Welcome to Austin, Steve Patterson.
We think you’ll find our diverse, progressive city to have more than its share of high drama (have you met Rick Perry and Wendy Davis?), great restaurants (try Lotus and Evangeline Cafe, and we trust you already love Tex-Mex), super parks (brave Barton Springs if you dare), more music than you could ever fit on an iPod (we almost have more statues of musicians than football players) and lots of squabbling.
OK, the honeymoon’s over. Now get to work.
We’re hoping University of Texas President Bill Powers and his band of eight on the selection committee properly filled you in. There are some troubles here.
Patterson comes to Texas from Arizona State, where he’d been athletic director for all of 587 days if you don’t count Tuesday, since he accepted the athletic director’s position at Texas before noon. DeLoss Dodds will step down soon after 32 years in the chair, so Patterson’s got some size-22 shoes to fill.
Patterson’s not Dodds, but that’s OK. Dodds already did all the heavy lifting in terms of facilities, money and exposure. Unless Patterson can build a budget to rival China’s, he’d better reserve his best work for fixing what’s on the playing fields. That’s why he was hired over West Virginia’s Oliver Luck; Patterson brings more of a hard edge and businesslike approach to the job than Luck would have.
Texas couldn’t lose with either choice. But Patterson’s more than prepared after tending to every conceivable detail in the pro world.
“When he was with the Houston Rockets, Steve covered every facet,” said Carroll Dawson, a former general manager and assistant coach for the club. “I just can’t believe this guy will be surprised by anything. He’s done it all; he’s knowledgeable. He’s very innovative, very skillful. And he was very big on getting Reliant Stadium built.”
Patterson, though, will inherit a full plate.
Just like the man he’s succeeding.
When Dodds was driving his late-model Toyota to Austin from Kansas back in August of 1981, he stopped off in Dallas to phone the interim athletic director he was replacing. Bill Ellington, Darrell Royal’s former assistant coach and successor as AD in 1979, politely informed Dodds that he had only two problems.
“One is the basketball coach,” Ellington told Dodds from his ranch in Quinlan. “And the other is the football coach.”
Funny, how some things don’t change. Dodds fired Abe Lemons the next year and Fred Akers four years later.
With that eye-opening news as soon as he crossed the Red River, Dodds was introduced to Longhorns sports and the fiery political world that engulfs it. Patterson enters much the same high-wire athletic world, and it says here he’ll do just fine even though he might have more messes to deal with than a psychiatrist in Vegas.
In the coming months, the 55-year-old Wisconsin native will have to deal with the roller coaster football season and Mack Brown’s precarious future and tenuous job security, Rick Barnes’ careening basketball program and Augie Garrido’s inability to make the NCAA baseball tournament the past two years.
And he’ll have to figure out a place for a new basketball arena to let the Erwin Center make way for a medical school.
Oh, and any fallout from the looming possibility of a lawsuit brought against the school by former women’s track coach Bev Kearney for unlawful termination.
Other than that, it’s rocking-chair quiet here.
In many respects, Patterson is just the opposite of Dodds. Unlike Dodds, who has never been described as a people person who loves big crowds, Patterson is more media-friendly, more accessible. “Hey,” Dawson said, “he’s from Texas.”
Unlike Dodds, who got too close to his coaches, Patterson comes mostly from the pro world, which will serve him well as a quasi-front office exec who doesn’t mind making the hard decisions. “He treats it like a business,” said Tim Cassidy, ASU’s director of football operations. “If you do well, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, that’s the way the real world is.”
Unlike Dodds, who built Texas into a premier college sports franchise, Patterson comes from Arizona State, where the $63 million annual budget is dwarfed by Texas’ by more than $100 million. Of course, that’s also why Patterson just tripled his salary to $1.4 million.
Sure, he’d only been on the ASU job a year and a half, but he was the lead man in the hiring of football coach Todd Graham, and he did hire a softball coach and a men’s golf coach, so he’s not new to the process.
More importantly, he created a 425-acre developmental district to be used by retail stores, condos, a hotel and State Farm’s national headquarters, which will subsidize much of the $400 million renovation for ASU’s football stadium. And he’s helped decrease the athletic department’s need for a university subsidy from 26 percent of its budget to 17 percent.
“He reignited the entire athletic department,” Cassidy said. “University people, alumni, former players, donors — he really connected with all those people and generated excitement. He has great vision.”
Which is no big surprise to those who know Patterson.
He wasn’t born here. But like Royal, he got here as fast as he could.
So welcome, Steve. Now roll up your sleeves.
WELCOME TO TEXAS. YOUR PLATE IS ALREADY FULL.
Incoming Men’s Athletic Director Steve Patterson not only has big shoes to fill. He’s also got major questions to address at Texas:
1. Will Mack be back?
No one questions Mack Brown’s contributions — two national championship games, one title, a return to national prestige — but he’s 28-18 overall and only 16-15 in Big 12 games since the BCS title game loss to Alabama. At 6-2, Mack’s seat isn’t as hot now as it was at 1-2, but his and the football program’s future is Topic No. 1 with many fans.
2. Time for a men’s basketball change?
Rick Barnes is as tenured as Brown at Texas, and like Mack, he helped put Texas basketball on the national map. But it’s been awhile since T.J. Ford and Kevin Durant starred here, and the downward-spiraling Horns haven’t been NCAA tourney-relevant since 2008 — and they missed it completely last year.
3. What about Augie?
Texas’ venerable baseball coach is 74. Like Brown and Barnes, he made the Horns a major national player again — winning national titles here in 2002 and 2005, plus making five other College World Series trips. But baseball has fallen on harder times recently, missing out on the NCAAs the past two years and not even getting an invitation to last year’s Big 12 postseason tournament.
4. Don’t mess it up.
You’re going from an Arizona State athletic budget of $63 million to Texas’ $167 million. DeLoss Dodds has handed you the keys to a Ferrari. Will you keep the program humming, even if there are major coaching changes, both competitively and financially?