JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A seven-person advisory panel to help the search for a new University of Texas men’s athletic director includes two school regents, a billionaire donor and a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland who was quail hunting with Dick Cheney when the former vice president accidentally shot a man in the face.
The panel was announced Monday by President Bill Powers. The school must find a replacement for longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who built Texas into the nation’s richest athletic department — its annual budget is nearly $170 million — and is retiring in 2014 after 32 years.
“The committee members all have deep ties to UT Austin and the athletics program, as well as decades of experience in business, government, higher education and philanthropy,” Powers said. “Their guidance will be invaluable as I work over the next few weeks to find a new athletics director who will build on our program’s success.”
The panel also includes four members who belong to the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a key ally for Powers in his recent power struggles with some members of the school’s board of regents.
The panel includes Regents Steve Hicks and Robert Stillwell, who are Powers allies and the governing board’s athletics liaisons, and Pamela Willeford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President George W. Bush.
Willeford was with Cheney at a South Texas ranch in 2006 when Cheney shot hunting partner Harry Whittington in the face, neck and chest with birdshot. Willeford also is a former chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
How much influence over the athletic director search the panel will have remains to be seen. The school has also hired a search firm, and Hicks and Stillwell, have said they expect the regents to let Powers select the athletic director.
Powers said he and the committee will also seek guidance from alumni, regents, faculty and students. Although Dodds remains under contract until Aug. 31, 2014, Powers has said he’d like to hire his replacement in the next couple of months.
Other members of the panel include:
—Robert Rowling, a former regent whose $5 million donation prompted the school to name the east side of the football stadium after his father Reese Rowling. Owner of TRT Holdings Inc., which includes the upscale Omni Hotels chain and Gold’s Gym, he is estimated by Forbes to be worth almost $5 billion. Under Rowling’s order, Dallas-based Omni hotels became one of the largest hotel chains to not offer adult movies in its rooms.
Robert Rowling’s donations also helped build the men’s and women’s basketball practice facility, and the football team’s indoor practice field, according to the athletic department website.
— Michael Clement, accounting professor in Texas’ McCombs School of Business, which is named after billionaire Red McCombs, one of the schools’ largest athletics donors. The north end of the football stadium is named the Red McCombs “Red Zone.”
— Charles Matthews, former vice president of Exxon Mobil and current president of the Texas Exes alumni group.
— Charles Tate, an investment banker and former business partner of prominent former regent Tom Hicks, the brother of regent Steve Hicks. Tom Hicks was influential in hiring football coach Mack Brown, but also spoke with Alabama coach Nick Saban’s agent in January to gauge Saban’s interest in coming to Texas.
Matthews, Tate, Wlleford and Rowling all are members of the Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education.