Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte looks to take his seat before a special screening of actor Matthew McConaughey?s new film ?The Gentlemen? inside the Hogg Memorial Auditorium on the University of Texas campus, Tuesday, Jan., 21, 2020. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

As construction dust flies, Texas keeps football season ticket prices frozen 5th straight season

Texas AD Chris Del Conte faced more questions about men’s basketball than football at second Town Hall forum

Posted February 4th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “What we need is everyone to continue to support our athletic program,” Del Conte told the small crowd.
  • “Part of the apathy is it breaks our hearts to see what’s going on with the basketball team.”
  • Del Conte continues to believe that UT students, coaches and fans should embrace the behemoth that is Texas.

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte is cognizant of Texas’ financial largess. It bothers him when fans say the Longhorns care solely about the bottom line.

And as the most profitable athletic department in America, fans and foes say that a lot.

To Del Conte, it sounds draconian to raise football season ticket prices when the department generated a record $223.9 million in revenues during the 2018-19 athletic year.

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So he’s not.

Texas will keep season ticket prices frozen for a fifth straight year, Del Conte said Tuesday night at his second annual Texas Athletics Town Hall forum.

“What we need is everyone to continue to support our athletic program,” Del Conte told the small crowd. The event was also shown on an internet livestream. “My goal is not to keep on going back to the same juice and squeezing it over and over and over again. My goal is to say, ‘OK, we’re in it together.’”

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte speaks with Texas softball head coach Mike White before a special screening of actor Matthew McConaughey’s new film ‘The Gentlemen’ inside the Hogg Memorial Auditorium on the University of Texas campus, Tuesday, Jan., 21, 2020. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

When Texas fans get their renewal packets, prices will once again range from $199-$630 for the actual ticket. The total cost is determined by the required Longhorn Foundation donation, a figure unique to each ticket holder.

Del Conte knows 2020 is going to be a year of upheaval around the Texas football program.

The ongoing south end zone expansion has forced the team and coaches to relocate to the stadium’s north side. Construction of the new Moody Center basketball arena has blocked off a large stretch of Red River Street, something that will be a major hassle for fans on gameday.

After going 10-4 in 2018, the Horns took a step back as a program in 2019 by going 8-5.

Essentially, Del Conte doesn’t want inconveniences or money to be reasons for UT fans to give up supporting the program now.

“What we did here, we went from the height of Mack Brown of 63,000 (season tickets) in 2010 down to 43,000 at the end of Charlie Strong and now we’re at 64,000,” Del Conte said.

Raising ticket prices at some point becomes inevitable, though. Then again, it’s possible with the new revenue streams that are forthcoming in 2021 with south end zone suites and new club seating, Del Conte can delay price hikes for several more seasons.

“Two years ago, we could have raised them after going to the Sugar Bowl. I chose not to do that,” Del Conte said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to make sure that we not only maintain but grow and add value.”

The town hall forum is an ask-me-anything format where Del Conte normally shows his full range of interpersonal skills. But even Del Conte chose his words carefully when asked multiple questions about the Texas men’s basketball program.

In Smart’s first four seasons, Texas has not been competitive in the Big 12 championship race or won a single NCAA Tournament game. This season, Texas is 14-8 but has a 4-5 record in league play.

Texas coach Shaka Smart calls plays against Kansas State Wildcats in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Austin, Texas. [RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Several fans asked polite questions about why the Horns aren’t winning more. Finally, one fan who claimed she’d been a season ticket holder for 35 years said, “Part of the apathy is it breaks our hearts to see what’s going on with the basketball team,” she said.

“I understand,” Del Conte said. “Don’t you think that young people feel it? Coaches feel it.”

Afterward with reporters, Del Conte demurred when asked if there was a minimum bar this year’s team must reach to prevent a coaching change. Smart has three years remaining on his contract with a $10.5 million guaranteed buyout.

“I understand (fans) want us to be successful, but those kids are working hard,” Del Conte said. “Shaka’s working his tail off. We also have to do everything we can to support our coaches and student-athletes. But the noise around them is real, and I acknowledge that.”

Throughout the event, Del Conte showed all the various construction projects going on all over the department. Texas’ new outdoor swimming pool opens in May. His dream wish list includes a new football indoor practice facility with an eight-lane track for multi-sport use.

Texas has 18,703 members currently in the Longhorn Foundation. That’s a bump from 16,656 in 2018. Del Conte said his goal “should be 50,000 people” given the amount of alumni Texas produces each year.

He took some grief for moving the Texas alumni band to the stadium’s upper deck. Del Conte has assigned all visiting teams’ bands to the upper deck, and some opposing Big 12 schools changed their policy to reply in kind.

Poll after poll shows that fans love the new Texas Athletics Hall of Fame in the north end zone and the Longhorn City Limits pre-game concerts. But they continue to complain about the video board and music played during games, data indicated.

For the moment, there is no video board at all. What once was known as “Godzillatron” has been torn down as part of the south end zone construction. There will be no video board for the Texas spring game on April 25. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.

More than anything, Del Conte continues to believe that UT students, coaches and fans should embrace the behemoth that is Texas.

“America, our country, was built on David in David and Goliath,” Del Conte told the crowd. “Everyone is David. They love the story of David and Goliath. The University of Texas cannot be David. There’s just no way possible for us to be David. We’ve got to embrace Goliath.”

That story never ends well for the Goliath. And every other Big 12 school has their own, albeit smaller, slingshot.

“I get that. It’s not about dying. It’s about the attitude,” Del Conte said. “You have to embrace the University of Texas and what it is, that’s all I’m saying. You have to embrace the size and scope of who the University of Texas is.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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