Prominent personnel changes and arena developments will be on the plate early for the University’s new men’s head athletic director Steve Patterson.
The University hired Steve Patterson from Arizona State last month to replace DeLoss Dodd, who will be retiring at the end of the year. With recent struggles in the school’s major three sports — football, basketball and baseball — Patterson will be forced to make decisions soon.
“I think when you come into any organization you want to take some time to evaluate the culture, the people that are here and where the organization is heading,” Patterson said at his introductory press conference on Nov. 7. “I want to help extend the brand of UT throughout the United States and internationally. It’s got all the resources it needs. It’s got some great people that have been working in it for a long time, and I just hope to continue to grow that.”
Patterson earned both his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1980 and a law degree in 1984 from UT. The first words he spoke in his introductory press conference were, “It’s nice to be home.”
Patterson boasts a lengthy professional sports resume. He led the Houston Rockets to prominence before its first NBA Championship in 1994, helped develop Houston’s Reliant Stadium as senior vice president for the NFL’s Houston Texans from 1997-2003 — a project that was the first in NFL history to be completed within budget and on time — and developed the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers into a perennial contender in his stint from 2003-07.
“The main reason Steve has been a success is because of his strong character and unprecedented business acumen,” said Rocky Harris, Arizona State senior associate athletics director. “One attribute that really stands out about Steve is that he is an outstanding listener. He makes decisions with input from others and not in isolation.”
Arizona State hired Patterson in 2012, a year after serving as the program’s chief operating officer. The Sun Devils’ football program emerged as a nationally ranked Pac-12 title contender after amassing a combined record of 31-31 from 2007-2011. Harris said the football team cut classroom absences from 141 in fall 2011 to 19 this past fall and the team increased total revenue by 37 percent.
Patterson’s ability to build stadiums on time is another thing that will assist the basketball program. The Frank Erwin Center will be torn down in the next eight to 15 years to make room for a planned expansion of the Dell Medical School, and UT will have to find a new home for its basketball programs.
At Arizona State, Patterson planned and began a remodeling of Sun Devil Stadium, the move of the baseball team to Phoenix Municipal Stadium and the move of the golf team to Papago Golf Course.
Arizona State’s student-athlete graduation rate recently hit 82 percent, the highest ever, which is almost 20 percentage points higher than Texas’ 62.67 percent combined graduation rate for football, basketball and baseball.
“[Patterson] has a greater understanding of the student-athlete experience, and how important it is to treat them like gold,” Harris, who also worked with Patterson with the Texans, said. “They are students and their parents are trusting us to set them up for long-term success. [Patterson] is passionate about impacting the lives of young people.”
But there’s little doubt that Patterson’s first series of decisions when he takes over fully will have to do with personnel, including Texas’ three most prominent coaches: football head coach Mack Brown, men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes and baseball head coach Augie Garrido.
Patterson will have more resources to work with: Last year, UT spent more than double what Arizona State did — $138.3 million compared to $65.6 million — and brought in almost $100 million more.
Harris said he believes Patterson’s willingness to make big changes will propel Texas to the level it has become accustomed to.
“Steve is a change-agent who will come in and make the appropriate changes to make UT even stronger,” Harris said. “Once he determines the right people and structure, Steve will build on a sustainable business by focusing on long-term goals like endowment while putting pressure on the department to succeed today on the field, in the classroom and in business.”