Athletics director not afraid to ask for funds

Athletics director not afraid to ask for funds

When Chancellor Victor Boschini began the search for a new athletics director, a top concern was continuing to raise funds for renovations on Amon Carter Stadium. New athletics director Chris Del Conte has a novel approach.

“Ask,” Del Conte said in his introductory press conference Wednesday. “No one has ever gotten married without asking. We have to make sure we go out and ask for the order. The facilities we have here are second to none, we have a stadium that needs to be built, but first and foremost, you need to get out in front of the people and ask for the order. Some of them may tell you yes, some may tell you no, but you can not be afraid to ask. And I can assure you that is a skill set I’m not worried about.”

Del Conte was hired Wednesday as the new athletics director after a six-week search to replace Danny Morrison, who resigned in early September to take a position with the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers.

Del Conte said he has not signed the formal contract yet, but that it will be a five-year agreement, with an additional two-year option for the university. He was previously the athletics director at Rice University in Houston, a position he had held since 2006.

After introducing his family to open his address to the media, Del Conte gave his farewell to his former employer.

“To the people at Rice, I thank them for the opportunity; it was a great three-and-a-half years, and I’m going to miss them dearly,” Del Conte said. “But that gave me an opportunity to be (at TCU) … Where we’re going here is really great.”

He was selected from a group of 63 candidates who were seriously considered, then eight finalists, Boschini said. All eight finalists were current NCAA athletics directors. Only one other candidate was flown in to interview for the position, but Boschini would not reveal the name.

Del Conte said the time frame from his contract signing with the university to being introduced was only about a week.

Boschini revealed what set Del Conte apart in an interview following the press conference.

“It seemed like any goal he ever set for himself he met, and any goal that was set for him by the administration, he always met that,” Boschini said.

Del Conte went to Rice from the University of Arizona, where he was the senior associate athletics director for external operations and sports programs. He was also a notable fund raiser there, where he designed, developed and managed the Campaign Arizona for the Student-Athlete, which raised more than $120 million.

Boschini said he is not worried about Del Conte’s ability to raise funds in a down economy, but that it will be a process.

“He’s first got to raise friends, Boschini said. “You can’t raise funds until you raise friends, and that’s the phase we’re in now. You can’t be a fund raiser if you’re not a friend raiser in my opinion.”

While at Rice, Del Conte designed, developed and managed the Rice Vision for the Second Century Campaign, which has raised more than $90 million. Del Conte also raised $29 million for the renovation of Tudor Fieldhouse, where the Owls play basketball and volleyball, and the creation of the Youngkin Center for Student Athlete Excellence.

The Youngkin Center’s primary feature is an academic center, according to a 2007 Rice press release. Del Conte said his desire is to stay at a university that stressed education for student-athletes.

“Having young children and a wife that is a math educator, (means) education is important to us,” Del Conte said. “But what is more important to us is winning at the highest level, and TCU wins in every facet of the game – academically and athletically.”

Baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle was part of a 12-member search committee put together by the university along with trustees, a student athlete and a faculty member. Schlossnagle said the committee put together a profile of what it was looking for in an athletics director.

Schlossnagle was happy with the result.

“I really like his energy,” Schlossnagle said. “I like people who have great energy and are passionate, and Chris definitely has that.”

Del Conte also said he was happy to be coming to the university.

“I look at private schools that have made the commitment to be great in both endeavors, academically and athletically,” Del Conte said. “I look at Stanford, I look at Vanderbilt … the University of Southern California – these are the schools that have dared to be great. When you have an opportunity to go somewhere that has dared to be great in both endeavors, that beyond interests me. I wanted this job.”

Press conference audio