It’s easy to praise an athletic director when times are good. Chris Del Conte arrived at TCU just a couple months before the football team went to its first BCS bowl, and about a month after that the baseball team began a season that ended in Omaha.
Times were good.
And now, about 13 months after Del Conte’s arrival, times have legitimately never looked better for TCU athletics. And Del Conte is to thank for that.
I’m not sure who else could of pulled off fundraising a $105 million stadium renovation, securing the university a spot in an automatic BCS conference and making the Ohio State president look like an old fool in a calendar year, but I know who did.
So does Brian Grummell, a writer for AOL’s NCAA Football FanHouse. He wrote in a column Monday, “Del Conte seems like a shrewd face to add to the mix of Big East athletic directors.” Indeed he does.
Which is why the Board of Trustees should approve a raise that keeps Del Conte in Fort Worth and happy for the foreseeable future. While his body of work is small, in it he’s shown three traits of a great athletic director.
1) He’s a fundraiser
Del Conte came to the university with a reputation as a fundraiser. Now he’s a certified donation-securing legend. He, his staff and head football coach Gary Patterson made the most of TCU’s momentum last spring and secured $90 million worth of commitments in just over four months for renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium.
While the athletics department is currently preparing to begin the renovation, there’s always more to do. A modest baseball stadium expansion is expected in the near future, though not officially planned. And you better believe the Big East commissioner would like a facelift for Daniel-Meyer Coliseum before they send down Dick Vitale and ESPN.
The press release announcing the stadium renovation said it aimed to be “the Camden Yards of college football.” Give Del Conte another four months, and he’ll have the Lambeau Field of college basketball, to continue mixing metaphors.
2) He makes “big time” AD decisions
Look no further than the last month for proof of Del Conte’s poker abilities. It “leaked” that the Big East was considering TCU, Villanova and Central Florida, and was suggested that the conference would prefer to add only a football program. If TCU had agreed, their other sports would have likely landed in the now-raided Western Athletic Conference or the Missouri Valley Conference.
Del Conte didn’t skip a beat in telling The Sporting News that TCU would not be splitting up its programs. It was a gutsy call 8212; he could have lost the university their only option for getting access to the BCS since its inception.
He bet that the Big East was bluffing. The conference desperately needed TCU’s football program and its BCS credentials, which it wouldn’t get from UCF and Villanova. Sure enough, the tough call was the right call, and all of the university’s athletics stand to benefit.
3) He knows when to politick and when to shut up
Both gifts are equally important, though shutting up is (generally) easier.
The first eight weeks of the college football season, it’s probably bad news if your athletic director or college president is being interviewed about football. Nowadays, it probably means a scandal. Let the football team speak for itself for two months.
But a switch flips as the BCS race heats up. There are too many teams fighting for too few spots, and you need a well-prepared rhetoric as well as a solid quote that wins hearts and minds. The power of propaganda.
Del Conte proved he could deliver a solid quote in response to Ohio State University President Gordon Gee’s slight of TCU and Boise last week.
“Anytime. Anyplace. Anywhere,” he said. “Buckeyes against the Horned Frogs. Tee it up.”
But more impressive was his overall message 8212; if Ohio State cares enough to take shots at TCU, then the Horned Frogs have truly arrived.
Both the quote and the message were direct, and Ohio State hasn’t offered a rebuttal. What could it say? After last weekend, even “See you at the Rose Bowl” isn’t an option.
Del Conte has had an incredible first year in Fort Worth. But now that he’s secured a BCS conference for TCU, it’s time to lock him up long term. You never know when Ohio State could use an AD.
Josh Davis is a senior broadcast journalism major from Dallas.