Patterson focused on expanding UT brand

For roughly 45 minutes on Tuesday, Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson sat at a table full of media and answered a wide-array of questions pertaining to Texas athletics, conference realignment, and his thought on student-athletes becoming university employees.

Here's a collection of what Patterson said excluding talks of scholarship endowment and new basketball facilities, which Kevin Flaherty will have stories on tomorrow.

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Patterson is adamant about building the Longhorns' international brand.

It's a point he's emphasized since taking over for DeLoss Dodds and one that he helped set in motion with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who announced on March 15 that Texas and Washington will play a regular season men's basketball game in China on Nov. 14, 2015. It will mark the first major American sports contest – college or professional – to play a regular-season game in China.

"I will be talking with [Pac 12 commissioner] Larry Scott this afternoon to start putting definition on this trip," he said. "It's a great opportunity. It's a real first for college basketball to have two US teams playing the first regular season game in China. I think it's a great way to activate our alumni over there, potential donors."

Patterson reiterated his desire to expand UT internationally on Tuesday, and said he's begun conversations with Dubai about possibly sending teams to the Middle East.

"Dubai is a place that wants to use sports to help put itself on the map," he said. "We are beginning some conversations to see where they lead."

Patterson cited the connections Texas alumni have to the oil and gas industry as more the reason to entertain the idea of playing in Dubai.

To that point, Patterson said it's not his objective to move home games to neutral sites (vs. Notre Dame in 2016, vs. USC in 2018).

"We're not going to decrease below the number of home games we have now," he said.

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Patterson, as has grown customary for him since taking over, was asked if he'd be interested in reigniting the rivalry between Texas and Texas A&M at some point. While not shooting the idea down, he did say UT was "more concerned with growing the footprint" of the university first.

"I look at it as there is a lot of great tradition with the rivalry with Texas A&M," he said. "At some point in the future does it make some business sense, some branding sense to play again? I don't know, it's not at the top of my list."

He went on to say that "until there's a case made that it makes sense to play a game against another school in the state of Texas, I don't see us focusing on it."

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In conversations Patterson has had while at UT, and also while the AD at Arizona State, he does not get the sense that there is "a lot" of interest in realignment.

That's in part to how difficult conferences are finding it, or would find it, to manage an expanded geographical footprint.

"A lot of the conference realignment that happened over the last few years was driven by television ratings that were largely a function of enhanced football and men's basketball on various networks," he said. "I think what people are finding now where the geographic footprint of conferences has expanded, in those environments, they are seeing cost associated with trying to run 20-plus teams around the country on a much larger scale, and across a broadcast network on many more time windows, creates a set of costs, both financially and in terms of academics, that they weren't fully anticipating."

Patterson went on to say it's like Business 101, "there's no free lunch."

He also doesn't envision the Big 12 adding anymore teams anytime soon saying you need both a cultural and geographical fit.

"If you are going to add somebody what is the benefit they are going to bring," he said. "And does that benefit outweigh the cost?"

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Patterson had some strong words in light of the recent National Labor Relations Board ruling that players at Northwestern qualify as employees. Simply put, he sees Texas' student-athletes as just that: student-athletes.

"Our student-athletes have to gain admission into the university, they have to keep their academics up, they have to stay on track toward graduation," he said. "If they don't they don't get to stay student-athletes. I think what many universities do to help their athletes graduate on time, those efforts are often being adopted universities more broadly to make that happen."

Patterson said that professional athletics is something entirely different. If you want to be an employee take it up with those respective professional leagues, not universities.

"If you want to go play minor league baseball out of high school on your way up to the majors, you can make that decision," he said. "You can live on $12 thousand a year. If you decide that's a better existence and a better path for a long-term outcome for your career in baseball and after baseball. Even the one percent that goes to the pros, their average career is four years. So they have a half-a-century on average after they are done. What are they going to do with the second half-century of their life?

"If you want to decide that that's a better life than coming to the University of Texas, Augie [Garrido] might get on your tail a little bit, God bless you. Go do it. Knock yourself out."

Patterson went on to say that those wanting to play professional football out of high school need to take it up with league commissioner Roger Goodell, the owns and union.

"That's your place to go if you want to be an employee," he said. "If you want to go play professional basketball, go to the D-League. Knock yourself out. That's your place if you want to be an employee, if you want to be a professional.

"This is not your place. This is a free country and you can make that choice all day long. We are student-athletes. This is student-athletics."

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The most immediate project for the athletic department is to work on its tennis facilities, which will be torn down once the Dell Medical School is built.

Patterson said the tennis programs will use the rec courts on 51st and Guadalupe once the Penick-Allison Tennis Center is torn down.

In addition to that, as it relates to Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium, Patterson said they are focused on finishing up the north end zone and club space on the east and west side.


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