So what's the holdup in the 9-member UT regents board naming Fenves the lone finalist?
Politics, what else?
Fenves, Hamilton and UT-Dallas president David Daniel all interviewed with regents to become Texas' next university president. The only thing that could stand in the way of Fenves getting the nod would be the pressure some regents are getting from key state office holders on the far right, who want Daniel to be considered ahead of Fenves, sources told HD on Friday.
Fenves, the executive vice president and provost at UT since 2013, has been closely aligned with Powers, who has backed Fenves to become his successor. But Powers is seen as an uncooperative liberal by some influential office holders on the far right, and, by association, they don't want Fenves as UT's next president, sources said.
"This may be the presidential search that never ends," one source close to the situation told HD on Friday.
Daniel received his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from Texas and served on the faculty at UT Austin from 1980 to 1996.
In 1996, Daniel moved to the University of Illinois, finishing his service as Dean of Engineering before being appointed UT Dallas' president in 2005.
A well-placed source said Friday the push for Daniels will fall short, clearing the path for Fenves to be voted the lone finalist as early as next week.
All agree Hamilton's credentials were hard to beat. But rather than start a new presidential search, which would make it even more difficult to attract top candidates already in top jobs, it appeared Texas chancellor William McRaven was backing Fenves, sources told HD.
After Hamilton accepted the NYU offer, it also appeared a majority of the 9-member regents board - with two new members seated last week (Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck, both appointed by new Gov. Greg Abbott) - would back Fenves as well, sources told HD.
Fenves had been resisted by UT regents who opposed Powers. But one of those vocal critics, Eugene Powell, just left the UT regents board because his term expired.
One source said even though it takes a simple majority of the nine regents for approval, when it comes to selecting a new school president, the regents prefer to be unanimous. Thus, the holdup in the regents announcing a lone finalist.
One key source said that unanimous majority may not be reached this time, but added there would be no new search.
Hamilton had been offered the UT president's job by Texas regents, sources told HornsDigest.com on Wednesday.
One source close to the situation, however, feels like Hamilton used UT's offer to leverage NYU while buying time to pull it off by blaming alleged complications in getting out of the final year of a six-year commitment to Oxford.
The source said NYU offered Hamilton roughly $1.4 million per year, nearly doubling the salary of current UT president Bill Powers, who makes just more than $700,000.
Hamilton, a British chemist, served on the faculty at Princeton, was a former provost at Yale and served the past five years as vice chancellor at Oxford.
While Fenves lacks the experience of Hamilton and Daniel in leading a university, Fenves is very aware of everything going on at UT, including the development of the new Dell Medical School and issues facing athletics in terms of new basketball and tennis facilities.
While leading the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT, Fenves helped raise the largest amount - $356 million - of any unit on campus in Powers' $3 billion Campaign for Texas. One of his major goals was to greenlight the Engineering Education and Research Center, a $310 million, 430,000-square-foot building dedicated to research and hands-on student projects. It began construction in 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
Before coming to Texas, Fenves chaired the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley (2002-07). Fenves, a Cal-Berkeley graduate, served on the faculty at Cal for 20 years.
Now, we wait to see how politics - never far from the UT president's office the last several years - could influence the outcome of this months-long search.
At this time, it still appears Fenves is the front-runner to succeed Powers.