athletics director

With our fall sports well under way, I would like to thank all University of Texas supporters — especially the students — for the energy you bring on gameday. Fans are the lifeblood of our teams, and our more than 500 student-athletes thrive off of the spirit and the passion you bring to the stands. Each student-athlete works hard to compete for a championship every year, and the fans’ support continues to motivate them toward the next win. 

Our student body support this year has been especially strong. In reference to the recent report in The Daily Texan, let me clarify that there were different types of the Longhorn All-Sports Package (LASP) for students to purchase in the past. This year, The Big Ticket season ticket plan replaced all forms of the LASP. So far in 2014, Big Ticket sales show a 3.5 percent increase compared to last year’s LASP season ticket sales. The total number of Big Ticket packages sold is now at more than 17,400. 

Because Texas Athletics realizes student support is so critical, we work to give students the best ticket options we can provide. The single ticket option with The Big Ticket allows Texas Athletics to keep the cost down while offering the greatest value possible to the highest number of students. The number of events students have access to with The Big Ticket comes out to an average cost of less than $2 per event, which is right at or less than what other Big 12 schools charge their students. Additionally, all students who purchase The Big Ticket have a reserved seat at each home Texas Football game.

I encourage all students to continue to support our teams throughout the year. If there is a team you have not yet watched on the Forty Acres, now is the time to go! Grab a friend and help show everyone what Texas is all about. 

— Steve Patterson, men’s athletics director, in response to the August 29 article titled “‘The Big Ticket’ sales down compared to LASP”. 

The athletics department announced June 17 that Bubba Thornton, Texas' men's track and field head coach, will not be reprising his position next year, as he and men's athletics director DeLoss Dodds reached a mutual agreement to terminate the last year of his contract. 

"It has been a singular honor to serve as track and field coach for the University of Texas men's indoor and outdoor track teams, as well as oversee the cross country team, for the past 18 years," Thornton said after the announcement was made. "It was a privilege to serve this great university with its extraordinary heritage of developing scholar athletes." 

Thornton arrive at Texas after coaching at Texas Christian University, spending 18 of his 31 seasons of coaching with the Longhorns. While a head coach, Thornton produced 26 NCAA champions, one relay champion and 19 NCAA top-10 finishes, while leading 94 student-athletes to 222 All-America honors. 

This past season, the Longhorns finished No. 6 with two individual championships. Thornton finished his career with 12 conference championships. At Texas, athletes hold 18 of 29 indoor school records and 14 of 29 modern outdoor school records. 

"Not only has he amassed a notable record here at UT, but his capabilities have been recognized internationally when he was named head coach of Team U.S.A's 2008 Olympic Men's Team," Dodds said. 

In addition to his work at Texas, Thornton worked on the Olympic ad World Championship circuits. He served as an assistant coach for Team U.S.A. at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, working with athletes competing in the 400-meter dash, 400-meter hurdle and the 4x400-meter relay. He coached athletes to three gold medals and one silver medal. 

In 2008, Thornton was selected as the head coach for the U.S. track and field team at the Beijing Summer Olympics. The U.S. finished with 14 medals overall, including four gold, at those games, more than any other country. Thornton was awarded the Order of Ikkos medallion for his serve to the United States Olympics Committee for his work as a coach. 

Following Thornton's retirement, which becomes effective Aug. 31, Dodds and women's athletics director Chris Plonsky will be restructuring the track and field program, combine the men's and women's programs under one head coach for the first time at Texas. Merged track programs have been on the rise and Texas is currently the only Big 12 Conference school with a split program. Texas announced Thursday that the new, combined head coaching position would be filled by Mario Sategna. Sategna, who has spent the last 10 seasons as an associate head coach under Thornton, ran track for Louisiana State University and has experience coaching on both the collegiate and Olympic level.

 "Mario's a really hard worker," senior hurdler Keiron Stewart said last week. "He's been here for a while, he's worked in Bubba's shadow for a long time. He knows the ropes, he knows the institution, he knows what it stands for and he will push everyone to do their best, to give the most that they can give to the team." 

Thornton's decision to step down comes on the heels of women's track and field head coach Beverly Kearney's departure this past January, after the revelation of her relationship with a student-athlete in 2002. Kearney resigned upon learning that Texas was prepared to begin the termination process. 

Based on documents obtained from 2004, Kearney filed a complaint with Dodds, stating that Thornton tried to undermine Kearney and accused her of breaking NCAA rules. The two head coaches had a history of friction and Thornton spoke openly about eventually hoping to take control of both programs. 

"With everything that happened here, the good, the bad or the ugly, he always remained Bubba," Steward said. 

According to a statement released by Texas, in retirement Thornton plans to take a a greater role in community interests and spend more time with his wife of 43 years, Kay, daughters Courtney and Piper and his two grandchildren, Sam and Sophie. 

"I think it was time," Stewart said. "Bubba's been here for 18 years. He's done his time, put in a lot of work and now he gets to relax. He gave me great opportunities here." 

Thornton, who is currently on vacation, could not be reached for further comment.

 

Texas women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky speaks about Title IX in the UTC Wednesday evening. 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Chris Plonsky, UT women’s athletics director since 2001, presented a talk Wednesday evening called “Title IX and the Future of Women’s Athletics,” which focused on the history of Title IX, a law equalizing opportunities in education, and its relationship to UT. 

Title IX, a segment of the Education Amendments of 1972, forbids exclusion on the basis of gender from any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The law has since allowed many female student-athletes an opportunity to compete and receive scholarships for athletic excellence. Plonsky said UT is the only university that has not had to drop a men’s sport in order to finance a growing women’s athletic program.

During her talk Plonsky said Title IX initially had little association with sports. 

“It was originally intended to offer equal financial and educational opportunities to women,” she said. “It wasn’t associated with sports. It was a law solely intended to improve our education system.”

Despite its early focus on education, Plonsky said Title IX is responsible for much of the success the UT sports program experiences today.

“Our winnings, our offerings, our reputation is at its best today because of Title IX’s initial passing,” she said. 

Plonsky said that Title IX recruited and offered scholarships to many young women who might not have had the chance to attend UT otherwise.

“It’s not about sports. It’s not about numbers. It’s about opportunities,” Plonsky said.

Paige Bauerkemper, an educational psychology graduate student, said she was surprised by the talk although she previously studied female student-athletes.

“I was really impressed to hear how UT was such a pioneering factor in women’s sports,” Bauerkemper said. 

Charles Lu, the program coordinator for the Distinguished Speaker Series, said he hoped students’ general interest in UT athletics would incite them to learn more about the program’s past.

“I try to choose topics I think the students would find of interest. I think it’s important that we understand the history behind school sports,” Lu said.

Printed on Thursday, January 31, 2013 as: Athletics Director shines light on historical Title IX 

New women’s track and field head coach Rose Brimmer comes to Texas with a versatile resume and optimistic attitude.  The team will compete in Houston this weekend.   

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky told Rose Brimmer she would become interim head coach upon Beverly Kearney’s resignation, Brimmer first contacted her husband.

“Really?” he said.

Leo Brimmer wasn’t fazed. Brimmer’s daughter, Bria, set the South Carolina State University record for most single-season assists when playing on its volleyball team, and her son, Brodney, has experience playing defensive back at OU and in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. And Rose? Her sports career has leaped far beyond her college hurdle experience: from volleyball and track and field captain at the former Texas A&I University in Kingsville to coaching in the high school arena and at Texas.

Rose Brimmer began work at Westbury High School in Houston in 1986. Teaching and coaching athletes to the national level, Brimmer’s athletic oversight included track and field, cross country, basketball and volleyball. But when the Longhorn staff wanted an addition, Brimmer seized the opportunity. 

“I came here as a sprints and hurdles coach but I became a field events coach because I did jumps and sprints in college,” Brimmer said. “I hadn’t done throws but I acquired it when I got here.”

Joining the UT staff in the 2004-05 season, Brimmer mentored then-sophomore Michelle Carter as she broke the school shot put record. Since then, she has guided the high jumps of All-American Victoria Lucas and NCAA champion Destinee Hooker, the long jumps of 4-time NCAA champion Marshevet Hooker, Destinee’s older sister, and NCAA champion Alexandria Anderson and the pole vault of Ashley Laughlin. Lucas and the Hooker sisters went on to compete in the Olympics.

“Because I’ve coached everything now for quite some time, I think I know a little bit about everything,” Brimmer said. “I can go from event to event and actually know what I’m talking about.”

Before Brimmer’s ninth season this year, Kearney resigned as head coach of the women’s track and field program. UT head coach since 1993, the highly decorated Kearney admitted to an intimate consensual relationship with a student-athlete in her program beginning in 2002. Although the reported relationship ended about eight years ago, the University “determined it was no longer appropriate for Coach Kearney to serve as head coach or to work directly with our student-athletes,” according to a statement released by Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs.

Brimmer finds Kearney influenced her coaching style tremendously.

“I came in here winning so I always knew how to win but I’ve learned to set higher goals from Coach Kearney — she never gives up,” Brimmer said. “I never have [either] but I learned from working with her that it was OK to be that way.”

Brimmer now oversees the long sprinters, throwers and the jumpers while assistant coach Stephen Sisson guides distance runners. To fill the vacancy of a third coaching position, longtime volunteer assistant coach Michelle Freeman assumed the role of interim assistant coach, a UT spokeswoman confirmed to The Daily Texan on Tuesday. With three Olympics under her belt, a 1997 World Indoor Championship in 60-meter hurdles and four school records at Florida, Freeman moved from team strength coach last season to short sprints. 

The juggled staff hasn’t changed its goal: to gain confidence and a national championship, Brimmer said. But it has altered its strategy.

“We’re putting more people in more events,” Brimmer said. “A lot of times we’d specialize and just have them do one event to try and get a max. But [now] if they’re good at two, we’re putting them in two and hoping they’re scoring in both.”

Brimmer remains optimistic, believing the team boasts stronger quarter-milers this season and sophomore sprinters “a year older, a year wiser, a year better.”

With her increased leadership and a squad brimming with talent, Brimmer coaches as she always has: by teaching.

“Compared to most collegiate coaches, I was a teacher for twenty years,” Brimmer said. “I’m a teacher first and a coach second.”

The women’s track and field team competes this weekend at the UH Leonard Hilton Invite.

Published on January 16, 2013 as "Brimmer brings experience, determination to succeed". 

The UT System Board of Regents gave UT President William Powers Jr. authority to renew and boost the contracts for men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds and women’s athletic director Christine Plonsky on Thursday.

Dodds has led the UT athletics program for the past 30 years from a $4.8 million operation in 1981 to a $136 million operation in 2010-11. He was a key player in building the prestige of the Big 12 Conference since its inception in 1996 and in the next few years will oversee the new Longhorn Network, which could bring in $15 million for UT.

Powers will decide the details of the new contracts in consultation with certain regents, but the new contract will only require approval from Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

“The ball is in UT-Austin’s court right now,” said UT System spokesman Matt Flores.

Dodd’s contract currently pays him $675,000 including potential incentives, and Plonsky makes $325,000, including performance incentives.

Powers will negotiate the terms of Dodds’ and Plonsky’s contracts in consultation with Colleen McHugh, chairman of the board of regents, regent Robert Stillwell, chairman of the board’s academic affairs committee and regent Steven Hicks, the board’s athletic liaison. President Powers made recommendations during the board’s executive session, Hicks said.

Under Dodds, the Longhorns have earned 23 NCAA bowl berths, athletics programs have brought back 23 national championships and about 100 Big 12 and Southwestern Conference titles. The athletics department also brought in $6 million that went to UT’s academic core budget. Dodds has promoted the up-and-coming Longhorn television network for years.

The Texas Exes alumni association honored Dodds in October with the Distinguished Service Award, the most prestigious award the association can give to an individual who did not graduate from UT. Dodds graduated from Kansas State University in 1959. He later served in the U.S. Army as a tank commander before becoming athletics director at Kansas State University. He was hired as UT’s ninth athletic director in 1981.

Wyndam Smith, a 1964 UT alumnus who has attended all but one UT vs. Texas A&M game since 1950, said Dodds’ vision has boosted not only the Longhorn football program but all of UT athletics. Dodds has also overseen an expansion of the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, which now seats more than 100,000 people, and the construction of state-of-the-art training facilities, Smith said.

“He just promotes Texas sports from girls’ softball to the men’s football team; he’s done a heck of a job,” Smith said.
 

News Briefly

The UT System Board of Regents will discuss new contracts for UT men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds and women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky at their Thursday meeting.

The regents set the salary for University System presidents and approve salaries for head coaches as well as athletics directors. Recommendations for athletics salaries originate at the university level, said UT System spokesman Matt Flores.

The discussions will take place in executive session and the regents will take any action on new contracts afterwards in open session.

“We’re not privy to any of the discussions prior to it taking place,” Flores said.

Dodds arrived at UT in 1981 and led the program into the newly-created Big 12 when it was established in 1996. The University turned down an offer to join the Pac-10 athletic conference this summer after the University of Nebraska left the Big 12.

His current contract, which expires next August, pays him $675,000. Plonsky’s contract pays her $325,000.