People: Executive transactions NBA’s RSN ratings down 15 percent Coast to Coast TNT subbing ‘pod’ sponsors in NBA games First Look podcast: DeLoss Dodds Forty Under 40 Class of 2017 revealed MLS strength evident in stadium lending 12 ideas for NASCAR Emirates to sponsor USA Rugby series Sports Media: Ratings math
SBJ/June 13-19, 2011/In DepthPrint All
2010-11 Under Armour Athletic Director
of the Year AwardThe Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year Award program, administered by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, honors athletic directors for their commitment and administrative excellence. The award spans seven divisions and annually honors four athletic directors from each region of those divisions. The awards will be presented at the annual NACDA convention this week in Orlando.
Football Bowl SubdivisionBill BradshawTemple University Northeast RegionBradshaw is in his ninth year as AD at Temple and has used that time to overhaul the Owls' athletic program. He secured the football program a home atLincoln Financial Field and a conference as a football-only member of the Mid-American Conference. He has exceeded the revenue budget in each of the past eight years, while expanding and renovating the school's facilities.Kathy BeauregardWestern MichiganBeauregard has been a part of Western Michigan since 1979, including a stint as women's gymnastics coach for nine seasons. She was hired as AD more than 13
Central regionyears ago and is now the longest serving AD in the Mid-American Conference. She has overseen more than $36 million in facility improvements. During her tenure, 22 Broncos have earned All-America status and 22 more have earned Academic All- America honors.
Eric HymanUniversity of South Carolina Southeast regionHyman is in his sixth year at the helm of South Carolina athletics. His push to improve academic achievement has led Gamecock student athletesto surpass the 3.0 gradepoint average plateau for seven consecutive semesters. On the facility front, Hyman oversaw development of a $200 million master plan for facilities, and organized the school's first athletics capital campaign.Chris HillUniversity of Utah West regionHill guided Utah's move to the Pac-10 Conference which, when completed in July, will further elevate the school's position as a national player in collegiate sports. During Hill's 24-year stint, the Utah men's basketball team hasplayed in the national championship game and the football team has played in, and won, two BCS bowl games. The latest facility addition under Hill was the McCarthey Family Track & Field Complex.Football Championship SubdivisionJoe SterrettLehigh UniversityLehigh alum Sterrett is in his 35th year of service at the university, his 22nd year as director of athletics and sixth as dean of athletics. During his tenure, Sterrett established the Center for
Northeast regionAthletics Leadership and his teams have enjoyed widespread success. In 2010 alone, Lehigh won both the Patriot League men's and women's basketball championships, as well as the football and women's soccer titles, while its wrestling team was ranked in the top 10 nationally.Ron PrettymanIndiana State University Central regionIn his sixth year at the helm of Indiana State, Prettyman continues to lead the resurgence of Sycamores athletics. In addition to overseeing a number offacility upgrades, Prettyman has pulled off successful coaching hires, including Trent Miles in football and Greg Lansing in basketball. He has been active with the Missouri Valley Football Conference, playing a role in its expansion to 10 institutions.
Charlie CobbAppalachian StateHighlights of Cobb's five years at Appalachian State include the school's three Division I football national championships and a 298 percent increase in football ticket sales. The athletic budget has nearly doubled to $14 million, and facility improvements
Southeast regionare headlined by the 120,000-square-foot Appalachian Athletics Center. All 20 of Appalachian State's teams now practice and compete in new facilities.Robert HillStephen F. Austin State University West regionNow in his sixth year as AD, Hill has seen the Lumberjacks claim 20 Southland Conference titles and make NCAA championship appearancesin eight sports. Stephen F. Austin has added two new varsity sports (women's golf and bowling) and has made facility improvements that include a new softball stadium and a new tennis pavilion.Division IMike LynchBoston University Northeast regionLynch is in his seventh year as assistant vice president and director of athletics, and has led the Terriers to 42 conference championships. Under his direction, the school's athletic program hasseen annual support grow more than 200 percent and the number of donor-endowed athletic scholarships more than double.Bruce RasmussenCreighton University Central regionRasmussen will be in his 18th year as AD and 32nd year overall at Creighton in 2011-12. Facility projects have highlighted his career, including venues for volleyball and women's basketball, arecreation center named in his honor, and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, where Bluejay baseball and the College World Series started play this year.
Jeff AltierStetson University Southeast regionAltier has spent his entire professional career building Stetson's athletic department, including the last 15 as AD. He guided construction of the school's baseball and softballfacilities, and has seen his student athletes win 15 conference championships.Larry WilliamsUniversity of PortlandWilliams is in his seventh year as AD and has spearheaded numerous projects to enhance Portland's athletic and academic performance, brand awareness and
West regionfacilities. Under his watch, the women's soccer team won the national title in 2005, and a total of 37 student athletes have garnered All-America recognition.Division IIRick Cole Jr.Dowling College Northeast regionSince taking over as vice president for athletics in 2004, Cole has secured funding to add women's soccer and lacrosse, and men's cross country, and elevated 12 coaches tofulltime status. The school's athletic program has won conference and national championships, and last fall, both the volleyball and men's soccer teams advanced to the national semifinals.Jerry HughesUniversity of Central Missouri Central regionHughes has spent most of his professional career at his alma mater, including the last 28 years as AD. During that time, he has spearheaded fundraisingefforts for renovations of UCM's football and baseball stadiums, a new clubhouse for the school's Pertle Springs Golf Course, and the development of UCM's South Recreation Complex.
Peggy DavisVirginia State University Southeast RegionDavis, now in her eighth year as AD, has overseen numerous facility upgrades, most recently new men's and women's basketball locker rooms and a new athleticequipment storage facility. She also started the $1,000 Trojan Athletics Fundraising Club. Prior to joining VSU, Davis coached women's basketball at Angelo State.Kathleen BrasfieldAngelo State UniversityBrasfield was hired as women's AD in 1982 and started leading the entire department in 2004. She has expanded the department to
West region13 intercollegiate sports, with the most recent additions including baseball, women's golf and women's indoor track. Under her guidance, ASU won its first two NCAA national championships — softball in 2004 and women's track and field in 2010. Brasfield was instrumental in securing the first endowment solely for Angelo State athletics — a $1 million gift.Division IIIJim KnowltonRensselaer Polytechnic Institute Northeast regionKnowlton took over as AD three years ago and has since spearheaded a $92 million athletic facilities complex. He helped endow the first head coachingposition in school history and developed new athletic marks that are now registered and trademarked. He initiated an academic liaison program that pairs faculty with athletic teams, and has overseen a sponsorship program that has doubled in financial support.Larry ScheidererDenison University Central regionScheiderer became AD in 1991 and oversaw the merger of the men's and women's athletic departments. Denison athletics have since won 10 of their record 11 North Coast AthleticConference All-Sports Trophies and 29 conference championships under his direction. Denison is also in the midst of a $38.5 million renovation and expansion of its athletic facilities.
Joy SolomenRowan University Southeast regionWhile Solomen has served as AD for the past 24 years, Rowan student athletes have been regularly recognized for academic excellence and their involvement in the community. Solomen hasserved on numerous committees for the NCAA and the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and is the first woman to chair the NCAA Division III Football Committee. She was also named one of NACDA's athletic directors of the year in 2003.Frank O'BrienUniversity of Wisconsin Stevens Point West regionAfter 20 years as AD at the university, O'Brien is set to retire this year. Under his watch, the school has won 78 conference championships and 15 of its20 athletic teams have made Final Four appearances. O'Brien was instrumental in the development of women's hockey as a varsity sport, and the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association women's playoff trophy was named the O'Brien Cup in his honor in 2006.Junior College/Community CollegeMick McDanielTompkins Cortland Community College Northeast regionMcDaniel started his professional career as the coordinator of recreation and aquatics at the college and transitioned into the AD position in 2000. He also hascoached the men's varsity soccer team, and men's and women's varsity golf, and currently coaches the women's varsity soccer team. He founded and now directs the Youth Sports Camp in the Dryden, N.Y., community.Jay MehrhoffEast Central College, Missouri Central regionMehrhoff is in his eighth year guiding the athletic department, while also serving as an associate professor of physical education. He has overseen the renovation of the school's outdoor athletic facilities, acquired new scoreboards throughsponsorships, and created an interactive touch-screen athletics hall of fame through fundraising and grant writing. He has served as Midwest Community College Athletic Conference president since 2005.
Christopher ParkerPatrick Henry Community College Southeast regionParker was hired as AD in 2006 to transition club sports into varsity intercollegiate athletics, making Patrick Henry the first communitycollege in Virginia to do so. In his first two years, the college went from offering two men's sports to offering a complete slate of men's and women's sports, with the latest addition, men's and women's soccer, set to start competition in 2011-12.John VolekSierra College West regionVolek was a student athlete at Sierra 45 years ago, and now is in his eighth year as the associate dean of athletics and recreation. Since 2003, Sierra has shown resurgence in statechampionships, conference titles and facility improvements, including a new football stadium, tennis courts and softball and baseball fields. In 2010, he was inducted as a player and administrator at the Sierra College Hall of Fame.NAIABill AshbyUniversity of Maine at Fort KentSince becoming AD five years ago, Ashby has enjoyed success as an administrator and as a soccer coach. Under his guidance, the Bengals have
Northeast regionwon 26 regular-season and Sunrise Conference tournament championships. The men's soccer team, under Ashby's coaching, has been ranked in the NAIA top 25 for 40 straight weeks, spanning four years of play. He has been named the Sunrise Conference Coach of the Year four times.Thomas SmithMissouri Baptist University Central regionSmith has overseen 17 new athletic programs that have added 400 student athletes to the campus. Now in his ninth year as AD, Smith also serves as a professor oncampus and works closely with other faculty to improve the academic performance of student-athletes. The MBU athletics department has received the NAIA Champions of Character Award for eight years.
Rusty HollingsworthCampbellsville University Southeast regionHollingsworth is in his 10th year as AD and has overseen the addition of five sports, building Campbellsville's roster to 15 sports and 23 teams. In 2009-10 the athletic department raised $1.2 million for facility upgrades. The departmenthas constructed an indoor practice facility, lighted tennis courts, the Gosser Gymnasium for wrestling, the Hawkins Athletic Complex and weight room, and installed turf and lights on the football stadium.gary PiconeLewis-Clark State CollegePicone led the college's athletic program from 1992- 2000 and returned to that role in 2006. In each of the past two years, 11 sports have qualified teams or individuals for NAIA national
West regiontournaments. Picone helped bring the Avista NAIA World Series back to Lewiston, Idaho, and oversaw nearly $1 million in improvements to Harris Field, home of the series.
■ What new revenue stream are you working the hardest to develop or what existing revenue stream are you working the hardest to grow? Where is the most potential?
Mark Hollis, Michigan State: The DIA (Department of Intercollegiate Athletics) does not receive any state of Michigan tax dollars, university general fund dollars, student fees, tuition waivers or other forms of revenues from university/state support in its operating budget. As such, our focus has been on both enhancing revenues and managing expenses. The biggest impact continues to be focusing and maximizing the core revenue sources of ticket sales, contributions, broadcast, postseason and multimedia marketing. … Our primary focus is broadening the breadth and height of charitable giving to Spartan athletics.
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Maryland’s Kevin Anderson said the school is exploring new sponsorship categories.
Kirby Hocutt, Texas Tech: Fundraising, marketing, sponsorships and ticket sales are areas where we have potential to create and grow revenue. Our development team does a wonderful job engaging our alumni and fans. They know our people and work to communicate the opportunities to support our student athletes. There are always more people to meet and educate about our needs — scholarships, facilities and special projects. To supplement our ticket operations, we started an outbound sales team. We have a call center with a CRM system, and this team concentrates on customer acquisition. Both units focus on delivering superior customer care and we’ve successfully generated new revenue from their efforts.
Scott Woodward, Washington: The answer to both questions is one and the same: football home games. The University of Washington has a 70,000-plus-seat stadium and we are aggressively working to maximize the revenue that can be realized in that facility from both our patrons and our advertisers.
Mike Thomas, Cincinnati: Over the past few years we have leveraged success in football to maximize a value proposition built on seating and parking. Given the limitations of our competitive venues, we must develop opportunities to capture investment from Bearcat fans to whom the priority seating and parking fails to draw in. We have developed an affinity subscription program called Bearcat Fan Advantage, which is an online platform that affords members special benefits and exclusive content. The premise behind the Bearcat Fan Advantage program is creating a platform that takes those with an interest, albeit passive, and engages them in a way that can be monetized and developed. It is a tremendous activation tool to funnel leads generated through other marketing initiatives as well as a way to build value for members of our sport-specific club.
■ What is the single most difficult budget decision you’ve made as you prepare your fiscal 2012 budget?
Hollis: Applying across-the-board reductions in administrative operations (13 percent) and sports operations (10 percent) over the past two fiscal years has been the most difficult budget decision. Increased expenses associated with financial aid, travel (fuel) and other non-negotiable expenses require us to do more with less. We have asked our coaches to be more efficient with their reduced budgets while striving to not reduce the experience for the student athlete. … We need to prioritize expenses with regard to recruiting, competitive advantage, and value to the student athlete including the increasing specialization of duties and facilities, number of staff members, facility projects, salaries and sport sponsorships.
Anderson: Our programs and coaches have all stepped up to help us to reduce expenses and find efficiencies across the board. It is my hope that we will not need to make any one single difficult budget decision but rather many strategic decisions that will allow us to be successful in our efforts to teach, to develop and to inspire our student athletes in everything we do.
Hocutt: We have adopted a zero-based budgeting strategy. Our coaches and unit directors start with a clean spreadsheet and build their budgets line by line. They’re asked to be thoughtful about the resources needed to accomplish their objectives and to be considerate of the overall department situation. We work hard to push every dollar to the direct benefit of the student-athlete experience. The toughest decisions are almost always related to staff compensation. We have committed team members and it is difficult to fully recognize everyone for their contributions.
Woodward: A tremendous challenge for us, in light of the news of the blockbuster Pac-12 media deal, is to impress
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Washington’s Scott Woodward wants to drive more revenue from football.
Thomas: The most difficult budget-related decisions are based on how we attempt to do more for our student athletes when the expectations for a quality experience are outpaced by an increasing cost of doing business. Not able to be “all things for all people” results in decisions being made that may have a positive impact for one program at the detriment of another. However, in an extremely competitive industry, one has to be strategic in how to allocate dollars with the best opportunity for an increased return on investment.
■ With all of the discussion about whether schools should be paying student athletes, what is the most innovative idea you’ve heard that could work, or do you believe that student athletes should not be paid at all?
Anderson: Of all the discussion that I have seen on the subject, I think that the Big Ten Conference might be on the right track. I think that the suggestion is certainly worthy of further discussion and exploration. I believe that student athletes are paid currently and that the value of their college education is commensurate with their participation in their respective sports. With that said, I am not opposed to exploring further increasing the amount of the athletic scholarship to include the “full cost of attendance.”
Hocutt: We must never lose focus that our core mission is education. We provide extraordinary access and opportunities to earn a college degree, which is a life-changing experience. Scholarships are one of our largest costs and these expenses continue to trend upward. At the same time, we must always explore and discuss opportunities to enhance the welfare of our student athletes. While there are a multitude of things to consider and obstacles related to providing support up to the determined cost of attendance, there may be merit in revisiting the past model of providing a pre-determined amount, once referred to as “laundry money” to scholarship student athletes to assist with daily living expenses.
Woodward: I believe that it is important for our department to cover the true cost of attending this university for our student athletes and I continue to work to maximize our reimbursements of their expenses. However, I am not convinced that a straight out “pay for play” system is the right thing to do.
Thomas: I’m not of the belief that student athletes should be paid. The opportunity to receive a college education and the other benefits received should be compensation enough. In paying student athletes, how do we develop a model that makes sense for all and does not widen the gap between the haves and have nots? … Moving further from a model of amateurism speaks to a closer review of what was once a more traditional model when being a student athlete was not viewed as a 12-month job.
■ With scandal dominating so many of the headlines in college athletics, what should the AD’s role be in keeping a department free of NCAA violations?
Hollis: The keys are communication, accountability and trust. It is impossible to be with every student athlete, donor, staff member or others associated with the DIA 24/7. It is possible, however, to instill a culture of “eyes wide open” and “communication for the common good” in the pursuit of excellence in the classroom and in the competitive arena. There should be no surprises placed on anyone that is involved in the process of our student athletes. Education, open dialogue, asking questions and bringing to light issues that may be a concern are critical in our fast-moving world.
Anderson: I believe that you must inspect what you expect. This must be done regularly in order to have a pulse on what is going on in the department and also to share my vision and expectations with the staff.
Hocutt: It is setting the expectations from the top. You demand integrity and a culture of compliance. It is everyone’s responsibility to play within the rules governing fair play. Intercollegiate athletics creates so many positives — access to education, development of life skills, deep connections to your alma mater, community enhancement. These are invaluable. Not adhering to the rules mutes these positives.
Woodward: As AD, it is my job to remain vigilant about improper activities — educate, educate, educate. Teach the staff, coaches and student athletes about potential pitfalls and maintain a culture that doesn’t accept the types of shortcuts that can lead to scandal. Moreover, I remain watchful with the understanding that staying on solid ground when it comes to scandal and violations can be a very difficult task and mistakes are all too easy to make.
Thomas: It is imperative a culture and atmosphere is established reflecting the absolute importance of rules compliance at all levels of the organization. The importance of compliance must be universal and shared by all including the full cooperation of the student athletes. The foundation of a strong compliance program is an ongoing education program and comprehensive monitoring at all levels, though it is unrealistic to be with people in the program 24/7/365. The goal is to be proactive, diligent and transparent, and act swiftly and decisively when issues arise.
■ What is the trend in college sports business that you’ll be watching in the coming months?
Hollis: Social media and the immediacy of information, both factual and rumored, have changed the way we look at the world. The benefits and liabilities continue to be weighed against each other. There is no doubt, however, that it has changed the way presidents, administrators, coaches, student athletes, fans, media and many others are intertwined in college sports. The commercialization of college athletics is yet another area that we will continue to watch. This includes the impact that third-party organizations have in influencing college sports in roles as youth sports coordinators, corporate engagement and agents.
Anderson: I’ll be paying close attention to the work of the NCAA Bowl Licensing Task Force in the coming months as they review the current football bowl structure and ensure the integrity of the system.
Hocutt: The digital technology growth and integration into the fan experience is exciting and expanding. The access to streaming content and information on PDAs, smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices is a rapidly developing area, and one that can provide increased exposure while even enhancing the spectator’s enjoyment of a live game.
Woodward: In the market of live sport entertainment, there are a lot of options for the consumer and fan. As a result, we have to offer a product at our venues that is compelling and generates a level of interest that beats out our biggest competitors: the HDTV and the leather couch.
Thomas: Social media has emerged as a primary form of communication which requires we are educated and proactive regarding how to deal with the ever-changing media. ... Though social networking provides tremendous opportunities to market and inform our various constituents, it can also be viewed as a liability if unfiltered in this instant response age. Thus, it will be critical to have the resources in places not only to enhance the benefits of social media, but more importantly to minimize potential liabilities in a proactive manner.
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
DeLoss Dodds sat around a table with friends and business partners a few weeks ago, dining on steak and sipping wine at Plaza III in Kansas City.
The occasion was the Big 12 spring meetings, where the conference discussed, among other things, its new round-robin scheduling, a recently negotiated TV deal with Fox that more than quadrupled the conference’s media revenue, and a newfound harmony between the schools.
“What a difference a year makes,” said the understated Dodds, the University of Texas athletic director who will oversee a record $153.5 million budget in 2011-12.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
DeLoss Dodds will oversee a record $153.5 million budget in 2011-12.
At the spring meetings in 2010, the Big 12 was about to crumble and with it would have gone Dodds’ dream of creating a university channel. Now, the conference is as healthy as ever, thanks largely to Texas’ decision to stay rather than to leap to the Pac-10, and ESPN will launch the groundbreaking Longhorn Network in August.
Dodds is the SportsBusiness Journal/Daily 2011 Athletic Director of the Year because he not only took a leadership role in preserving the Big 12, a conference he helped found in 1994, but also because of the new channel, which will generate $300 million in rights fees from ESPN over the next 20 years.
One couldn’t have happened without the other. If Texas had left the Big 12 for an expanded Pac-10, which is pooling the media rights of its schools to create a conference channel, Texas wouldn’t have had the rights to start a university channel. The Big 12 permits its schools to retain the rights to games not picked up by the conference’s network partners, and those rights are the basis for the Longhorn Network.
“A year ago, we thought the world was about to fall apart in the Big 12,” said University of Texas President Bill Powers. “Now the conference is stronger than ever. That wouldn’t have been possible without the vision and hard work by DeLoss. … Who knew 10 years ago that any of this would be possible, but DeLoss always kept a flexibility with our rights so that we could be in this position one day. He’s always a step ahead.”
While Colorado and Nebraska jumped from what they thought was a sinking ship in the Big 12, while behind-the-scenes meetings between schools and other leagues created a sense of distrust among conference brethren, while Big 12 members lamented how they had fallen behind in the revenue game, Dodds saw something worth keeping.
He’d never say it, but the Longhorn Network is the ultimate legacy for the man who has spent 30 years building Texas into the premier brand in collegiate athletics, and it further cements his place as one of the most influential figures in college sports.
“Texas is a powerful, powerful place,” said Bill Battle, founder of Collegiate Licensing Co., and a longtime Texas partner. “And DeLoss is largely responsible for where Texas is.”
Dodds might be a native of Kansas, but he neatly fits the mold of the strong, silent type from Texas. Powers, UT’s president, said he has seldom, maybe never, seen Dodds accept a trophy for a championship that Texas won, but if there’s a problem, Dodds will be at the podium.
“He has amazing patience,” Powers said. “He took over a rebuilding effort and he didn’t try to do it quickly. He did it brick by brick over a long period of time.”
All eyes were on Dodds and University of Texas President Bill Powers when they announced a year ago that the school would remain in the Big 12 Conference.
What stands out to most of Dodds’ contemporaries are the negotiations. Dodds doesn’t rant and rave to get what he wants, but business partners call him a relentless negotiator who almost always prevails. Of course, having the power of the Texas brand behind him is the ultimate trump card. Part of the reason ESPN was willing to pay so much for the rights to the upcoming network was simply to be in business with Texas.
“Part of the reason we went down this path is to get closer to Texas,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s senior vice president of college sports programming. “No matter what kinds of crazy things might happen on the college landscape, we’re going to be partners with Texas, we’re going to be with the major player among the individual institutions.”
During the talks to create the Longhorn Network, ESPN trumped Fox with its $300 million bid. But that was just the beginning. Ensuing negotiations still had to clear several other hurdles, such as who would claim the digital rights to all of the Longhorns’ live events. Both ESPN and IMG College wanted the digital rights, even though they typically go to the multimedia rights holder — IMG College in this case.
But ESPN took the multiplatform approach with the Longhorn Network that it would take in starting any new channel. It needed the digital rights so that it could have an online and mobile home for these games under the same Longhorn Network branding.
In this unique three-way negotiation, Dodds was both a diplomat and a rights seller, working with IMG College and ESPN to settle issues as they arose.
Ultimately, Dodds made the call on the digital rights: They’re the experts and we’re doing this, Dodds said with a finality that put digital in the hands of ESPN.
“DeLoss showed an understanding of our business that a lot of ADs might have had a problem with,” Magnus said. “If he couldn’t comprehend the vision and how this could go beyond being a TV network, we could have easily gotten bogged down and maybe this thing doesn’t happen. But it was his ability to grasp some pretty sophisticated concepts that helped push it over the goal line.”
At some point during a negotiation, Texas’ business partners have seen that look from Dodds that conveys a clear message: This is how it’s going to be. Tom Stultz, senior vice president and managing director at IMG College, has worked with Dodds over the last decade and knows when it’s coming.
“DeLoss has this uncanny ability to cut all of the B.S. and get right to the point,” Stultz said. “It’s almost a game to see when DeLoss is going to do it, but at some point he’s going to lean over and ask you a very direct question that gets right to the heart of the matter. It’s his way of saying, ‘Hey, shoot straight with me.’”
He once reminded Host Communications (which eventually became part of IMG), “Last time I checked, you didn’t own any football teams.”
“He told me one time that he wasn’t going to renew with us because we couldn’t pay him enough,” said Jim Host, the founder of Host Communications, who began managing the Longhorns’ rights in the 1980s. “But he also knew that I’d die trying.”
Dodds doesn’t deny that he wants a business partner “who gets up just as nervous as I get up in the morning. I want them to get up a little scared,” he said.
Remembering his roots
Dodds’ close-to-the-vest approach was grooved in his hometown of Riley, Kan., population 700. Dodds was one of 11 in his graduating class.
His father, a school principal, died of cancer when DeLoss was only 8 years old. His mother, an elementary school teacher, raised five children: four girls and DeLoss, who was the middle child. Each of the children went to college.
“I saw my mother get up every morning, go to work and raise five kids,” Dodds said. “She was an amazing woman.”
DeLoss’ childhood days were pretty well scripted. He was on his bicycle by 7 each morning to deliver newspapers. From sunup to sundown, he wore out that bicycle, riding all over Riley and even the next town over looking for a game — football, basketball, baseball, whatever was in season.
Dodds accepts his Sports Business Award for Athletic Director of the Year at last month’s ceremony in New York City.
“It was the kind of place where you ate lunch at one person’s house and then had dinner at somebody else’s house,” Dodds said. “We had a group that grew up together and we ran in packs. In a community like that, everybody was your parent, everybody watched out for you. Most people who grow up like that stay pretty grounded. It’s helped me stay grounded.”
Donnie Duncan, the former Oklahoma AD and Big 12 administrator, has known Dodds for 25 years and “he’s still the same guy, every day. You can tell he carries the values he grew up with and he’s the type of guy who doesn’t forget where he came from or who he is. He doesn’t play games and that really makes DeLoss a strong leader.”
Dodds always saw himself following in his parents’ footsteps as an educator, either as a principal or a coach. Known as the “Riley Flash,” Dodds enjoyed a decorated track career at Kansas State and stayed on to pursue his graduate degree and become a coach and AD.
He later worked for then-commissioner Chuck Neinas at the old Big Eight offices, where he learned the business of college sports.
“I’ve watched a lot of successful coaches and a lot of successful businessmen,” Dodds said. “What they do is figure out the most important thing and then hammer away on that thing. That’s all I try to do, figure out what’s important and get it fixed.”
John Fainter, an Austin attorney and close Dodds friend, said he has seldom seen the AD get too high or too low over any decision. It’s just not Dodds’ style to run around high-fiving coaches or pumping his fist. The most emotion he shows usually is a “Hook ’em Horns” sign with his right hand.
“He’s not a big backslapper,” Fainter said. “He’s more like a cool, steady hand who steers the athletic department. As someone who has two degrees from UT and loves this university, I feel very comfortable that DeLoss has his hand on the tiller.”
Like a lot of athletic directors, Dodds was brought in to be an instrument for change. He took a department that ran in the red and had it making money in three years. He expanded a budget that was a little more than $4 million in 1981 to $153.5 million in 2012, higher than any athletic department budget in college sports.
In the last five years, Texas athletics has turned a profit of between $1.5 million and $6.8 million. Each year athletics shares a portion with the academic side, a practice that will continue with the money from ESPN on the channel.
The decision for athletics and the university’s academic side to split the revenue from the Longhorn Network for the first five years came down while Dodds and Powers were playing golf recently. Powers hooked one out of bounds on the 11th hole, and while he and Dodds walked in search of the ball, Powers said: “I’ve been thinking about this network and I think we’ve got to have at least half of the money for the academic side.Dodds offered no pushback, saying, “It’s all your money. I’m just proud that we can help.”
“The most important thing is that this campus has complete faith in DeLoss,” Powers said.
As Dodds surveyed the Longhorns’ budgets from the past 30 years, he noted that it had tripled every 10 years. Even at $153.5 million in fiscal 2012, the budget will grow by leaps as the ESPN revenue escalates in coming years.
Thinking about the trend of tripling revenue, Dodds laughed and said, “I don’t want to be here 10 years from now. Tripling that will be hard to do.”
He has never really said how much longer he wants to continue as AD at Texas. At 73 years old, Dodds is just starting a new four-year contract, which will give him plenty of time to shepherd the new TV network past its launch and into its early years.
Past that, he doesn’t know, or at least, not surprisingly, he won’t say. A master negotiator never shows his hand.
“DeLoss will be around as long as he wants,” Powers said. “Certainly as long as I’m around.”