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Chris Del Conte makes more changes to shake up the Texas athletic department

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The staff will continue to shrink as Del Conte adds two outsiders to key executive staff positions.

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General view of Texas tower Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Monday’s reported layoffs of at least 13 employees of the Texas Longhorns athletic department was only the beginning of changes that athletics director Chris Del Conte is instituting, according to new reporting from Chip Brown of Horns247 and a Thursday release from the school.

In further efforts to improve efficiency and reduce the ratio of athletic department employees to student athletes to something closer to the national norm, Brown reports that more than 40 full-time employees will depart.

Additionally, Del Conte added two key executive staff positions, hiring former TCU assistant athletics director Drew Martin as Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs and Shawn Eichorst as Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs.

“We’ve spent the past several months evaluating and studying our department and developing a plan for our future,” said Del Conte. “We have a lot of talented people here, and Shawn and Drew are tremendous additions to our staff. They are the best at what they do and will play critical roles in helping us pull our staff together and function at a highly effective and efficient level. I know them well, they had a chance to meet our staff today, and I am thrilled they’re on board.”

Martin spent the last seven years with the Horned Frogs, where his focus was on marketing, social media, communications, and trademarks and licensing.

“It’s really exciting to be able to work with Chris Del Conte again,” Martin said. “The vision he has for collegiate athletics and how he runs an athletics department is tremendous. My vision for the external operations portion of that aligns very well with his, so that truly makes it exciting to be joining the Texas staff.

“Texas is the flagship institution of the state of Texas and is one of only a handful that is considered a national leader in collegiate athletics. To have the opportunity to come and help lead the external team here is something that has always been a dream of mine. I am thrilled to be a part of the team and to help Chris and everyone put the ‘T’ back in Texas.”

Eichorst has extensive experience that qualifies him for the role, including ten years as an athletics director. His last stint was with Nebraska from 2012 to 2017 and he’s also served as chief operating officer at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to come work at The University of Texas, one of the most iconic universities and athletics brands in the country, and to work with one of the most dynamic leaders in our business in Chris Del Conte,” Eichorst said.

“Austin is a fantastic community in a great state and a fabulous place to bring up a family. We’re all excited to come to Austin and immerse ourselves in Longhorn nation.”

One of the most prominent changes made by Del Conte has been in the works since he was hired, when speculation began about a new role for longtime women’s athletics director Chris Plonsky. In a statement that harkened back to comments by Steve Patterson at the infamous football banquet just before Mack Brown’s resignation, Del Conte pointedly declined to mention what titles she would hold.

“C.P., you’ve always been here,” Del Conte said to Plonsky. “I love our relationship. I love what you’ve done for the University of Texas. I can’t wait to get started to work with you on a daily basis.”

They are indeed still working together, but Plonsky’s 15-year tenure as the women’s athletic director is now over in favor of a new role. Plonsky was the last person in the country to hold that title — Tennessee combined the men’s and women’s athletic departments in 2011.

Plonsky’s bio on the Texas website now includes a description of her role as chief of staff:

Plonsky now serves Texas as chief of staff, executive senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator. She supervises student-athlete services staff leaders in academics, career/leadership development, and compliance/risk management. She also oversees staff leaders in sports medicine/performance, including nutrition, behavioral health, strength and conditioning, and applied sports science.

Updating aging facilities and leading the capital development efforts to replace the Erwin Center and other facilities displaced by the Dell Medical School expansion was only one part of Del Conte’s task as he took over the program.

The other imperative was to reduce bloat in the athletic department and reshape the executive staff in his own vision.

In both areas, Del Conte has made significant progress and the athletic department, an entity that was too inert for too long, should benefit significantly from the changes.