AD Steve Patterson out at Texas: 'Concerned about our fans'

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas -- The awkward dismissal ofTexasfootball coach Mack Brown came first, then the departure of athletic director DeLoss Dodds. That was followed by thefirings of school president Bill Powers and basketball coach Rick Barnes.

Now athletic director Steve Patterson, whose aggressive approach to raising money rankled fans and some major donors, is gone, too, after less than two years -- an abrupt end to his rocky tenure atop the nation's wealthiest athletic program that remains in turmoil.

Texas said in a statement Tuesday it had accepted Patterson's resignation and termed it a mutually agreed-upon decision.

University president Greg Fenves said Mike Perrin, a Houston attorney who played linebacker and defensive end for Texas in the late 1960s, will take over as interim athletic director after agreeing to a deal through August 2016.

Perrin will make $750,000 and will be introduced as interim AD on Wednesday morning.

A timetable for hiring the full-time replacement has not been determined, and a search may not begin "until early next year" because of the difficulties involved in talking to candidates during football season, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Fenves told reporters that Patterson's exit has been in the works for several weeks, but that no one issue or incident led to the move.

"If I had to put it in a nutshell," Fenves said, "we're concerned about our fans and how they view the program."

Patterson's departure came three days after a plane carrying a "Patterson Must Go" banner circled the football stadium before the Longhorns' first home game of the season againstRice.

"Athletics is vitally important to the Longhorn nation," Fenves said in the news release. "For 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," Fenves said.

Patterson's tenure lasted only 22 months.

"Steve Patterson is a talented sports executive who brought important ideas and changes to our athletics program," Fenves said in the statement. "We appreciate the good things he accomplished in his time here and wish him the best in future endeavors."

While he was responsible for two popular hires -- football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart -- Patterson raised ticket prices after a 6-7 football season, pushed coaches to raise money for endowed scholarships, and created a fan "loyalty" program to prioritize ticket purchases that rewarded some longtime donors. It also pushed some longtime season-ticket holders out of their seats.

And while Strong still enjoys the support of fans, he is 7-8 overall in his second season. Smart hasn't yet coached a Texas game.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, former Texas coach and ESPN analyst Mack Brown, Louisville AD Tom Jurich and NCAA executive vice president and former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck were said to be among possible candidates to permanently replace Patterson, sources told ESPN's McMurphy earlier Monday.

ButBowlsbyis not believed to be interested, according to a report, which cited an unnamed source. And Brown told ESPN on Tuesday he has "had no conversations with anyone about the athletic director position."

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Brown, who has had the title of special assistant to the UT president for the past year and a half, has met with Fenves but is not being considered for the permanent job.

Jurich and Luck were both candidates to replace Dodds in 2013.

"I had a couple of conversations with Greg since he took over [in June]," Brown said, referring to Fenves. "We have had absolutely no discussions about the athletic director position. It was more about his vision moving forward at the university."

Fenves previously met several times with Patterson after complaints from fans and donors, which had reached as high as Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster.

Fenves and Patterson met briefly Tuesday morning and Patterson was told he was fired, The Associated Press reported, citing unnamed sources. He has a guaranteed contract through 2014 that pays him at least $1.4 million per year. Fenves declined comment to a group of reporters outside his office Tuesday afternoon.

Patterson was supposed to be a hire that would calm turbulent waters at Texas.

The university had put together a star-studded committee to find a replacement for Dodds, a powerful figure across the Big 12 and nationally. An impressive interview won him the job over Luck, who many had considered the favorite for the job.

Pressure to fire Brown was already reaching a fever pitch before Patterson arrived in November 2013. Brown was fired barely six weeks later in the first of several major departures.

Powers, a key player in the Big 12, was forced to resign in 2014 after years of clashes with regents. By March 2015, Patterson had also fired Barnes, even after the coach led the Longhorns to the NCAA tournament for the 16th time in 17 seasons.

Both Fenves and Perrin expressed support for current Longhorns in the news release.

"I'm honored to be asked by President Fenves to serve as interim men's athletic director," Perrin said. "I will focus on helping the university find the best fit in a future director while listening to all the needs of the Longhorn family," said Perrin. "As a former UT student-athlete, longtime fan and volunteer with Texas Athletics, I've worked closely with faculty, students, alumni, coaches and administrators. I will continue to do so in an effort to bring the Longhorn nation together."

Patterson broke barriers by hiring Strong away from Louisville, making him the first black head football coach at Texas, which had a long history of segregation and racism. He also pushed for alcohol sales at athletic events, scheduled a men's basketball game in China next season and talked of someday scheduling an international game for the Longhorns football team.

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.

And several actions raised questions of whether he connected with his coaches.

At his exit news conference, 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 ongoing, but led to Strong and his staff being subjected to embarrassing depositions to describe who calls plays.

Patterson, as part of the news release, thanked "this team, our student-athletes and the entire Longhorn family for having given me this opportunity to serve."

"After considerable discussion, The University of Texas at Austin President, Gregory Fenves, and I have agreed that our great university will be best served by a new men's athletic director," Patterson said in the statement. "Accordingly, I have agreed to step aside effective today. Change is never easy, but I have every confidence that UT Athletics will continue to thrive as it embraces the future. I want to thank President Fenves for the graciousness he has displayed throughout this process."

Patterson's aggressive moves to raise money for the department also came under criticism.

Those criticisms are similar to those of former Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, who resigned last year in part because of his businesslike approach to the job, and who critics said commodified Michigan's football tradition, raising student ticket prices to football games. As with Patterson, a new university president took over after Brandon, the former CEO of Domino's Pizza, was hired in 2010.

"I am very proud of what we have accomplished in a relatively short period of time, including the historic addition of coaches in football and basketball, improvements to ticketing operations, facilities and other initiatives that will greatly benefit our Longhorn student-athletes and the many fans who care deeply about them," Patterson said.

An awkward public push by Patterson 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 is largely considered to be one of his first missteps on the job. His comments caught city officials off guard and forced the school to backtrack.

The football program has gone 1-8 against ranked opponents during Patterson's tenure.With a win percentage of .561 since 2010, Texas football is in the midst of its worst decade since the 1930s (.515).

Patterson's departure comes at a critical juncture in Texas' negotiations for a new shoe and apparel deal, as the exclusive negotiating window for Nike, which has had the contract since 2000, ends Oct. 1. The deal itself expires in June 2016.

Adidas and Under Armour are expected to make bids for those rights that will surpass Michigan's recent deal with Nike ($11.2 million a year). Only Notre Dame is believed to have a larger deal on a yearly basis.

Patterson, who has undergraduate and law degrees from Texas, was hired by former UT president Bill Powers. Before his time with the Longhorns, Patterson spent 19 months as AD at Arizona State. He also worked for the Houston Texans (1997-2003), Houston Rockets (1989-93) and Portland Trail Blazers (2003-07).

"As a Longhorn myself, a graduate of the University and its law school, I want nothing but the best for my alma mater, and I wish President Fenves and everyone at UT-Austin well as we continue the journey," Patterson said. "I leave behind a motivated and dedicated team committed to the world-class standards that all Longhorns expect."

ESPN Staff Writers Max Olson, Darren Rovell and Brett McMurphy and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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