Texas university system picks admiral behind bin Laden mission as chancellor finalist

AP

University of Texas System regents on Tuesday selected one of the top U.S. military special operations leaders as the lone finalist for the job of chancellor to oversee 15 campuses.

Navy Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, has been credited with spearheading the operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in a raid on his compound in Pakistan in 2011.

McRaven must wait 21 days before he can be formally hired. He would replace Francisco Cigarroa, the first Hispanic person to serve as Texas system chancellor, who is stepping down after five years.

With nine academic and six health campuses, the Texas system has more than 215,000 students, about 90,000 employees and a $14 billion budget. The chancellor’s duties include representing the system in legislative matters, advocating higher education causes and raising money.

McRaven, 58, who had previously announced his retirement after 37 years in the military, would come to the chancellor’s job with no professional academic experience. He is a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, and earned a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.

McRaven was also at the helm when U.S. Army Delta forces secured the release of army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in May as part of an exchange for five Afghan detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center.

Cigarroa announced in February he would return to his previous career a pediatric transplant surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, where he was president for eight years before being name chancellor.

Cigarroa’s tenure was notable for creation of the new University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, a merger of the campus in Brownsville and Edinburg, which will include a medical school, and a new medical school at the University of Texas, Austin.

It was also marked by tension between him and Austin flagship campus President Bill Powers, who also clashed with several regents. Powers recently agreed to step down in June 2015 under a warning from Cigarroa that he could be fired.

Cigarroa’s clashes with Powers and the turmoil between the regents and lawmakers have created a volatile atmosphere for the new chancellor.