The Bellmont Stakes

New athletics director Steve Patterson talks Charlie Strong, paying athletes, and whether Texas will ever play A&M again.

The Bellmont Stakes

Tim Taliaferro: You were previously the athletics director at Arizona State. Coming to Texas, what’s been the biggest difference from your previous job?

Steve Patterson: The scale of media presence, the size of the brand, the national impact, the interest in the marketplace. We did Charlie [Strong]’s press conference and there were 30 cameras there. It’s great having your own network. The scale of those involved in the University from a donor perspective is larger, broader, deeper. The condition and scale of the facilities. The size of the staff.

So everything’s bigger?

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

You’ve made your first big hire. We’re sitting here two days after the official announcement of Charlie Strong. Did we get the guy we wanted?

Yeah, we got the guy we wanted. People said he wasn’t good with media, but he certainly knocked it out of the park the first couple of days.

Have there been any surprises for you?

It’s been interesting to watch the emotional reaction to Charlie’s hiring, the deep emotional reaction, particularly from African-American alumni. And the student athletes who are deeply, positively affected by that.

What sold you on Strong?

When I sat in the kitchen with him and looked at his family and listened to him, I saw that this guy could do a hell of a job here. I felt really good about hiring him for all the right reasons. I didn’t set out to make a political statement. I wanted to hire the best damn football coach I could.

May I ask you about Red McCombs and his comment (that he has since apologized for) that he felt like Strong’s hiring was a “kick in the face”?

My family has known Red for 40 years, and the great thing about him is you always know where he stands [laughs]. Sometimes we’ve had opinions that are aligned; sometimes I have had differing opinions with him. He asked me to talk to somebody, and I did. And that guy wasn’t interested in coaching here. But I think Red, deep in his heart, loves UT. That’s a good thing for him and a good thing for Texas.

You’ve talked about expanding the global brand of Texas athletics. What does that entail?

We need to look at how we carry the message of the University and of Texas athletics throughout the world. How do we project the University to help it attract professors, students, business interests, research grants? Things like that. We could do more with different languages. We could do more with different countries. We could do more with broadcast, merchandise, with attracting international athletes. There are tremendous opportunities south of the border.

What is your opinion on paying college athletes?

I am in favor of covering the full cost of attendance. If you want to get paid, go play in the pros. Having the full cost of attendance covered is what 99 percent of student athletes are after. To waste a lot of time talking about the less than 1 percent of people who are going to play professionally is really miscasting the discussion. We shouldn’t be the minor leagues for the major pro leagues. That’s not our role.

What do you think UT athletics will look like in 2050?

It will still be a leader in its position vis-a-vis the kind of services it provides its student athletes. Still have great facilities, be competitive for championships in every sport that we play. We need to continue to be able to do it ethically and with a brand that is well recognized around the planet and continue to grow on the trajectory that it has over the last decade.

Your predecessor, DeLoss Dodds, is still around. What is his role now?

DeLoss has been very supportive, very helpful. Whenever I have needed some sage counsel, he has been there to provide it. Wisdom is often a function of efficiency. Years ago, when I was working construction in the summers, I remember watching old guys move a sheet of plywood or some sheetrock or something much more efficiently than the 19-year-old that I was. I wound up with kinks in my neck and back because I was trying to muscle stuff into place. DeLoss is the kind of guy who gets more done in one phone call than a lot of guys can get done in six months.


What book are you reading?

I just started William S. Burroughs’ The Western Land. It’s the third in the trilogy. He’s an amazing writer. I did get a good English education here at UT.

Is that what you studied?

No, I was a business major.

What do you remember about your time here as a student?

Played plenty of intramurals. Got kicked out of Gregory Gym a couple of times.

For what?

Oh, you know, sometimes my mouth’s not what it should be around referees.

What are your hobbies?

I mostly just work. I do a little bit of yoga, occasionally play some golf. I like to ski, hike. But I didn’t get to ski this year.

Do you have a strong opinion about the A&M rivalry? Will it come back?

I don’t know. I think among certain folks there’s plenty of hard feelings. We’ve got to focus on our business, and if someday down the road it works out, it works out.

So there are hard feelings, but you don’t have any hard feelings?

There are. I wasn’t here for the separation [laughs]. I’m the new spouse or whatever. I wasn’t there for the divorce.

Now, let’s do a lightning round. I’ll say a word or a name, and you tell me the first thing that pops into your head.


Mack Brown.

Really classy guy.


Charlie Strong.

People are going to love him when they get to know him.

Rick Barnes.

Has had a lot of success.


I would hope we can find a way to govern all the distinct groups we have. But I’m not sure as a group we are all willing to take the responsibility that’s necessary to make that happen.

Bill Powers.

Love the guy.


[Laughs] Just make sure he doesn’t get loose.

Texas Exes.

Great neighbors. Love working with them.

If you had one message for Texas Exes, what would you want them to know?

There are great days coming for Texas Exes and UT athletics. I hope all Texas Exes are willing to stay involved, open-minded, and have the opportunity to come to enjoy an event with their families. That’s part of the University experience.

From middle: Patterson surrounded by media following a press conference in Bellmont Hall.

Credits: UT Athletics


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