DeLoss Dodds

 University of Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds speaks at the First Friday Luncheon presented by the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce and hosted by Crown Colony Country Club.

“This is a scary crowd,” University of Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds told the 150 people who attended the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday Luncheon at Crown Colony Country Club. “You all are supposed to be wearing burnt orange or maroon, so I can know who’s who.”

Dodds, the guest speaker, kept the audience chuckling with multiple rivalry references during the luncheon, as he talked about the responsibilities of being in charge of a $150 million budget, how he taught Lufkin ISD Superintendent Roy Knight everything he knows at a coaching clinic in the 1970s, and the opportunity he has to change the lives of kids at the University of Texas.

“My business is kids,” Dodds said. “Kids are both wonderful and heartbreaking. They’re the essence of life, and I love doing my job and helping them go from young boys to educated young men.”

Dodds thanked Lufkin for sending the Longhorns Carrington Byndom, the former Panther who had a standout season at cornerback for the Longhorns that included an interception return for a touchdown against Texas A&M.

“Cover your ears, Aggies, but gosh, was that a great interception or what?” Dodds said. “Carrington is a great kid, we love him, and we’re always happy when we recruit kids from this area because we know they are going to be good kids.”

Dodds spoke about the importance of keeping academics as the main focus for student-athletes, saying that more than half of the athletes at UT are first-generation college students.

“This is a unique opportunity for our kids, but they have two full-time jobs, and the job of going to school is the most important,” Dodds said. “We focus on school. If you are an athlete at the University of Texas or at Texas A&M, you go to class and you graduate. But I’m not going to say anything else nice about A&M, so you stop me if do.”

Dodds said the opportunity to set kids on a path that will improve their lives is both a responsibility and a privilege.

Dodds also spoke about the Longhorn Network, the result of a multi-million-dollar television deal between the Longhorns and ESPN, saying that it may have driven Missouri and Texas A&M out of the Big 12 conference, but that it allowed the Texas athletic department to give millions of dollars to its university each year.

“We have given the university over $30 million the last couple of years,” Dodds said. “That is a great thing for us, and it makes the professors like us a little more.”

Dodds, who has been the UT athletic director since 1981, answered questions from the audience and gave some insight into the future of the Big 12 conference.

“These last two years have been hard,” Dodds said. “I love the Big 12. I helped build it. We want to keep it together, we have worked hard to do that, and I think that we have been successful.”

After losing Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M over the past two years, the Big 12 has added TCU and West Virginia. There was talk of Oklahoma and Texas going to the PAC-12 last year, but Dodds said that if UT ever had to change conferences, the school would look east, not west, for its new home.

Dodds also mentioned that future Big 12 expansion could target Louisville and Brigham Young University. Dodds said that his personal choice would be Notre Dame, and that he is working hard to garner that addition.

After fielding questions about college basketball players leaving early for the NBA, whether or not college football players should be paid, and what the next step is in finding a Big 12 commissioner, Dodds flashed the Hook ’em, Horns sign and thanked the crowd.

“I love to come to Lufkin. It is a wonderful world up here,” Dodds said. “A tad bit hard to find, but certainly wonderful.”

Nick Wade’s email address is nwade@lufkindailynews.com.