Conte was accessible to local and national media members, and as such helped to broaden his own reputation as well as TCU’s.

AD’s are not often well-known names, but Del Conte made his just that. Both he and the school benefited.

The man is a great talker, and a sincere salesman.

He could have stayed at TCU until he wanted to retire, but he finally realized what so many of us in town had recognized long ago: He had done it all at TCU. The school’s athletic department, in virtually every sport, hit an all-time apex under his watch.

Most TCU people thought if/when Del Conte left it would be for his native California roots, and closer to his family members near Santa Barbara.

Maybe had USC called, he would have left a few years ago. The Trojans never called.

Texas, which failed miserably when it hired Steve Patterson to replace DeLoss Dodds for the AD position in 2014, was the one job that reached out to Del Conte that could make him leave Fort Worth and TCU.

Don’t be mad at him.

Thank him for a job well done, and just wish him the best.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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