Dodds' leadership pays off for UT community
When DeLoss Dodds assumed the reins of The University of Texas men's athletics program a little more than a quarter century ago, not even he could have imagined the exponential growth in operations.
"I don't think anybody could have imagined then where we would be today," Dodds admitted. "We were working off a $4-$5 million budget. We were just trying to get organized."
Receiving no public or taxpayers' funding, UT Athletics has a financial model that others admire and attempt to emulate.
The $107.6 million annual budget fully supports more than 500 men and women student-athletes in 20 intercollegiate sports. Several years ago, the UT women's athletics budget was merged with the men's, an exercise that over time reduced $2.9 million in annual discretionary funding that previously came from University sources that supported women's athletics budget needs. In 2001, UT Athletics also assumed supervision of the Frank Erwin Center's operations and budget, which now exceeds $15.65 million.
The budget also includes the maintenance and management of facilities including DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Frank Erwin Center and Denton A. Cooley Pavilion, UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Mike A. Myers Track & Soccer Stadium, Red & Charline McCombs Field, Penick-Allison Tennis Center, Frank Denius Fields and "The Bubble" (indoor training facility), Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, Texas Rowing Center, UT Golf Academy, and B.M. "Mack" Rankin Jr. Longhorn Dining Hall.
The success of UT Athletics aids not only all on the Forty Acres, but the entire Central Texas region, Dodds said.
· In the 2006-07 school year, UT Athletics contributed about $5 million to The University through tuition and fees, housing/dormitory contracts, and dining costs for student-athletes. Those figures rise between seven percent and 10 percent annually.
· In 2006, UT President Bill Powers was provided $2.65 million in trademark licensing revenue by UT Athletics to utilize on campus at his discretion.
· In 2007, UT Athletics paid $1.6 million back to UT administration in auxiliary overhead fees. Another $700,000 was paid for removal and relocation of 16 majestic oaks from the north end of Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium grounds to other parts of the campus as the north end construction project commenced.
· The Erwin Center, celebrating its 30th birthday this month, was renovated in 2002-03, $50 million of which was paid by UT Athletics. The Erwin Center is the only multipurpose arena of its kind in Austin, Travis County, and the Central Texas area, and hosts a wide range of popular events, including college and high school graduations, music concerts, circuses and other family shows, corporate meetings, job fairs, gubernatorial inaugurals, Presidential appearances and other major speeches (the 14th Dalai Lama and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore), state UIL boys and girls high school championship events, UT men's and women's basketball games, and NCAA postseason men's and women's basketball games. It also hosted a memorial service for former Gov. Ann Richards. The facility was built by The University and is now maintained and managed by UT Athletics.
· The north end project in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, which will be completed for the 2008 football season, will feature a new student center that will be open year-round, as well as a museum and research center to benefit Kinesiology Department students and faculty, a Veterans Memorial Plaza, and an 18,000-square-foot centralized athletics academic center.
"The renovations to the Erwin Center are being paid for by revenues from suite leases," Dodds explained. "The building was in need of repair and refurbishing. We expanded the concourse area, built new restrooms, updated the burnt orange room (now the Lone Star Room) and added more and new modern concessions areas."
Remember, too, the economic impact of UT Athletics-hosted events in Austin. Home football games attract the largest number of out-of-town visitors to Central Texas each fall, but consider the impact of the annual Texas Relays weekend, NCAA men's and women's postseason tournament games and matches, UIL boys and girls state championships and more.
"Six or seven times a year there are 80,000 to 90,000 people on campus for our home football games," Dodds said. "Now, while not everyone comes from out of town, there are a great many that do, so many of the hotels are full. Restaurants are full.
"The impact of our home football games to the area is well over $100 million per season. I don't know of any other single event that generates that kind of money for the area. There are a great many people loyal to UT Athletics teams. Our home football games have a huge financial impact for all of Central Texas."
Leading one of the most successful athletics departments in the country begins with Dodds' management style, which he claims is quite simple.
"You hire good people and let them do their jobs," Dodds said matter-of-factly.
"I think what we have done best here is hire good people," he added. "I'm talking about coaches, administrators and other staff. You bring in people who are good at what they do, people you trust, and you let them do their jobs."
Dodds noted the hiring and keeping of good people in the athletics department has been vital to the success of the building and renovating of athletics facilities on campus.
"Once our current construction is complete, I think our facilities will be second to none nationally," Dodds said.
Successful sales of suites, club seating and chair-back seating have been the catalyst for the building and renovating, which includes the recent work at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, the Erwin Center, the Cooley Pavilion, and UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
"The money to do these projects comes from fund raising," Dodds said. "The cost of our football stadium project, for example, is $176 million. We'll raise $35 million and then bond the rest, using money from suites, club seating and chair-back seats to pay the bonds. All suites are sold out and club seating is 94 percent sold and chair-backs are 75 percent sold. That money pays for all new seats, expanded concourses, new restrooms and concession areas, audio and video systems, and other amenities that all fans enjoy on game day."
The Longhorn Foundation is the fund-raising base.
"We started in 1984," Dodds said. "Annual fund raising has gone from $500,000 to $26 million per year."
The Longhorn Foundation, which is the principal fund-raising arm of Texas' men's and women's athletics, is made up of loyal UT donors. Today, it boasts more than 12,500 patrons. That's more than double the 1993 total.
Those figures are even more impressive when you consider that UT got into this game later than some other schools.
Certain institutions in the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference already had fund-raising groups assisting athletics departments nearly 20 years before UT started.
The Foundation's funds assist the operating budget of the 20 sports that comprise UT Athletics programs. The Foundation's contributions pay for scholarships, sports medicine operations, academic services and student-athlete facilities that are used for study, nutrition, strength and conditioning.
Donors to The Longhorn Foundation receive season ticket and seat location priorities for all season-ticket sports. They also have access to hospitality areas and parking privileges at home games.
The Longhorn Clubs around the state are an extension of The Longhorn Foundation.
The Longhorn Legacy staff is involved in major gifts and capital campaigns.
Dodds hastens to add that the fund raising by the athletics department doesn't take away from that of The University.
"At most places, athletics fund raising is 18 percent of the fund raising of the school," he said. "At Texas, we're 10 to 13 percent. Our fund raising doesn't distract from The University. Our profile enhances what donors may give The University.
"There are people who started only giving to the athletics department and now give significant gifts to The University."
While Dodds said he preferred not to mention any names, it certainly would seem one such individual would be San Antonio businessman B.J. "Red" McCombs.
A passionate sports fan, his name now adorns the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas.