In October, Christopher Del Conte was hired to replaced Danny Morrison as the university’s athletics director. Del Conte had served as the director of intercollegiate athletics for Rice University since 2006. Del Conte recently sat down with the Skiff to discuss his plans for the university’s athletic program.
Q: What are your long term goals for the athletic department?
A: For the next couple months, I am just going to look, listen and learn. I am going to spend time with the staff and get to know them, get to know the student athletes, get to know the coaches. Get a little swab analysis from them (and ask), “What do you think our strengths are, our weaknesses, threats, where do you see our opportunities?” Then from there, that will give me a sense of any common traits within the department. Ultimately, an athletic director’s job is solely to serve student athletes and coaches and their quest for championships. The idea is hopefully they will never know I am here. My only role is to be the wind beneath their wings. So I will assess where we are at. I always tell someone, “If we expect to be a first-class program, because that is our expectation, then we better have first-class facilities.” You are attracting students that are going to help us win a championship. And it goes back to academics. If we expect to have the finest chemistry department in the country, we can’t use Bunsen burners from 1950.
Q: Are there any plans for stadium renovations?
A: Like I said for the next couple months, we just need to trust each other, know what I’m all about. Think back to when Frank Windegger was here, to Eric (Hyman) to Danny (Morrison) to now, we are just building a cake and I’m another layer on it making sure that we continue our foundation in the right direction.
Q: What value do you believe you are going to add to our institution?
A: Right now it is too early to tell. I think what Rice taught me, in my three years there, we had to raise a significant amount of money for facilities. Why do we need to invest in buildings? . Academics is big business. We are trying to compete with the brightest and trying to get the brightest students to choose TCU as an option. You have to invest in your infrastructure. I think that is what I will bring to the table: investing in our infrastructure.
Q: What are your fundraising goals?
A: I think I have the best job in the world. You get to sell coaches and student athletes. You get to sell TCU … It is a very easy job. Like I said before, my biggest task here is just to get to know everybody, put our plan in place. Then go out and hit the streets as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to get ourselves in the right direction. You know this weekend we are sold out, standing room only.
Q: What are your thoughts on the BCS?
A: We control our own destiny. You take care of your own game, every game, and you will have a chance to compete in the BCS game.
Q: Do you think the Mountain West Conference needs to be an automatic qualifier in the BCS?
A: Absolutely, we should be an automatic qualifier just because (of) the quality of our teams. But again, we can’t worry about that right now. If TCU wins every single game it has remaining on its schedule, we have a possibility for great things to come. We have to win our conference and that puts us in a position to do great things.
Q: Besides football, what goals do you have for other sports?
A: I think at a place like TCU if we aspire to be great, if you look at us, the University of Southern California, Stanford (University), Northwestern (University), Duke (University), Wake Forest (University), these are private schools that dare to be great, both academically and athletically. My goal is that all of our teams have the opportunity to compete for conference championships and NCAA championships. We have a great city, unbelievable student body and our facilities are going to get better. Look at the things we have to sell. If you’re a student, why would you not come to TCU? We have eliminated every excuse. So now you look at it and say, ‘Why not?’ My goals are to support our coaches in their endeavors to win championships. If you walked around and talked to every one of these coaches, they are very hungry. They want to win … Their fire and passion to win is what fuels me.
Q: Did you have any personal ties to TCU before you came here?
A: No. I had a tie in that a good friend of mine, David Bailiff, who we hired at Rice as a football coach, used to coach here. I knew many people that were at TCU, but I had no personal ties.