With Perrin in as interim athletic director, Plonsky says focus shouldn’t be on her

Jori Epstein

At interim athletic director Mike Perrin’s introductory press conference Wednesday, women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky said Perrin is a great choice to replace Steve Patterson.

“Mike, to me, will be a welcome voice in the room,” Plonsky said. “His knowledge of Texas, his appreciation for college athletics and, not only that, but higher education — Mike and Melinda have been very involved in our support structure.”

Plonsky spoke positively of the staff changes in athletics, the impending responsibilities and working with Perrin, who replaced Patterson as men’s athletic director  Tuesday. But questions lingered: Why wasn’t Plonsky — who has worked for Texas athletics for 26 years and collegiate athletics for 39 — considered for the position?

“Let’s not focus it on me,” Plonsky said. “I would say this, and I’ve said this for many years: This university and [former athletic director] DeLoss [Dodds], who was here this morning, allowed me to advance my career at UT, and I got there with his support.”

Plonsky said she appreciated her “unusual” opportunity to oversee both external operations and women’s athletics internally. She said she first had “two jobs, two titles” in 2001, when then-UT President Larry Faulkner asked her to oversee women’s athletics on an interim basis. When she was promoted to women’s athletic director full-time in 2002, she, Faulkner and Dodds made a compromise. Plonsky continued her external responsibilities except for oversight of communications.

“I owe everything and my role today … to DeLoss and the presidents who have been here,” Plonsky said. “Greg [Fenves] has been very supportive, so I look forward to working with and for Greg and with and for Mike.”

Plonsky said she and Perrin will work closely on negotiations with Nike as Texas looks to restructure its licensing apparel and footwear deals with this year. Perrin described the deal as “one of those areas I’ll be drawing heavily on staff experience and intercollegiate experience” to address.

“That’s one of the areas we’ve long been tag-teaming,” Plonsky said. “We’re exclusive with our current and great partner, Nike. Mike will step in, and we’ll get him up to speed.”

Plonsky also said she doesn’t think Patterson leaving hurts the department’s image. She said college athletics is in a tumultuous era, and such restructuring is common.

“If we didn’t have 16 or 17 lawsuits against athletics right now, and if we didn’t see the change that’s happening at all levels, it might worry me,” Plonsky said. “But I think this is par for the course.”

Moving forward, Plonsky said her priority is to rebuild and reassure the fan base — which she describes as the “lifeblood” of every sports organization. The key, she said, is communication.

“You have to make sure you’re accountable to your constituencies and your fans — we’re going to work harder and better at that,” Plonsky said. “Some of the decisions we’ve made have been with those two best interests at heart, but at times our communication has been very poor, and I’ve got to own that.”