AUSTIN, Texas -- University of Texas president Bill Powers is searching for the perfect combination of caretaker for a nearly $170 million college sports colossus and strategic thinker to keep the Longhorns at the front of the evolving athletics landscape.
After 32 years, Texas men's athletic director DeLoss Dodds will call it quits next year. The school is already looking for his replacement.
"They are huge shoes to fill," Powers said. "Somebody who comes in to try to fill them will have to understand you never replace someone, you build on the foundation they made."
When Dodds took the job in 1981, the Texas athletic department budget was about $4 million. Today, Texas ranks as the wealthiest athletic program in the country with a passionate fan base, sparkling facilities and a pioneering network television deal with ESPN.
Dodds pushed Texas to combine individual sports' fundraising efforts under the Longhorn Foundation. Texas helped create the Big 12 with the merger between the old Big Eight and four schools from the old Southwest Conference. Texas' flirtation with the Pac-12 nearly broke the league apart in 2010 and Dodds and Texas were there to help keep it together when realignment threatened it again in 2011.
Texas is often derided by its critics as arrogant and wielding too much influence over the Big 12, but the school earned its reputation in large part by Dodds' ability to plan two or three steps ahead.
"I've been in a lot of meetings with DeLoss," Powers said. "You can hear a pin drop, everybody listens. He has that kind of respect among commissioners, among athletic directors, among coaches."
Dodds' scheduled departure is Aug. 31, 2014, when he moves into a paid consulting role, but said Tuesday he'll step aside once a new athletic director is hired. Dodds said he wanted to give the university time to find his replacement and to work with that person during a transition period.
"We do not need somebody in a week. We can do it thoughtfully," Powers said. "I would have over the next couple of months, but there's no deadline."
Powers said he would rely "heavily" on Dodds' help in finding his replacement and noted he would consult the school's Board of Regents. Board Chairman Paul Foster did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday.
Powers has had a difficult relationship with the board in recent years, and has been fighting to keep his job while holding a slim majority of support among the nine members.
The regents have also proved to be a wild card when it comes to Texas athletics.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported that regent Wallace Hall, one of Powers' top critics, and former regent Tom Hicks, spoke with Alabama coach Nick Saban's agent in January about the possibility of Saban coaching at Texas.
Tom Hicks is the brother of current Regent Steve Hicks, one of the board's two athletic liaisons, and a key Powers ally. That conversation took place just a few days after Alabama won the national championship and Texas had wrapped a 9-4 season that included a bowl victory under coach Mack Brown.
When asked what qualities he would look for in his replacement, Dodds said "integrity" was most important.
"Do it the right way. Put kids first. Hire people who care about kids," Dodds said. "Having somebody who fits with that is really important for me."