Five Questions With ... CDC

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I would be remiss to allow former Rice AD Chris Del Conte to leave without answering a few queries. Consider this an exit interview with the man who 'got 'er done' more often than not.

Q: Rice offered you your first job in the No. 1 chair. What did you glean from your experience as Rice athletic director that was beneficial in advance of your preparation to lead at TCU?

A: Not to overreact. As you get more seasoned you realize that the sun will come up tomorrow. I made many, many mistakes every single day, but one of the things you realize is not to overreact, just to get all the facts, sit and then make a decision. I always strive for perfection; I always want everything to be absolutely perfect. I fretted on every little detail that sometimes, upon reflection, I could have handled it a little different.

I worked for a great guy in (Arizona AD) Jim (Livengood) that put me in a position where I was in a leadership role overseeing sports. I had overseen so many things there so I always had that. The difficult thing coming here was the buck stops with you, and you have to learn that how you react to people has a ripple effect, and that ripple effect goes far beyond your reach or knowledge base at times. When you're No. 2 there's always someone behind you that's going to make that final call. When it's you, every time that pebble hits the water it's a ripple effect, and you just don't know where it's going to go. You constantly think, 'How is this decision going to effect this, this, this and this?'

Q: You hired David Bailiff (football), Ben Braun (men's basketball) and Elizabeth Schmidt (women's tennis). Do you take umbrage with your reputation as a 'fundraising' administrator?

A: No, because I think that's all they are going to judge you on. You're supposed to be the wind beneath the wings of coaches - that's our job. When they succeed it's their success; it should never be about my success. When they fail it should be about me. One of the things you're supposed to do is go in, raise the money, unite people, galvanize them toward a direction, and let your coaches do what they do best and coach.

Once you hire them they still have to have all the tools necessary to be successful. How many coaches did they go through at the University of Texas before they hired Mack Brown? Three, and you can say the same thing about USC and their football program. There's not a magic formula for hiring coaches. You try to hire the very best coach you can for that position, but the reality is did you give them all the tools necessary to be successful?

If you know me you would probably realize that I would be known internally as a guy that loves the kids. Every student knows me, I know them all by first name, they come to say 'hello' to me. People on the outside are going to see me for what we've been able to accomplish externally, but if you were to ask a coach or student-athlete what they thought, I'm hoping they would say that I care for them and I love them and I genuinely care about their well-being. But (outside) people don't see that, and I understand that.

Q: What do you feel that you accomplished in your three-plus years as Rice athletic director?

A: I haven't looked at it from a reflection standpoint. The students at Rice are amazing. They're really great people and they're going to do great things in society. I'm hoping that people realize that it takes an entire engine to make the village go, just not one individual. We were very fortunate to come and be able to do the things that we were doing because the people that are associated with this institution truly believe in Rice athletics and are very giving and very generous, and it's been wonderful to see that.

You're always going to have those great feelings because it was your first time to be able to put your thumbprint down and look back and enjoy the successes of going to two bowl games, going to Omaha twice, watching our cross country team win the regional and go to nationals, and our tennis team go to the field of 32. We celebrated those successes in a great fashion and with great fanfare, and you're going to say, 'God, wasn't it a magical time?'     

Q: The end zone facility at Historic Rice Stadium and the 2011 Final Four were two of your pet projects. Any regrets about leaving before you could see either project through to completion?

A: You can never control timing. I am really happy that the city of Houston will have the FInal Four twice, (and) I'm excited that Rice will be a part of it. You work your tail off to ensure that you are a part of that process, so I'm happy for that. As far as football is concerned, I'm excited about where the program is going. David Bailiff is a wonderful man who embraces Rice and the type of students we're going to get, but I've never been an individual that's woulda, coulda, shoulda. If you live in that realm you're never going to go forward. You can never be truly positive. You can never be happy with yourself if you always live in the past or doubt what you've done. Timing is never going to be one of those things were you sit and say, 'If I can wait till this, then this is going to happen.' It just doesn't work that way, or I'm not programmed that way.

Q: What will you remember most about your time at Rice University?

A: The one thing that I really hope continues is that the university has embraced and celebrated athletics as part of the institution. I've really loved to see how we've integrated the two cultures, that they (Rice academians) understand that we (athletics) have great students. To see the transformation, especially coming from when I got here off the McKinsey Report, to where we're at today on solid footing where they realize the true value of what an athletic program can bring to a university. That to me, in the three years, has been magical to see. 

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Soooo... Yay or nay on that endzone facility thing still happening...?

Talon: Bailiff insists that it will get done. - MK

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