UT Blows a Couple Million on Athletic Director It Never Should Have Hired

The tenure of ex-University of Texas Athletic Director Steve Patterson was a barely mitigated disaster. On the job less than two years, Patterson resigned under duress September 15. When he quit, Patterson still had about four years left on his contract, worth $1.4 million annually. He's not going to get all of the $5.6 million or so left on his contract, but he's going to get a bunch of it. Thursday, the University of Texas Board of Regents approved a settlement with Patterson that will, according to reports, pay Patterson up to two full years' salary, depending on his compensation at his next gig. At least $1.4 million of the settlement is guaranteed.

Patterson was hired by UT after the retirement of long-serving Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds. Dodds was popular with boosters and in 2005 oversaw the UT football program's first national championship since 1977. Patterson, best known prior to getting the UT job for an often hilarious and always contentious tenure as president of the Portland Trailblazers, never seemed to grasp that glad-handing donors was an important factor in his being successful as a college sports executive. That might have been survivable if the rest of his behavior during his short tenure in Austin hadn't been so embarrassing.

To understand just how tone deaf Patterson was, it's instructive to look at the performance he gave at a series of New York City-held panels put together by the Big 12 conference to discuss the state of college sports. In the course of a single discussion, Patterson said sports that don't turn a profit — basically everything except football and men's basketball — were "just expenses." He decried revenue sharing between big schools like UT and smaller schools before being reminded that NCAA sports are, in theory if not in practice, not for profit. He topped all of that when he claimed that the value of a UT athlete's full scholarship places the student in the top third of household income in the United States — an assertion best summed up in a tweet from SB Nation's Ryan Nanni:  Patterson didn't treat his coaches any better. He restricted faculty meals in the athletic dining hall, leading to coaches having to pay to eat with their players. When football coach Charlie Strong asked Patterson for a van to take coaches' family members from their hotel to Arlington's AT&T Stadium when UT played UCLA at Jerryworld in 2014, Patterson turned his head coach down. Patterson cut the ticket allotment for coaches in half and raised ticket prices for football season ticket holders after a 6-7 season. Rather then trying to renew UT's longstanding rivalry with Texas A&M, Patterson chased games in Mexico and Dubai

Patterson leaves an athletic department that is largely in disarray. That football team has started the season at 1-2 and has yet to sell out its allotment of tickets for its annual game against the University of Oklahoma at the Texas State Fair, something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Rick Barnes, UT's longtime basketball coach, was fired after the 2014-2015 season, although his replacement, Shaka Smart, has been viewed almost universally as a good hire for the university.

University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven said Thursday that full details of the settlement with Patterson may not be available for a couple of weeks as the deal is wrapped up. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young