Steve Patterson leaves Texas athletic director post amid fan unrest – USA TODAY
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is leaving the Longhorns after two rocky years on the job, pushed out after clashing with fans and donors upset with his aggressive push to raise money for the nation’s wealthiest athletic department, a person with direct knowledge of the decision confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the change has not been officially announced, said the details of Patterson’s departure and the his contract buyout are being worked out. The school later said in a news release that a severance and transition agreement is pending approval by the UT System Board of Regents.
Patterson met with new university President Greg Fenves on Tuesday morning, according to a person who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Later Tuesday, Fenves met with reporters and called Patterson’s departure a mutually agreed upon resignation.
“Steve Patterson is a talented sports executive who brought important ideas and changes to our athletics program,” Fenves said in a statement Tuesday night. “We appreciate the good things he accomplished in his time here and wish him the best in future endeavors.”
Fenves said Houston attorney and former Longhorns football player Mike Perrin will assume the athletic director position on an interiim basis beginning Wednesday. He will serve at least through August 2016, according to the announcement from the university.
âAthletics is vitally important to the Longhorn nation,â Fenves said. âFor many, athletics is the front door to the university. The excellence and integrity of our program shines a bright light on all we do. Mike Perrin will solidify strong relationships with and among our student-athletes, faculty, students, alumni and coaches, building morale for student-athletes and staff.
“Mike, a devoted Longhorn and respected Texan, has worked throughout his career to make the university a better place and is highly qualified to do so again in this new role.â
Though the university is negotiating Patterson’s buyout, it couldÂ owe Patterson at least $6 million through Aug. 31, 2019. The contract between the parties contains no language pertaining to Patterson’s termination without cause. His annual salary began at $1.4 million in November 2013, and it was scheduled to increase by at least 2.5% each Sept. 1.
In the past two years, Texas has obligated itself to pay buyouts of $2.75 million to former football coach Mack Brown and $1.75 million to former men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes. Those payments were due to be spread out over roughly the next three years.
Texas thought it hit a home run when it hired Patterson in November 2013 from Arizona State. The school had put together a star-studded search committee to find a replacement for DeLoss Dodds. Former West Virginia quarterbackÂ Oliver Luck was considered the front-runner until Patterson impressed the committee with his final interview.
Patterson has overseen two popular hires at Texas â football coach Charlie Strong and men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart, both in charge of underperforming programs â but has been unable to win over fans and university donors and has had several meetings with Fenves to soften his approach to business.
Fenves said of Strong and Smart, âI fully support Coach Charlie Strong, Coach Shaka Smart and all of our other coaches and student-athletes in every sport. They work hard to win with integrity, and they represent Texas well.â
Patterson also pushed and won approval for alcohol sales at athletics events, scheduled a men’s basketball game in China for next season and talked of someday taking the football team to Mexico.
But Patterson raised football ticket prices after a 6-7 season in 2014, and instituted a “loyalty” program for tickets that rewarded some long-time donors. It also pushed some long-time season ticket-holders out of their seats.
In 2013-14, the most recent year for which figures are available, Texas had $161 million in operating revenue and $154.1 million in operating expenses. However, the athletics department reported transferring an additional $9.7 million to the university, so its total expenses of $163.8 million actually exceeded its revenue.
Most of Patterson’s career was spent as an executive in professional sports, notably the NBA, and he struggled to connect with university officials and supporters in the same way as Dodds.
One of his first missteps was an awkward public push to have the city of Austin help finance a new basketball arena after having not “invested a nickel” in the current Erwin Center over the previous 30 years. Those comments caught city officials off guard and forced the school to backtrack.
And several actions raised questions of whether he connected with his coaches.
At his exit news conference, former basketball coach Rick Barnes accused Patterson of leaking private conversations and demands that Barnes shake up his staff before he was ultimately fired.
Patterson also refused to engage in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Oklahoma State against Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline. Texas was not named as a party in the case, which is still on-going, but led to Strong and his staff being subjected to embarrassing depositions to describe who calls plays. By last weekend’s home-opening game against Rice, a plane flew around the stadium with a banner “Patterson Must Go.”
Patterson released the following statement Tuesday night:
Contributing: Steve Berkowitz, George Schroeder. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.