By Jerry Briggs
UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey is ready to roll up her sleeves and go to work with a new university president following the recent departure of a long-time ally in that office, Dr. Ricardo Romo.
“You’re always a little bit nervous when you get a new boss,” Hickey told Inside Runner Sports in a telephone interview earlier this week. “But I have expectations that the (hiring) process will draw a good list of candidates.”
Romo stepped down on March 3. Dr. Pedro Reyes is currently working as the interim president. The announcement of Romo’s permanent replacement is expected by late this summer.
Meetings of the UT System Board of Regents are scheduled in May, July and August. A spokeswoman for the UT System said plans call for the new UTSA president to start work on Sept. 1.
Back in 1999, four months into Romo’s first year on the job, he hired Hickey.
Together, the two have played a major role in building the Roadrunners into a thriving, football-playing member of Conference USA.
Even though Hickey admitted that it will be “very, very strange, indeed” not having Romo on campus, she said that doesn’t mean she will have any less enthusiasm for doing her job.
“We have a lot of things to finish up,” she said. “I’m hoping that I have the opportunity to continue to grow the program for several years.”
Hickey said it’s obviously the new president’s call on who runs the athletic department.
“But, hopefully, I’ve done enough to have an opportunity to continue to go forward,” she said.
Romo was placed on leave on leave on Feb. 14 “pending a review of allegations related to his conduct,” according to a news release.
A little more than two weeks later, the president stepped down, noting, “I have been made aware that the manner in which I embraced women made them feel uncomfortable and was inappropriate. I understand and respect Chancellor (William) McRaven’s concerns about my behavior, and I deeply apologize for any conduct that offended anyone.”
Hickey didn’t go into her thoughts on Romo’s departure, but she did say that he gave her an opportunity 18 years ago to lead an athletic department, at a time when not many other women were getting those chances.
“I had the utmost respect for Dr. Romo,” said Hickey, who was one of 19 female athletic directors at more than 300 Division I schools when she started. “For him to have … that level of vision, and just being that open to give me that opportunity, is pretty amazing.
“So, I’ll always respect him for that and just respect him for the work that he did here. So, change is hard, and it will be very, very strange, indeed, not to have him around.”
Hickey said the new president will benefit from the “foundation” that Romo has established.
“His energy level was always so high,” she said. “He was always so motivated to do the best he could for UTSA. We’ll miss that.”
At the same time, Hickey said she has “the utmost confidence” in UT system officials to find the right replacement.
“I know that this is a really good job,” she said. “To be the president of this university would be an outstanding job. The potential here is so great. There’s a much better foundation here now than when Dr. Romo started almost 19 years ago.”
Voters to consider Park West funding
UTSA athletics will have $10 million in funding at stake in the May 6 city bond election. Voters will consider six propositions in an overall $850 million, city-wide bond.
Funding to upgrade UTSA’s Park West athletics complex has been included in Proposition 3, for Parks, Recreation and Open Space Improvements.
Hickey said she is “hopeful” that voters will approve a measure calling for construction of a “team facility” on the Park West property located about two miles west of the main campus.
The facility would house showers and locker areas for athletes who compete at the Park West soccer and track and field competition sites.
The building is also expected to have coaches’ offices, meeting rooms and medical training areas.
If the proposal passes, the estimated timetable for completion would be 2-3 years, Hickey said.
Eventually, UTSA hopes to move most of its athletes, including football, to Park West. But Hickey said additional fundraising is needed for that move to take place.
“The next priority would be to finish it out, to get football out there,” she said, “and then we’ve got to address our softball and baseball needs.”
UTSA plans to continue to play its football games downtown, at the Alamodome.
Spring football continues
Following a week off for spring break, the UTSA football team will return to practice on Monday. The fourth of 12 remaining camp workouts will be held on Monday morning.
The annual spring game is set for April 15, at 1 p.m., at Farris Stadium. The spring game is open to the public.