TEXAS PRESIDENT CALLS PATTERSON RESIGNATION "MUTUALLY AGREED UPON"

A source told HornsDigest.com Texas president Greg Fenves met with Longhorns' football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart in the last few days to get feedback about their working relationships with Steve Patterson, and Fenves didn't like what he was told.

LATEST UPDATE (8 PM CT)

I'm told Texas president Greg Fenves met with football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart within the past week to discuss their relationships with athletic director Steve Patterson and that Fenves did not like what he was told.

One source said Strong told Fenves that Patterson had relayed to Strong it was Fenves' idea to move academic support for football out of Moncrief-Neuhaus (the football complex) and into the north end of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, where the rest of academic support for athletics is stationed.

Fenves then told Strong that Fenves had not been involved in any discussions about that and was appalled. Ultimately, academic support for football was kept in Moncrief-Neuhaus, because Strong vehemently opposed the move.

LATEST UPDATE (6:45 PM CT)

After announcing Steve Patterson's resignation Tuesday night, Fenves declined to discuss details of any severance package.

HornsDigest.com reported earlier Tuesday Patterson was offered a one-year buyout (roughly $1.4 million) or face the possibility of being fired for cause, according to two sources. Patterson was 22 months into a guaranteed, five-year deal paying him roughly $1.4 million annually.

Fenves said there wasn't one thing that led to Patterson's resignation but said "the risks of not accepting his resignation at this time and trying to have him stay outweighed the benefits. So we mutually agreed this was the right time."

"Athletics is the front door to the university, and we want to make sure it remains a welcoming front door," Fenves said

Fenves declined to go into detail.

"We are concerned about our fans and how they view the overall program and Longhorn athletics," Fenves said.

Interim AD Mike Perrin will serve through August 2016, earn $750,000 and will be introduced at a press conference on Wednesday.

Fenves said he is putting off any search for a new athletic director, adding such a search "is undetermined at this time." 

 

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LATEST UPDATE (1:20 P.M.)

After Texas president Gregory Fenves discussed his decision to fire athletic director Steve Patterson with regents Monday night, Fenves met with Patterson Tuesday morning and told him he could accept reassignment within the athletic department, or accept a 1-year buyout of roughly $1.4 million, or possibly face being fired for cause, two sources told HornsDigest.com.

It sounds like it could get messy for Patterson if he does not take the buyout. 

Patterson has nearly three years remaining on a five-year guaranteed contract that paid him roughly $1.4 million per year. 

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UPDATE

Sources confirmed to HD that Mike Perrin, a Houston trial lawyer and former Longhorn football player under Darrell Royal who is widely respected among key power brokers at Texas, will be named UT's interim athletic director. 

Sources say Perrin is an ideal choice by Greg Fenves because he has respect across the board from key Texas supporters.

I am told Mack Brown met with Fenves last week in an advisory role, but is not being considered at this time as an athletic director candidate.

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One day after HornsDigest.com reported Texas president Gregory Fenves was near done with athletic director Steve Patterson, UT regents and Fenves had a conference call Monday night to end Patterson's tenure as AD, two sources told HornsDigest.com. 

The sources told HornsDigest.com one of Fenves' top concerns is the number of donors - small and large - who have expressed they will no longer give to athletics as long as Patterson is in place.

“Fenves knows athletics is the front porch of the university,” one source close to the situation said. “So he can’t have people who want to give being turned off or turned away at the front porch.”

Fenves ascended from provost at Texas to school president in June. And there's been steady drama involving the athletic director since, sources said.

A report in June by HornsDigest.com detailed many of the complaints involving Patterson.

Those complaints have ranged from a lack of transparency in handling football season ticket holders and financing for a new tennis facility to poor outreach with donors and failed communication with his own department employees – including his own coaches.

None of UT’s major men’s coaches report directly to Patterson. Football coach Charlie Strong, basketball coach Shaka Smart and baseball coach Augie Garrido all report to associate AD Arthur Johnson, who then relays any of their concerns to Patterson.

Nike is in the final month of its exclusive negotiation period with Texas before a bidding war is likely to ensue (in October) between Nike and Under Armour to be UT’s shoe/apparel sponsor. A school’s shoe company can have an impact on recruiting, but Patterson has not consulted any of his coaches on this decision, sources said.

 

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Fenves declined to be interviewed for this story.

In response to an email question about his relationship with Fenves, Patterson said, “I'd say we have a good working relationship.”

Asked if he’s done what he’s been asked to do by Fenves, Patterson said:

“We are asked to run an athletic department that operates with integrity, competes at the highest levels, graduates our students and helps change these student's lives to effectuate positive outcomes so they can go out and change the world.

“We are asked to do this in an efficient and effective manner that shows we are good stewards of the funds we raise. Yes.”

But things appear to have gotten frosty from Fenves’ view of the relationship.

Multiple sources told HornsDigest.com Fenves has outlined for his athletic director numerous complaints that have been brought to Fenves’ attention about Patterson, who is in the third year of a guaranteed five-year deal paying him roughly $1.4 million annually.

Those complaints have come from dozens of angry donors, including some of Texas’ top givers, sources said. Those donors feel Patterson is running UT like a cold, unfeeling pro sports franchise that views UT faithful as faceless customers – not passionate alums.

As a result, 10,000 football season ticket holders didn't renew for 2015 after an average cost increase of 21.5 percent, coming off a 6-7 season and a five-year record of 36-28.

Texas generously announced a crowd of 86,458 (capacity 100,119) for the Longhorns' 42-28 win over Rice Saturday.

The Red River Shootout against Oklahoma on Oct. 10 - normally one of the toughest tickets in college football - has roughly 8,000 unsold tickets on the Texas side of the Cotton Bowl.

Men's basketball ticket prices have been raised an average of 7 percent by Patterson one year after he raised them an average of 4 percent.

Others have complained to Fenves that Texas is losing stature politically in the Big 12 and nationally, sources said, because Patterson doesn’t have the stature and/or relationships across college athletics of former 32-year, UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds.

The bulk of Patterson's career has been in professional sports (Houston Rockets, Texans and Aeros as well as president and GM of the Portland Trailblazers). Patterson had been a college athletic director for 18 months at Arizona State before getting hired at Texas.

Patterson came to rely on the communications perspective of Jeff Hunt, a Texas graduate who serves as the paid media consultant to the Pac-12, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and the Pac-12 Network.

Hunt used to be a partner with Paul Walker in Pulse Point, an Austin-based consulting group contracted by Powers' office beginning in 2010 (under Walker's name) for a fee of roughly $300,000 per year before Pulse Point was sold in 2013, sources said.

Hunt, a lecturer in UT's school of communications but not listed anywhere on the Texas athletic department payroll, became Patterson's closest confidante. Hunt helped plan the marketing strategy for the 2015 football season ticket renewal package as well as a survey of the media that led to the firing of longtime Texas sports information director John Bianco, sources said. 

Hunt tried to work closely with Austin American-Statesman reporters Brian Davis and Kirk Bohls in an attempt to secure favorable coverage for Patterson and Patterson's management of UT athletics, multiple sources said.

 

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Sources said Fenves has basically given Patterson a directive to repair any damaged donor relationships or communications and to basically make Fenves’ email stop filling up and his phone stop ringing.

But that hasn’t happened, sources close to Fenves say.

On Saturday, before the Rice game, an airplane banner flew over the Texas campus saying: “PATTERSON MUST GO”

While Patterson has been credited with hiring football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart as well as bringing beer and wine sales to Texas sporting events, sources say he has alienated some of the Longhorns’ biggest boosters.

Billionaire Houston trial lawyer Joe Jamail, 89, who has given tens of millions of dollars to the university and whose name is on the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium as well as UT’s swim center, canceled his suite at Texas football games this year.

Jamail declined to be interviewed about the decision. But those close to Jamail, who still practices law, say he’s disenchanted with the direction of UT athletics.

Texas is now using Jamail’s former suite to host the visiting team’s athletic director.

 

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Criticism of Patterson also includes replacing one athletic department employee with Texas roots after another, with outsiders loyal to Patterson. That practice has then led to some frustrated employees with Texas roots leaving on their own.

Last week, the latest to resign from the Longhorn Foundation, the fund-raising arm of Texas athletics, was former Texas Olympic gold medal swimmer Ricky Berens.

Berens’ departure follows that of David Onion, one of Texas athletics’ top fund-raisers, who left to raise money for UT’s law school; Andrew Hamor, who left to lead Kansas State’s athletics development; and Tyler Mariucci, the son of former football coach Steve Mariucci, who accepted a job at Texas only to reconsider and take a promotion at Maryland.

“While some individuals have retired and others have advanced to jobs elsewhere, a good deal is due to restructuring of our ticket operation, and that function moving out of the Foundation,” Patterson said. “The Longhorn Foundation is, rightly, focused on philanthropic fundraising.

The Texas athletics communications’ office, which has 10 staff positions, currently only has five filled.

After Patterson fired Bianco, a 23-year UT employee given five minutes to access his computer before it was shut off, four other staff members have quit.

Bianco’s dismissal, made without consulting football coach Charlie Strong, has left Strong without a trusted media adviser in a football season that got off to a turbulent start following a 38-3 loss to Notre Dame and Strong’s decision to change offensive play callers.

“It is an important position,” Patterson said of the media relations director in charge of football, which has added responsibility helping to coordinate the needs of the ESPN-run Longhorn Network. “Our focus is on the right decision, not the fast decision.” 

Bianco was let go three months ago on June 15.

 

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On Sept. 1, Patterson held a press conference touting the economic impact Texas athletics has on the city of Austin.

Fenves, meanwhile, was meeting with the editorial board of the Austin American-Statesman, where he was asked if he supported Patterson.

“Let me see how I should put this. I’m working with him, and we are continuing to work through issues,” Fenves told the Statesman editorial board of Patterson.

On Sept. 4, the night before the Notre Dame game, at a high-dollar Texas reception thrown by donors for Fenves at the top of the Hancock Tower in Chicago, Fenves acknowledged some key figures in the room.

He publicly thanked Texas chancellor Adm. William McRaven as well as those who helped organize the event. But Fenves made no acknowledgement of Patterson, who was also in the room.

Sources said there were no name tags for Patterson and his wife, Yasmine Michael, when they checked in for the reception for Fenves.

That allegedly led to a fit thrown by Michael, who has gotten very involved in donor relations at Texas. The lack of name tags also led to questions about if Patterson and Michael were invited, sources said.

I was invited to the President’s reception in Chicago last Friday, which we attended along with other events," Patterson said.

The question now weighing on Fenves seems to be how long Patterson will be in a position to be invited to future events as athletic director at Texas?


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