Next AD has Texas-sized shoes to fill

DeLoss Dodds is stepping down as athletic director of Texas. The effects of that decision on the future of the Longhorns athletic department will be far-reaching.

Dodds will formally announce Tuesday his plan to leave the job he has held for 32 years and step down as AD at the end of August, 2014. The search for his replacement is already underway and could end as early as Dec. 1.

Whoever is tapped to replace the Texas legend inherits one of the most powerful thrones in college athletics, and could face one of the most important transition periods in school history. We’ll get into that in a moment, though it’s a topic we’ll be talking about throughout the next year.

Dodds is a powerful man with a legacy to match. He made the Longhorns the financial behemoth it has become today and oversaw one of the greatest periods of athletic success in school history. Whoever is deemed fit to take his place has Texas-sized shoes to fill.

By setting these plans in motion nearly a year in advance, he’s providing UT more than enough time to make a smooth transition. That Dodds will stick around as a consultant should help, too. This is a major move and one that must be handled carefully.

Just imagine the résumés that will wind up on UT President Bill Powers’ desk during the search process. He’ll eventually pick from an elite group of candidates, and there’s no doubt he’ll be seeking a leader with the kind of big-picture thinking, sharp judgment and business savvy that Dodds displayed during his long tenure.

In its report breaking Monday’s news, the Austin American-Statesman said West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is one candidate to keep an eye on. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick’s name has come up plenty in recent weeks, and more major players will in the next few weeks.

The successor could face a critical dilemma whenever he or she is finally chosen. What will be done about the coaches of three of Texas’ most important programs?

Mack Brown knows he has to win and win big this year, and a 2-2 start didn’t make life any easier. The Texas football coach has long said he has a tremendous relationship with Dodds and Powers, who have backed him throughout a trying month for Longhorn football.

“I’ve got the two best bosses in the world,” Brown said days after Texas’ loss to BYU. “They get it. They understand. I have great conversations with them. They put me in a position to run it, they want me to do it, and I’m responsible for it. That’s what I’ve got to do. DeLoss has been around a long time. I don’t have knee-jerk bosses. They get it.”

Well, one of those bosses is now leaving. Who knows how much success in 2013 will be enough to impress the next boss, or whether Brown’s sub-.600 record since 2009 will simply be too much to overcome.

Will the next AD be prepared to clean house? He or she could face similar big-picture decisions with Longhorns men’s basketball and baseball.

The legendary Augie Garrido hasn’t taken UT to a College World Series in two years and didn’t make the Big 12 tournament in 2013. Rick Barnes hasn’t advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament since 2008 and didn’t make the field last season.

These are worst-case scenarios, to be sure, but not unrealistic ones. The candidates for Texas’ athletic director job will be well aware of these potential first-year decisions.

There are many other reasons why Texas must find the right person for the job. The truth is, there’s really no replacing Dodds. This day had to come eventually, though, and evidently the countdown to that day begins Tuesday.