DeLoss Dodds brought many qualities to his post as men’s athletic director at the University of Texas.
Being quotable was not one of them. In more than three decades in Austin, Dodds uttered only one truly memorable line: “We are the Joneses.”
Of course, he almost immediately wanted to retract it. For public consumption, it sounded a little too proud and boastful.
But it also rang true because Dodds, who announced his retirement Tuesday, made UT athletics the Joneses of college sports, the family everyone else had to try to keep up with.
“This is a big day for me. I thought a lot about it,” Dodds said. “In 62 years, it will be the first time I haven’t had a job.”
The job he did in 32 years at Texas extended far beyond the university.
“DeLoss Dodds is one of the giants of college athletics,” UT President Bill Powers said during the half-hour news conference inside Bellmont Hall. “His vision reshaped the University of Texas and the entire NCAA.”
Dodds, 76, will remain as men’s athletic director until Aug. 31, 2014. After that date, he has the option of remaining as a consultant through 2020. Powers, who flanked Dodds at the news conference, praised Dodds for his vision, innovation and integrity. Powers said a national search for Dodds’ successor would begin quickly.
Dodds’ announcement, attended by media and various Texas coaches and administrators, came in the Centennial Room on the ninth floor of Bellmont Hall, which looks out over Royal-Memorial Stadium. The floor is actually a botched photographers’ deck — the ceiling is too low for its original purpose — but with the Midas touch of UT, it has been turned into a room for donors willing to pay thousands of dollars for club seats.
During Dodds’ reign at Texas, the men’s teams won 14 national championships and 108 conference titles. He said one of his best memories was a locker room conversation he had with former Longhorn quarterback Vince Young after UT beat the University of Southern California to win the 2005 national championship in football.
But what Dodds’ department did best, better than all others engaged in college sports, was create revenue.
Dodds said the department’s budget was $4 million when he arrived in 1981 and is now pushing $170 million. Not long ago, UT became the first school to have revenue of more than $100 million in one sport, football. Dodds said when he arrived at Texas, the athletic department had 60 employees and it now has about 350.
“The money absolutely has changed things,” he said.
In Dodds’ tenure, UT spent almost $400 million upgrading facilities, including remodeling the baseball stadium, building a basketball practice facility, building a track stadium and turning the football stadium into a money-making stream.
On Tuesday, Dodds said the debt payments each year from construction totaled about $17 million while the revenue from that construction was about $28 million annually.
A little more than two years ago, UT athletics made history when it, along with marketing partner IMG College, inked a 20-year, $300 million deal with cable giant ESPN to air Texas sports programming on the Longhorn Network. The deal added to the lore surrounding Dodds’ negotiating skills.
“He’s a genius in meetings,” raved Longhorn men’s swimming coach Eddie Reese. He said Dodds was known for remaining quiet for most of a meeting and then being the voice of reason that everyone listened to near the end.
Jody Conradt, former women’s basketball coach at UT, said Dodds “was always thoughtful and always calm.”
Conradt, who also served as the women’s athletic director at Texas from 1992 to 2001, said being an athletic director was like riding a roller coaster. For his part, Dodds, when asked Tuesday what was an important job skill for an AD, replied, “Survival.”
He was only half-joking. Dodds stoically weathered some tough years in football before the hiring of Mack Brown, who is now in his 16th season at Texas.
Dodds also had to navigate the shifting landscape of college athletics. When he arrived at UT, it was in the Southwest Conference, a two-state league that was becoming a backwater as far as the television networks were concerned.
Along with then Oklahoma Athletic Director Donnie Duncan, Dodds cobbled together the Big 12, which was the Big Eight plus four schools from the SWC. Two years ago, Dodds was instrumental in holding the league together when it looked as if it would completely splinter under a raid from the Pac-12.
“I know that we will never truly be able to replace DeLoss Dodds,” Powers said, “but the house that he built will remain strong for future generations of Longhorns.”
Said Reese: “You never know what you’ve got till they’re gone. … He’ll be sorely missed.”
“It will be hard not to be part of this,” Dodds said, “but on the other side of it, (wife) Mary Ann and I need to go to Tuscany, we need to go see the leaves turn in the North, and there’s a lot of life that we need to live that we haven’t lived because we’ve worked.”