Steve Patterson Out as Longhorn Athletic Director

Sep 15, 2015

From the Texas Tribune: Steve Patterson, the controversial athletics director at the University of Texas at Austin, is leaving his job, a source confirmed Tuesday.

The news was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

The decision comes after months of speculation about Patterson's future. Patterson, who was hired as AD in November 2013, made two high-profile and widely applauded coaching hires — football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart — but also generated ire from many fans and donors, who complained about his impersonal style and a perceived narrow focus on making money for the department.

Making matters worse for Patterson, the Longhorn football team has struggled this year, starting 1-1 with a big loss to Notre Dame, after going 6-7 last season.

Patterson's contract runs until August 2019 and pays $1.4 million per year, plus performance incentives and other benefits. The source said that the terms of his exit are still being negotiated but should be finalized by the end of the day.

Patterson came to UT-Austin from Arizona State University, but he spent most of his career before that in pro sports. He was the president of the Portland Trailblazers basketball team and also worked for the Houston Texans football team and the Houston Rockets basketball team.

At UT-Austin, many fans complained about increased ticket and parking prices for football games. Meanwhile, program insiders were frustrated with personnel and management decisions, including the firing of popular Assistant Athletics Director John Bianco, who handled media relations for the football team.

Speculation about Patterson's possible departure grew this summer around when new UT-Austin President Greg Fenves took over the job. Last week, Fenves was interviewed by theAustin American-Statesman editorial board and declined to express support for Patterson.

Patterson's exit will probably add to the already high costs of high-profile job changes among top UT-Austin athletics department officials. Patterson was involved in pushing out longtime basketball coach Rick Barnes this year. The Longhorns said at the time that they'd be paying Barnes a $1.75 million buyout.

Longtime head football coach Mack Brown also received a big payment when he left under pressure after the 2013 season. The school paid him a $2.75 million buyout and gave him a one-year, $500,000 job as a special assistant to then-President Bill Powers.

If UT-Austin ends up paying all of Patterson's contract, it could be on the hook for more than $5 million.

Buyouts like the ones UT-Austin has paid are common in big-time college athletics. And if anyone can afford it, it's the Longhorns, which run the most profitable athletics department in the country. But the combination of costs UT-Austin has incurred in recent years is somewhat unusual.