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The cumulative effect of all this is that there may be no more difficult job in college sports than that held by DeLoss Dodds, the men's athletic director at Texas, whose own department is forever being compared, unfavorably, with that of the Longhorn women. It has not always been thus. When Lopiano arrived in Austin in 1975, she was all of 28, a brash feminist who was going to blow through town and get rid of football. If she talked and acted as if she had come from New York City's outer boroughs, it's because in a way she had, via Brooklyn College, where she coached basketball, volleyball and softball for four years. At the very time she applied for the Texas job, Title IX was generating all kinds of local—as well as national—un-happiness. Texas football coach and athletic director Darrell Royal had just related to an old Michigan lineman, Gerald Ford, his fear that the proposed law would bury college football as they knew it.
So it was that Lopiano first met the man synonymous with Texas football fame. She told Royal, Willie Nelson's best friend, of her distaste for country and western music. She dared Royal to step up to the plate with a softball bat and not strike out against her. She generally behaved in a manner that, as Betty Thompson, who headed the search committee that recommended Lopiano, would put it, "scared us witless."
Lorene Rogers, the university's president at the time, wanted no part of Lopiano, whom she considered abrasive. But the search committee, while acknowledging that Lopiano wasn't exactly a box of chocolates, believed that her youth, energy and standards were exactly what the position called for.
"I hope you understand," Rogers said, in reluctantly accepting the committee's recommendation, "that you're going to be responsible to our culture."
"I thought she was the stereotypical pushy Yankee," says Conradt. "But I knew they weren't just trying to get Title IX off their backs. Donna was the signal that it was going to happen, because nobody would bring that kind of grief on themselves unless they were serious."
"If you're good, I'll end with an Aggie joke!"
Lopiano has come to Texas's School of Education to address professor Donald Rippey's class on college administration. She speaks with her usual confidence. Lopiano is a big woman, nearly six feet tall, with a countenance leavened by a ready smile and a signature laugh—a wheezy, high-pitched one that reminds you of Eddie Murphy conning his way into the pricey restaurant in Beverly Hills Cop. Her stump speech goes like this:
•"If UT football made $5 million off the wishbone under Darrell Royal, that money belongs to UT, not to Darrell Royal. Just as if a physics professor discovers some superconductive product in a university lab on university time and gets it patented, the proceeds belong to UT."
•"The NCAA is General Motors. And I'm an inventor who wants to build a car that doesn't run on gasoline."
•"Title IX has never been enforced. It's the guillotine that's been rolled out into the city square to scare people off. But it's rusting, and needs a giant can of WD-40."