Dodds was understandably surprised when he learned he was to be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Sure, the former Texas athletic director was born in Riley, ran track at Kansas State and served as the Wildcats’ athletic director from 1977-81, but that was 33 years ago. He has lived in Austin ever since. The thought of being honored by a sports organization in the Sunflower State never crossed his mind.
“Leaving there 33 years ago, it is a surprise,” Dodds said earlier this week by phone. “But it is a nice surprise. My kids are very excited about it. They have roots in Kansas and my grandkids are fired up about it. So it’s quite an honor. But, again, it’s something very unexpected.”
Dodds is being honored after a long, successful career as an administrator, during which he became one of the most powerful athletic directors in the country. Under Dodds, Texas athletics rose to national prominence, winning 14 national championships 108 conference championships. It also made more than $400 million worth of facility upgrades and established an annual budget of $163 million, the largest in the nation.
He hired Mack Brown as football coach, who led the Longhorns to one national championship and played for another, as well as baseball coach Augie Garrido, who produced two national titles.
Oh, and he was the driving force behind the revolutionary Longhorn Network, which ESPN is paying the university $300 million over 20 years to carry.
“Our construction work was very visible and it looks good,” Dodds said. “We got the Longhorn Network and we had more than 100 conference championships. That last part is probably what I will remember the most. Our kids were successful. I think when you are in athletics it is all about the kids and the things you remember are the accomplishments.
“For some of these kids we had in the ’80s, their kids are coming to Texas now. We have seen a new generation. That is the thrill of it all, seeing what happened to young men and young women during that time.”
Dodds has seen considerable change in the college landscape. When he left K-State, it was a member of the Big Eight and Texas was in the Southwest Conference. Today they are both members of the Big 12. In between they almost separated again due to conference realignment. Dodds, who remains a fan of the Big 12’s current 10-team setup with a round-robin schedule and no championship game in football, played a role in making the league what it is today.
Though Texas is down in football at the moment, Dodds predicts the Longhorns to make a run at national championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball within the next five years. In Austin, that’s the expectation.
He also remembers when college athletics didn’t feel like a corporation, like back when he raised a family in Kansas.
“It went from simple to complicated,” Dodds said. “We used to have a budget of $4.5 million. Today it is $170 million. It used to be 80 people, today it’s 350 employees. It just absolutely has become a business, which is OK as you long as you can separate the kids from that. But it is a lot more complicated and not as much fun. The size has gotten to a point where you are doing business all the time. Doing all those deals takes away from your time with the student-athlete.”