Texas AD Chris Del Conte (Texas Athletics)


Big 12 Conference Poised To Vote ‘No’ On Third Assistant


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SEE ALSO: Big Ten: Are you in or out? | ABCA Rallies Support For Third Assistant

The Big Ten Conference made headlines in early February when sources informed D1Baseball that the league was prepared to vote against an SEC-led proposal to offer an additional third full-time assistant coach, though schools are allowed to keep their current situation, which includes two full-time assistants and a volunteer coach. Schools also would have the option to turn the role into a graduate assistant or part-time position.

The proposal, which goes to a national vote later this month and includes an additional full-time softball assistant, received yet another devastating blow this week, as several Big 12 Conference athletic directors and administrators — including those from Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma — voted ‘no’ on the proposal, which puts the Big 12’s approval in doubt with the lone NCAA vote for later this month being a faculty representative hailing from West Virginia, which also voted against the proposal. Only four athletic directors voted ‘yes’ — Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State and TCU. And of those, Kansas State and TCU don’t have softball.

The Big 12’s hesitancy to approve the proposal comes as a surprise. Though sources have indicated for a while the league had some concerns, they never believed the proposal was in jeopardy of getting a ‘no’ from athletic directors and administrators. That type of view was seen as risky with several Big 12 schools competing with the SEC and other leagues in the regional footprint. Interestingly enough, leagues we have confirmed are in favor of the proposal include the SEC, ACC, Southland and Conference USA, with more likely coming.

It appears the concern with the proposal isn’t so much giving baseball a third full-time assistant as it is the need for an additional third full-time softball assistant. Of course, that belief goes against what many athletic directors originally told those close to the Southeastern Conference when the league was in the discovery phase for the proposal. The conference was told softball had to be included, or else the proposal’s chances of passing were small.

Minds have apparently changed when it comes to that approach in some parts of the country, and Big 12 administrators now want more information.

The most surprising ‘no’ vote came from Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte. Del Conte was previously the athletic director at Rice and TCU, both schools with brand-name baseball programs, while he also serves on the Division I Baseball Committee. Furthermore, according to USA Today, the University of Texas led the nation over the last year in athletic department revenue at a whopping $214,830,647. Del Conte is the second baseball committee member to vote ‘no’ on the proposal, with Purdue’s Mike Bobinski the other.

Oklahoma, which also voted ‘no’ on the proposal, has one of the nation’s premier softball programs, while also having a baseball program headed the right direction with Skip Johnson leading the charge. Oklahoma’s athletic revenue for the last year ranks seventh nationally at $155,238,481. Texas Tech, which has reached the College World Series two of the last three seasons, also was a ‘no’ vote on the proposal. The Red Raiders rank 43rd nationally in revenue at $88,804,476. We spoke with Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who said he preferred the money for a third assistant in baseball and softball be used for other items such as student wellness or improved grant-in-aid.

Jim Schlossnagle, TCUTCU’s Jim Schlossnagle is disappointed with the Big 12’s ‘no’ vote. (Kendall Rogers)

By comparison, the Southland Conference was a unanimous ‘yes’ in favor of the proposal, and the highest athletic department from a revenue standpoint? Sam Houston State, ranked 145th nationally, at $18,742,450, with the lowest being New Orleans, ranked 225th with less than $6 million in revenue for the last calendar year. Southeastern Louisiana athletic director Jay Artigues, a former baseball coach, also is in favor of the proposal and has been a huge proponent in trying to get passed. The Lions athletic department revenue? Ranked 172nd nationally at $15,027,967.

Del Conte isn’t against adding a third full-time assistant in baseball. He says he’s 100 percent for that. But he wants to do more research on the third full-time softball assistant and make sure there’s a need for it before approving the proposal in its current form.

“I was a supporter of the original proposal which included baseball. Softball was something new that we hadn’t really vetted out,” Del Conte said. “I would prefer more discussion on that. The original request was for baseball to get a full-time coach and softball to get a graduate assistant.

“I support the addition of a baseball coach, though,” he continued. “We wanted to have more discussion on why softball needed to be included with a full-time coach. In baseball, there’s obviously a need for a third full-time assistant when you look at ratios and the student athletes competing in baseball. I have not vetted softball and I want to have more dialogue with our softball coach and others before voting ‘yes’ on the full proposal.”

Craig Keilitz, the Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, is disappointed with the Big 12’s ‘no’ vote on the proposal.

“The thing that’s a little disappointing to me. If you don’t think a sport like softball needs it, don’t give it to them,” he said. “You don’t have to supply a full-time assistant position if you don’t want to. If a school doesn’t think the maximum number of full-time positions is needed, use that money for something else.

“It was the SEC’s role to include softball in the legislation. It was the right move,” he continued. “We could not put ourselves in a position to where ADs would look at it the legislation (with baseball only) and say we’d love to vote for it, but we can’t because of gender equity. At the end of the day, like I said, if you don’t think softball needs a full-time assistant, keep it as a volunteer or part-time role, or use the money elsewhere in the program.”

TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle, who has been passionate about trying to get the proposal past in his league, had this to say about the Big 12’s vote:

“This is obviously very disappointing and disheartening,” Schlossnagle said. “I can tell you that every coach in the Big 12 is beyond committed to providing our players the very best college baseball experience possible. With or without an additional coach, that won’t ever change.”

Baseball is a results-oriented business, and while the SEC, ACC and potentially the Pac 12 remain poised to vote ‘yes’ on the proposal, the Big 12 joins the Big Ten as a league that likely will vote against the measure later this month.

That vote would be the death knell for adding a third full-time coach in college baseball.

A line was drawn in the sand a long time ago, and the Big 12 has chosen the wrong side, at least as it pertains to college baseball. Not a good look. Not a good look at all.

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