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10 People Who Could Be The Next University of Texas Athletic Director

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Orangebloods‘ Chip Brown first reported it September 13: longtime University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds was planning to step down. The school denied it, but Dodds’ own comments, both before and after the report, were not very convincing (I said the rumor was “100 percent believable” ten days ago, and that was not a bold opinion).

Now comes a report from the columnist who probably has the greatest access to UT’s AD: Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman. On September 11, Bohls wrote that Dodds “has no plans to leave his job and hasn’t even thought about it.” But Monday that all changed, in a story co-written by Statesman higher education reporter Ralph K.M. Haurwitz:

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds will announce Tuesday afternoon that he will step down next August after 32 years in the position, three well-connected sources told the American-Statesman on Monday.

Dodds, 76, will announce his retirement after vigorously denying a report earlier this month that he would leave his job before the end of this year. Dodds will stay on through Aug. 31, 2014, and will remain on as a consultant through 2015. Dodds could not be reached for comment. He will receive a $1 million annuity in August.

“He’s going to announce it tomorrow,” one of the well-placed sources said. “They were going to do it today but decided to wait because they didn’t want to detract from the passing of (legendary former Longhorn quarterback) James Street.”

Bohls and Haurwitz wrote that Dodds, who will remain under contract to UT as a consultant, intends to announce his last day as August 31, 2014, but that UT hoped to bring on his successor by December. Chip Brown’s latest report says it’s a “fluid situation,” and that Dodds will only serve until a new AD is hired.

For all the current dysfunction around UT athletics—from the struggles of the football and basketball teams to the Bev Kearney situation—Dodds was certainly a groundbreaking and great AD. He turned Texas into the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees of collegiate sports and, with Mack Brown, gave UT its first football championship in more than thirty years. Even the much-maligned Longhorn Network deal will almost certainly turn out to be a long-term plus.

Dodds’ decision to resign on more or less his own terms, even under pressure, actually feels like something of a power move: given the lengthy timetable, and his continued role as a consultant, he’ll likely have a lot of input into UT president William Powers Jr.’s search for a successor.

So who might that be? Here’s ten names to think about:

1. Mack Brown

Head Football Coach, University of Texas

A common, but laughable scenario. People who think that being the football coach qualifies you to run a $100 million athletic department in this day and age are also, well, people who think that just because they watch a lot of college football, they’re qualifed to hire and fire their school’s head coach.

In any case, that’s not how this is going to go down. This is not David McWilliams. If Mack Brown’s showing up for work every day in 2014 (or 2015), he’ll be coaching football, even if it’s not in Austin. Otherwise, he’ll collect his buyout, maybe turn up on ESPN for a few seasons, and then come back for his statue or new building. 

2. Chris Plonsky

Director of Women’s Athletics, University of Texas

It would be wrong if UT didn’t consider its strongest internal candidate, whose 25-year career has involved not just women’s sports (including UT’s current most successful program, volleyball) but sponsorships, broadcasting, and licensing with marketing behemoth (and Longhorn Network broker) IMG. 

Of course, that can go either way: on the one hand, Plonsky is a person that you might want to promote, or at least keep around for continuity. On the other, it could be time to clean house all the way. If all was actually well with UT athletics, an orderly transition would make sense. But that’s not how things are. An outsider is needed.

Also, Texas will elect a female governor before the University of Texas has a female athletic director. Oh, right. But, hey, guess what? College sports, and University of Texas athletics, are not as progressive and female-friendly as Texas politics.

Which also rules out…

3. Lynn Hickey

Director of Athletics, University of Texas at San Antonio

Another DeLoss protege, dating back to her time as the women’s basketball coach at Kansas State. She also coached at Texas A&M before serving as the Aggies’ senior associate athletics director. And the regents have already hired her once.

Still, bringing football to a university for the first time, which Hickey did with UTSA in 2011, is not the same thing as as running the country’s biggest football program—even if the Roadrunners do have the state’s only other coach besides Mack Brown to win the BCS.

4. Bob Bowlsby

Big 12 Conference Commissioner

Dodds pal and obvious candidate number one was already named in Chip Brown’s original report and already shot down. Even his kid on Twitter says it isn’t gonna happen, which may be worth about as much as an official statement from a University of Texas spokesman.

Still, I tend to believe Bowlsby, who only just gave up the Stanford AD job to come to the Big 12, when he says he isn’t going anywhere. USA Today college football writer George Schroeder called the possiblity “far-fetched,” while the Statesman‘s Bohls noted that his current salary is believed to be around $2 million—quite a bit more dough than even the extravagantly compensated Dodds.

5. Jack Swarbrick

University Vice President/Director of Athletics, Notre Dame

Dodds pal and obvious candidate number two was also first name-dropped by Brown (CHIP, that is … It will be a nice change when UT no longer has a coach with same name as a beat writer).

“I feel like I have the best job in college athletics,” Swarbrick told the Dallas Morning News‘ Chuck Carlton when asked about the UT job gig week, which is a classic non-denial denial.

UT is a better job-the same job, really, except with even more of the advantages (giant brand, big $, solo TV deal) that Notre Dame has, plus lower academic standards, greater access to recruits and, more likely than not, a clearer path (for those two reasons and because of the Big 12) into the future college football playoff.

That said, Swarbrick is a Notre Dame alum. It’d be more fun to bring a national championship back to South Bend than it would be to placate UT’s fans. And he’s got a few black marks on his record—the Manti T’eo business and the awful Lizzy Seeberg story—that probably don’t need airing at an introductory Austin press conference. 

FWIW, Chip Brown now calls both Bowlsby and Swarbrick “longshot candidates.”

6. Oliver Luck

Director of Athletics, West Virginia

Bohls and Brown are both reporting that the former Houston Oilers QB, a UT law school grad, is a top candidate, if not the top candidate. Having just brought West Virginia into the Big 12 last season, he already knows the conference, and is plainly Dodds (and Bob Bowlsby)-approved.

A year ago, many Longhorns fans would have gladly taken Luck and Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen as a package deal. Now, maybe not so much. But Luck also ran the Harris County/Houston Sports Authority and the Houston Dynamo, playing a role in the construction of Minute Maid Park, Reliant Stadium, the Toyota Center and BBVA Compass Stadium. So this might be the man that Powers wants to build UT its new arena

Like Swarbrick, however, he’d be leaving his alma mater. In fact, Luck had to step down from WVU’s board of governors, on which he was already serving while in Houston, to become A.D. 

7. Steve Patterson

Vice President for University Athletics and AD, Arizona State

Also a name that’s been out there, and another UT law school grad. Patterson does not have much experience in college sports, having originally made his mark with the Houston Rockets, followed by the Aeros and Texans, as well as the Portland Trailblazers.

According to a 2012 Arizona Republic profile, “Patterson’s role model is Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds.” At ASU, he started out as (deep breath) “Chief Operating Officer for Sun Devil Athletics and Managing Director of Sun Devil Sports Group” before taking over as AD: titles that sound perfect for UT Athletics, Inc. 

Both Patterson and football coach Todd Graham agreed to contract extensions a few days after the Orangebloods story first broke. Well-played, sirs! 

8. Rob Mullens

Athletics Director, University of Oregon

A name that you don’t hear too often, probably because Nike CEO Phil Knight is perceived to be the the U of O’s real boss. Ka-ching!

Which is kind of the point. If you’re the sort of fan who thinks Alabama’s Nick Saban, the best coach in college football, is the only person good enough to coach the Longhorns, then it only stands to reason that the A.D. behind the Jerry World of college sports training facilities, at a BCS power program that’s been even more successful (on the field) than UT the past four years, is the sort of guy you want to steal away.

Mullens also achieved good things financially during his stint at the University of Kentucky. 

9. Jason Cook

Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs, Texas A&M University

What you were expecting Rick Perry? Dana Bible? I was even gonna suggest Bill Byrne, but he’s a little up in years.

So why not Cook? A&M’s VP of Marketing and Communications from 2008-2013, he’s widely credited with being the main man behind A&M’s SEC-inspired re-branding, as well as Johnny Manziel’s Heisman hype. This would be the Manziel move–unexpected, outrageous, so-crazy-that-it-just-might-work. 

And then, once UT has an Aggie athletic director, he can hire Baylor’s Art Briles to be football coach. 

10. Wallace L. Hall Jr.

UT System Regent

Hey, if Oliver Luck can do it….

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