Chris Del Conte believes it’s time once again for the University of Texas to reconnect with its fan base. The Longhorns’ personable athletic director will gladly hold the flap open for anyone wishing to enter the tent.
The school staged a statewide welcoming tour in 2014 when new coach Charlie Strong was hired. Later this month, the school will begin the “This is Texas Tour,” following a similar playbook from four years ago but one that Del Conte said will become permanent.
The tour begins in Midland on April 24 and will go to Amarillo on April 25. All events run from 6-8 p.m., and tickets can be purchased through the Texas Exes alumni organization.
“I think we should be out every year,” Del Conte said. “We should be out amongst our fans, donors, alumni and potential students every year. We used to have Longhorn club meetings around the state. As things evolved and changed, we need to make a concerted effort to go around the state and talk about what it means to be a Longhorn.
“You can’t do that sitting behind a desk,” he added. “You need to have open dialogue.”
Other tour stops include Dallas (May 8), Fort Worth (May 9), Corpus Christi (May 14), San Antonio (May 15), Houston (May 16), Rio Grande Valley (May 21) and Tyler (May 23).
Del Conte said football coach Tom Herman is scheduled to be at most, if not all, tour stops. “We are making a commitment to be at each and every one of them unless something comes up,” Del Conte said.
It’s wrong to characterize this as a tour designed solely for Herman. Del Conte is adamant the tour promote the entire university. The athletic department, admissions and the alumni organization all will be featured at each stop, Del Conte said.
“Our coaches, they bring people in,” Del Conte said. “Here’s our admissions. Here’s our great university. And the Texas Exes, they talk about keeping everyone together.”
Chuck Harris, the new executive director of the Texas Exes, said the organization has been searching for new ways to reach the school’s 500,000 alumni. This tour is “a great opportunity for us to go together and show the university,” Harris said.
“It was a five-minute meeting of the minds, and then we spent five hours figuring out how to do it,” said Harris, who started in January. “It was not a debate. Then, we started brainstorming what this tour would look like.”
The 2014 “Coming On Strong” tour got off to a eye-popping start when Strong told the crowd in Fort Worth the Longhorns “would not be in the national championship game.” There was a collective gulp at Joe T. Garcia’s restaurant. Strong smoothed things out the next night in Dallas, and the tour became a solid success.
The coaching staff lineup changed based on the locale, and the tour made an unscheduled stop in Lubbock at the 50 Yard Line restaurant during lunch.
Del Conte has no shortage of things to talk about. The football program had a winning season last year and assembled one of the nation’s best recruiting classes. The men’s and women’s basketball programs just played in their respective NCAA Tournaments. The baseball team is sitting in second place in the Big 12 standings.
Texas athletics has plans for upgrades or changes at the tennis, golf, baseball and swimming facilities. Further down the line, the school is planning to build a new on-campus basketball arena. There are utopian visions of renovating the football building, too.
“It’s important for us to get out in the four corners of this state and all points in between to talk about the University of Texas,” Del Conte said. He then mentioned legendary coach Darrell Royal’s famous saying about “putting the BBs back in the box.”
Said Del Conte: “It’s difficult when you spill a box of BBs and only one person is trying to put them back in the box at one time. With a united front, we can do great things.”
For advance ticket information, contact the Texas Exes at 512-840-5700.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3597. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.