Texas president Greg Fenves, left, and Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte point towards the south end zone before an NCAA college football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

Football

Texas to reward AD Chris Del Conte with $18 million package, contract extension through 2027

Fenves: “I want to make sure that he stays here for a long time.”

Posted November 12th, 2019

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Story highlights
  • Del Conte’s new deal starts at $2,080,000 annually for the 2020 fiscal year and escalates to $2,455,000 by 2027.
  • UT regents, who are scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday, must approve any multi-year contract worth more than $1 million.
  • Del Conte raised $125 million for the football stadium expansion, created Bevo Boulevard.

There was a time not long ago when virtually every major decision regarding the athletic department ran through Texas President Gregory L. Fenves’ office. Eventually, he had enough.

Fenves met with TCU’s Chris Del Conte at a New York steakhouse in December 2017 and was convinced. Del Conte, a DeLoss Dodds disciple, took over the Texas athletic department and has transformed everything imaginable, tweeting about all of it along the way.

Now, the university is set to reward Del Conte with a new contract and huge raise that will make him one of the highest paid athletic directors in the nation.

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The UT System Board of Regents is scheduled to approve a new deal that stretches out to 2027 and worth just over $18 million guaranteed. The new deal also includes the equivalent of buyout clause, because Fenves told the American-Statesman, “I want to make sure that he stays here for a long time.”

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte shakes hands with quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) following Texas’ 24-10 victory over Iowa State in an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Del Conte’s new deal starts at $2,080,000 annually for the 2020 fiscal year and escalates to $2,455,000 by 2027. He can receive bonuses for athletic department performance ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 over the life of the deal. His previous contract topped out at $2 million in 2024.

Del Conte will also receive $250,000 in deferred compensation every year for the next four years. The total amount will vest on Nov. 1, 2024.

Del Conte, a voracious Twitter user who will respond to just about anybody, could not be reached immediately for comment.

UT regents, who are scheduled to meet Wednesday and Thursday, must approve any multi-year contract worth more than $1 million. Typically, all items included in the regents agenda are approved.

All money used by the Texas athletic department is generated through revenue from private donations, ticket sales and TV distributions. No public money is used by UT athletics.

The athletic department generated $219.4 million in revenue during the 2017-18 academic year, according to audited figures obtained by the Statesman.

“One of the things I do with all my people is look at where the market is and make sure that our best people are where the market is for those positions,” Fenves said, “We got a great deal with Chris when I hired him two years ago, and I want to make sure that we’re still providing competitive compensation to the marketplace as a whole.”

All of this money is guaranteed, according to the UT regents agenda. However, if Del Conte chooses to leave, he will owe “an amount equal to the remaining present value of the unexpired term of the agreement” within 30 days, calculated with a 4% discount rate.

That language effectively ties Del Conte, 51, to UT and vice versa for the life of the deal. In structuring the contract, Del Conte’s contract could be a model for what’s used throughout the department.

USA Today partnered with Athletic Director U to compile a database for athletic directors salaries for the 2017-18 academic year. Notre Dame’s Jack Swarbrick earned just over $3 million, according to their review. No other athletic director crossed $2 million annually, meaning that Del Conte is likely the second-highest paid AD in the nation now.

Dodds, the architect behind UT’s run to national prominence in the modern era, was making about $1.1 million in 2012 before his retirement.

On Del Conte’s watch, the Texas athletic department has been totally remade. His signature achievement is going on a barnstorming mission to raise $125-million for the long-dreamed south end zone renovation of Royal-Memorial Stadium.

Texas Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte talks with Shawn Eichorst on the sideline before the game against the Kansas State Wildcats in the NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan, at the Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Construction has already begun. “Renovations will be complete in time for the ’21 season…,” Del Conte tweeted Sunday. Eight families gave $10 million each to be considered the project’s “Founders.”

Del Conte also created Bevo Boulevard, a new pre-game, interactive fan experience outside Royal-Memorial Stadium. He hired an executive team to oversee pre-game concerts, marketing and ticket sales.

Fenves had the idea for the financing structure behind the new basketball arena, but it was up to Del Conte to help find a partner. The school is working with the California-based Oak View Group, a company that will build and manage the $338-million arena that will eventually belong to UT.

On Saturday, the school announced a $130-million gift from the Moody Foundation of Galveston to call the new arena the Moody Center.

Del Conte’s season-ticket sales push was labeled “Celebrate Texas,” as its his desire to turn every home football game into a “celebration of all things Longhorns.” All voices are heard, too.

Last weekend, a fan tweeted to Del Conte a suggestion they add a small TV in the upper deck so fans could watch the game while getting ice cream.

“Will have our staff take a look,” Del Conte responded. “Thanks for spending your Saturday with us.”

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

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