Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte on his road trip to the NCAA tournament
MILWAUKEE –When Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte learned that his Thursday flight to Chicago for the first round of the NCAA Tournament had suddenly been upgraded to first class, he thought it was his lucky day. Del Conte’s plan was to fly to Chicago and then drive the remaining 80 miles between O’Hare International Airport and Milwaukee enough time to settle in before watching the head coach. Chris Beard and the No. 6-seeded Longhorns claim what would ultimately be a win over 11th-seeded Virginia Tech on Friday 81-73.
That hypothesis, Del Conte said in the bowels of the Fiserv Forum at halftime in Purdue’s 78-56 victory over Yale, which preceded March Madness’ first victory for Texas (22-11) since 2014, s was hastily proven wrong. What happened next was a series of events that led to a road trip documented on social media with Del Conte leaving Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in his personal vehicle on Thursday and eventually arriving at Milwaukee early Friday morning.
“About 10 minutes after boarding they said, ‘Guys, there’s a mechanical failure. We have to get all the way down. The plane isn’t working,'” Del Conte said. plane and all of a sudden we were like, what’s next? Well, it’s South by Southwest. All planes are completely backwards. We have a plane that was delayed due to weather. The third plane we couldn’t get on was not on hold. Then the plane we were going to fly was diverted from DFW (airport) to Waco because the fog came in. They couldn’t tell us when we were going out.
It was then that Del Conte, who sat in the terminal while trying to figure out his next move, began to converse with Patrick Smith. Smith, who passes “Wheels” (@WheelsS6 on Twitter)and his son were considering how they would get to Milwaukee when Del Conte, who was not thrilled with the prospects of getting out of Austin in a timely manner, decided to take matters into his own hands.
And he did it with Smith and his son in tow.
“We got in the car and just started,” Del Conte said. “That’s all that happened.
“If they want to drive, let’s go. I have my truck.
Del Conte’s Ford truck, a Covert Auto Group courtesy vehicle, then became the means of transportation for himself, Smith and his son. The fun soon ensued, including Del Conte getting arrested in Oklahoma of all places.
“Listen here: Buford T. Justice was fully effective,” Del Conte said. “We got arrested and I’m like – first of all, my man has the bladder of a nut. We didn’t even get out of Dallas and stopped. I go, ‘We just ate two minutes ago!’ Every two hours we stop. We’re driving through Oklahoma and all of a sudden the guy stops me and says, ‘How fast were you going?’ I really do not know. The cop looks at me and says, ‘Okay, keep it just under 45.’ He let me go. I’m like, ‘OK, that’s not bad. It’s starting to work. We just signed up.
After staying at gas stations to pull over until he dined with Longhorn fans in Springfield, Mo., Springfield, Illinois was where Del Conte chose to hop out of the truck for a slumber well-deserved.
“If I didn’t stop last night in (Abraham) Lincoln country, I’d be tired,” Del Conte said. “But around 12:30 p.m. I said, ‘We have to stop. We found a Hilton Garden Inn, got our rooms and when I walked into my room there was a hot tub right next to the bed. I mean, what’s going on here in Springfield, Illinois that you need a hot tub next to the bed? No questions asked, took a nap, got up and left.
It was okay for Del Conte to suggest he and Smith take the trip together since they were going to the same place. For Del Conte, the bottom line is how his role as Texas athletic director means making sure Smith and his son get to Milwaukee is something he sees as just part of the job.
“I run a business for them,” Del Conte said. “It’s their program. It’s your program. I’m just happy to be the guardian of it. Whenever we can do things to humanize the company, we’re going to play a game today, hopefully we’ll win. Otherwise it will be a long way back tomorrow, but what’s exciting is that we just created this idea that sometimes they think the company is untouchable. And by dehumanizing the company, it allows us to say that we are all in it. This is yours. They give me constant feedback. If I don’t do anything right, boy, they let me know. Sometimes it’s just to say that we’re all in this together. Job evaluation websites, which are media or social media, they will give it to you, so why not have fun with it? »
As the Longhorns beat Virginia Tech and move into the Round of 16 to face No. 3 seed Purdue, there will be a time late Sunday or early when it’s time for Del Conte to head home.
“That’s the only mistake: I took my truck,” Del Conte said. “There is nothing planned. I have a truck. What am I doing? Nothing here makes sense. »