AUSTIN (AP) – New Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said Thursday he doesn’t intend to “make change just for the sake of making change” at the nation’s wealthiest athletic department and he didn’t discuss specific Longhorns’ sports during his job interview.
“I don’t see it as a situation where we need a dramatic turnaround,” Patterson said at his introductory news conference on campus. “I don’t anticipate monstrous changes to the department.”
Patterson doesn’t yet have a contract and won’t until at least next week when the university’s board of regents is expected to approve him as the replacement for DeLoss Dodds, who built Texas into one of the most powerful athletic departments in the country over the last 32 years.
“This is a premier program, it has been for decades,” Patterson said. “We want to compete for championships, day in and day out.”
Patterson inherits a department that has struggled to win at the level fans expect of a program so rich with resources.
Mack Brown’s football team has fallen back into the pack in the Big 12 after playing for the 2009 national championship. Men’s basketball had its first losing season since 1997-1998. And baseball, a perennial power, missed the Big 12 tournament last season.
Brown, basketball coach Rick Barnes and baseball coach Augie Garrido all have been at Texas more than 15 years and their recent struggles have led to speculation their jobs are on the line.
Patterson noted Texas has “very successful coaches.”
When asked what he sees as his biggest challenge, Patterson said he wants to “take some time to evaluate the culture, the people that are here, the way the organization is heading .. I don’t see this as an organization that is over the ditch.”
Patterson met with department staff Thursday morning and planned to meet with coaches in the afternoon.
Patterson, 55, was hired away from Arizona State, where he had led the Sun Devils athletic department for less than two years. Prior to that, he had executive roles with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA and the Houston Texans in the NFL. He also earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Texas.
“It’s nice to be home,” Patterson said. “(Texas) is a great brand. It’s a great life-changing place.”
Patterson will find Texas a challenge in ways beyond the wins and losses.
Although respected, the school’s rivals have sometimes felt Texas carried too much weight in conference decisions. How Patterson maintains relationships with the Big 12 and its members will be watched closely.
Former women’s track coach Bev Kearney, who was forced to resign after revelations of a romantic relationship with one of her former athletes, has filed state federal discrimination complaints and has threatened to sue the university.
Patterson’s boss, school President Bill Powers, is in the middle of his own fight with some regents who want to replace him. Three regents, including Steve Hicks, one of the members of the advisory committee that interviewed Patterson, were involved in efforts last January to gauge Alabama coach Nick Saban’s potential interest in coming to Texas.
Texas fans also will be eager to know if the Longhorns will resume the regular-season rivalry with Texas A&M, which broke up in 2011 when the Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC.
And Patterson will also have to study where to build a new basketball arena amid plans for a new medical school. And it won’t be long before it will be time to negotiate a new contract for the annual rivalry football against Oklahoma in Dallas.
That game is scheduled to be played at the Cotton Bowl through 2020 and the schools will again have to decide whether to keep it there or break tradition by either moving to another neutral field or making it a home-and-home series.
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