In his 3 1/2 years as Rice University's director of athletics, Chris Del Conte's vision for the future of the program rapidly became a reality.
Reckling Park, the home of the Owls powerhouse baseball program and one of the showcase venues for the sport, saw significant upgrades to its playing surface and overall fan experience prior to the 2008 season.
In the fall of 2008, the dream of a renovated Autry Court became a reality with the opening of Tudor Fieldhouse. The $27 million project includes a completely renovated home court for Rice basketball and volleyball in addition to a new academic center, training facility, locker rooms and administrative offices.
But an even more dramatic reshaping of the scope of the department began in 2008 when Rice President David Leebron announced a restructuring of administrative responsibilities. The merging of the intercollegiate programs with the campus recreation and intramural areas has created an all-encompassing department under Del Conte's leadership was announced along with plans for a new $41 million Recreation and Wellness Center, which opened in the fall of 2009.
To bring these three projects to reality, Del Conte directed a campaign that has raised over $72 million for facilities since he came to South Main.
Rice Athletics maintained a balanced budget in each of the last two years under Del Conte's direction. He also initiated the implementation of a strategic plan for the department, outlining the mission of the department and clearly drawing the focus on a heightened experience for each student-athlete.
Del Conte's efforts allowed the Owls tp become co-hosts for the 2008 and 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Regional Championships, as well as the 2011 Men's Final Four at Reliant Stadium.
Del Conte's vision for a revamped and aggressive approach by the department saw a consolidation of various marks and logos used by Rice's different sports into a unified, readily identifiable mark first made famous by the national baseball team, the Old English "R." The department also took over the administration of the licensing of its logos and entered into an agreement with Host Communications (now IMG College) to maximize marketing opportunities. This past summer, Rice and IMG College announced a 10-year extension of the relationship.
As a further extension of the effort to create a consistent image for Rice Athletics, Del Conte negotiated an expanded apparel and equipment relationship with Nike for all Rice teams, beginning in the fall of 2008.
Del Conte was named the 14th director of athletics at Rice on June 22, 2006, after previously serving as senior associate athletics director at the University of Arizona.
Del Conte spent five-plus years on the athletic department staff at the University of Arizona. When he joined the UA program in December of 1999, he oversaw all aspects of athletic fund development. In 2002 his responsibilities were expanded to include overseeing the ticket office, marketing, corporate sales and trademarks and licensing. That same year, he implemented a capital campaign known as Campaign Arizona for the Student-Athlete, which raised more the $120 million One year later, he was named one of three senior associate athletics directors. He oversaw media relations, business operations and external affairs, and helped co-manage the day-to-day operation of the university's 19 athletic programs.
Del Conte has a master's degree in education administration from Washington State University where he served as assistant athletics director for external operations before he joined the staff at Arizona. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Del Conte is married to Robin Ward, Clinical Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Associate Director for Curriculum Integration for the Rice University School Mathematics Project. They have two daughters, Sienna (seven) and Sophia (five).
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