UT athletics director discusses bringing more fans to stadium, UT vs. A&M rivalry

Areeba Amer

As more people watch sports on TV, the University is working to keep its fans in the stands, UT athletics director Chris Del Conte said. 

“You got your honey next to you, your remote control — why are you going to leave?” Del Conte said.  “How do (we) create venues where people come to the games instead of watching (it on) TV?”

Del Conte discussed receding stadium crowds and sustainable business models for university athletics alongside Ross Bjork, Texas A&M’s athletic director, and several leaders from other university systems on Friday at the Texas Tribune Festival.

Maintaining a sustainable business model has been a growing issue for Texas college football because more people are watching football games at home, said Ross Bjork. He said this impacts the revenue of college institutions. 

“It is absolutely worrisome,” Bjork said. “People ask me what keeps me up at night — the model sustainability is the number one thing. Costs are not going down.”

Del Conte said the University wants to turn a football game into a full-day event and is working to add viewing boxes in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. He said he went to Disneyland to find ways to attract people to the stadium games since Disneyland does a good job retaining customers. 

“We want people to come out and celebrate Texas … and spend the rest of the time reminiscing,” Del Conte said. 

He also discussed reviving the UT vs. A&M rivalry, which ended after A&M switched conferences from the Big 12 to Southeastern in 2012. While he wants the game to happen, he said neither he nor Bjork is able to set one up. 

“UT and A&M need to play each other,” Del Conte said. ”We’re going to play anyone who is a national champion in the modern era.”

Bjork said Texas A&M had previously requested an opening for a game years ago, but UT declined the offer. 

“There was an offer made, (but) it was declined,” Bjork said. “Now both programs have moved on … (but) we're in the discussion.”

Del Conte said if UT and Texas A&M played each other again, the rivalry would  increase overall game turnout.

“I understand the hatred on both sides of the family,” Del Conte said. “That’s the reason to play. We need it for the game.”