Shaka Smart perfect fit for UT basketball

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I want to officially welcome Shaka Smart to the University of Texas family. As the new head coach of our men’s basketball team, Coach Smart is off to a great start, building rapport with the team and reaching out to former players for support and guidance.

Shaka Smart, 37, was born and raised in Wisconsin and attended Kenyon College in Ohio, where he graduated magnum cum laude with a degree in history. He began his coaching career in 1999 at California University of Pennsylvania. There, he also earned a master’s degree in social science. He also has been assistant coach at Akron, Clemson, and Florida. For the last six years, he has been head coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he won at least 26 games each season and took the team to the final four in 2011. His wife, Maya, is a writer and alumna of Harvard and Northwestern, and they have a three-year-old daughter. I know you will give a warm Texas welcome to Shaka and Maya.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Coach Rick Barnes for his 17 years of service to The University of Texas. Rick led our program with integrity and much success, and for that, we thank him and wish him all the best at the University of Tennessee.

Hook ’em Horns!

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Support Orange and Maroon Day

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President Powers with Dr. Mark Hussey, interim president of Texas A&M, today at a press conference kicking off Orange and Maroon Day 2015

For one special day during each legislative session, alumni volunteers from Texas’ two great flagship universities converge on the Capitol to encourage our elected representatives to support higher education in general and to support our state’s Tier-One research universities in particular. Today is “Orange & Maroon Day” at the Capitol. I look forward to joining with Texas A&M Interim President Mark Hussey and alumni leaders of both universities in getting our message to lawmakers.

UT Austin and Texas A&M combined teach more than 100,000 students, and each year 24,000 students graduate from these two schools and enter the workforce. Put simply, these young people are the future of our state — leaders in education, in business, in government, in the arts, and more. When you look at these Longhorns and Aggies, you’re looking at the future of our state and our nation. Together our two institutions have 875,000 alumni.
But of course the significance of these universities is not merely in the number of students they educate; it’s in the kind of education those students get. Texas and Texas A&M are partners because we share a model of education that is highly productive and deserves additional support. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors make up the ecosystem that produces both the kind of knowledge that moves society forward and the kind of leaders society needs.

The immediate payoff to Texas is enormous: together, UT Austin and Texas A&M attract $1.5 billion in research funding back to the Texas economy annually. But the long-term payoff is immeasurably larger because these universities produce the critical thinkers and leaders who will guide our future prosperity and civil society.
What starts here changes the world.

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Those Three Little Words

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Three words that many thought they would never hear outside a hypothetical – “college football playoff” – have now become reality. On Tuesday, I was part of a group of 12 university presidents in Washington, D.C., that voted to move to a four-team playoff – two semifinals and a final – starting in 2014 and continuing at least until 2025. This moves us into a new era of college football — one many have sought for a long time.

Whereas an extensive playoff system, such as we have in basketball, was never tenable for football, this two-game playoff will be not only practical but should eliminate most questions about who deserves the trophy. A committee will be formed to set the criteria for who is invited to the semifinals, criteria that will include a team’s win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and conference championships.

We endorsed a rotation of the semifinal games among six bowl sites and a rotation of the championship game among neutral sites. The semifinals will be played on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, and the final will be played on “Championship Monday,” the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal.

There will be three contract bowls — the Champions Bowl (a partnership between the Big 12 and SEC), the Rose Bowl (which traditionally is between the Big 10 and Pac 12), and a bowl to be determined for the ACC, which is likely to continue its partnership with the Orange Bowl. The three other bowls, called “access bowls,” have yet to be determined, but the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl will become bidders.

I took a keen interest in every detail of the playoff plan because I expect to be attending those games on a very regular basis.

Hook ’em Horns!