FORT WORTH — Jeremiah Donati was greeted by a capacity crowd in the Four Sevens meeting room at his first appearance as TCU’s new director of athletics.
Faculty, coaches, and even the entire 14th-ranked TCU men’s basketball team were on hand to greet Chris Del Conte’s successor as the torch officially was passed on to the former TCU Frog Club director.
But there were hardly any nerves for Donati when he took the podium for the first time in his new role. Not with all the familiar faces — including his wife, Nicole, and two young daughters — smiling and clapping as he took center stage.
“Once I saw everybody, it felt more like I walked into a big family reunion almost,” Donati said. “It’s just great to see everyone and see those faces so it really calmed me down. I walked in and saw smiling faces, my daughters and it made it a little easier.”
For the newest TCU athletic director, his Mondays are more than just another day at the office. It’s a chance to spend another day with his “family” that made him fall in love with TCU more than half a decade ago.
‘This is home’
When Donati first arrived at TCU in 2011, it was a whole new world for him and his family after making the move of more than 1,000 miles away from their previous home in Southern California.
Donati, 40, said he hardly knew anybody in town when he first began his new role in Fort Worth. But that all changed quickly.
Barely more than a week into the job at TCU, Donati’s father, Don, died unexpectedly.
“I was devastated. I was crushed,” Donati said. “And I was confused and questioning why I was here — if I made a mistake and should head back to California.”
But in the wake of tragedy, Donati was overwhelmed with support from TCU’s athletics staff.
“No sooner than when those things entered my head did total strangers — people who I didn’t know and are in this room today — they … reached their arms around me and helped me through it and encouraged me,” Donati said. “They kept me going … and I’ve never forgotten that.”
Donati said the actions of total strangers at the time made it clear that he wouldn’t be leaving Fort Worth or TCU anytime soon.
“This is home. I know these people, worked for these people and loved these people,” Donati said.
The crowning moment arrives
Donati’s loyalty to the Horned Frogs served him well, as he was ultimately promoted to Deputy Athletic Director in 2016 — effectively becoming the right-hand man for then-athletics director Chris Del Conte.
When Del Conte announced Saturday that he was resigning to accept the same job at the University of Texas, Donati’s shining moment arrived a day later. His hiring came after a long meeting with TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. and the board of trustees.
“I let them know pretty clearly under no uncertain terms this is where I want to be. And a short time after that meeting they asked me if I wanted to be the new athletics director,” Donati said. “I literally jumped out of my chair and said yes.”
Succeeding Del Conte wasn’t the only avenue available. Donati said other schools had reached out to him for interviews “within the past two to three weeks,” but they weren’t enough to lure him away from Fort Worth.
“Fort Worth is an amazing community,” Donati said. “The leadership and coaching staff that is already in place … it would really be silly to want to look elsewhere and I know the staff and donors so well that it made it an easy fit for my end that I was going to fight for.”
And after starting his new job, Donati has the opportunity to create his legacy at TCU by burnishing some of the achievements made by Del Conte.
“We’re going to give kids an unbelievable experience, graduate them, turn them into leaders and give them every opportunity for them to win championships — conference and nationally,” Donati said.
Donati earned a B.A. in politics and government from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., in 2001. He later earned a Juris Doctorate from Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif. in 2005.
The post Family is focus for new TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati appeared first on Diehards.
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