Steve Patterson is Texas Strong

Erich Schlegel

While the #TexasStrong meme blew up social media sites Friday night, Texas athletic director Steve Patterson already brandished that brand.

Let's turn back the clock.

Steve Patterson as an accomplished Texas BA and Juris Doctorate alum ascended varied professional sports executive level positions, like his father who signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out of college, and achieved accomplishments his peers could only dream of.

Houston Rockets NBA championships? Check. Lead effort to zone and finance a modern football facility which ultimately hosted an NFL Super Bowl? Check.

These are but a few of the pro sports executive bucket list to-do's checked off by Patterson.

Then he hit a few speed bumps which can happen to a fast tracker. No problem. Patterson reset his plans and left those ranks to wind his way to the college athletics level.

Some might see that as a man on the downward path of a successful career. Not Patterson. The last 10 years saw transcendent changes in major college athletics and he reset a career to jump on that train. He leveraged his contacts while owner/president of Pro Sports Consulting to land what some may view as a head-scratcher of a position at Arizona State managing their sports complex facilities.

His right-place, right-time strategy paid off when through a series of Lemony Snicket unfortunate events the coaching search to replace fired head football coach Dennis Erickson with SMU's June Jones fell apart, resulting in the dismissal of then AD Director Lisa Love.

ASU President Michael Crow turned to Patterson to "fix this mess". Quickly promoted to AD, Patterson hired one Todd Graham. Graham's controversial departure from Pitt aside, his hiring has resulted in a resurgent Sun Devil football program which played for the Pac 12 conference title this season.

No one will deny that when opportunity intersects preparation some luck might follow. In the high stakes game of sports executives, networking is a big component of that preparation. Patterson's reputation is one of a hard-nosed, tough decision-maker more hell-bent on terms of a contract than spit on a hand-shake (Hi coach Briles). And Texas is just the environment for a seasoned veteran of these kinds of transactions.

When DeLoss Dodds announced his retirement, UT president Bill Powers quickly put in place a succession plan to find the very best replacement. Notwithstanding the 32-year shoe-filling requirements, Powers understood the most important job facing the new AD was the successful transition of a transcendent head football coach, who like Dennis Erickson, had fallen on hard times. But unlike Erickson, the Texas football coach was adored by most and loathed by many thus creating a chasm so wide that it cracked the big booster bonds so tightly joined.

Powers is a pretty smart fellow. He created a search committee and hired a leading executive search firm. The latter was instrumental in pulling together a select group of AD replacements. Enter Korn/Ferry International and it's Global Head of Sports Practice Jed Hughes to lead the vetting process. I'm sure Powers' familiarity with Hughes was directly related to participating in the Big 12 commissioner search process after Dan Beebe's contract was terminated.

Funny video bits and subjective hubris aside, Hughes is a renowned go-getter in his field. This is the same executive head hunter who suggested to then Women's ATP commissioner Larry Scott to pursue the Pac 10 opening after Scott turned down the Men's ATP position.

And Patterson was a known commodity to Hughes and was probably at the top of his top college program AD fill list. It would not surprise me in the least if Hughes didn't bias the UT AD search group ahead of long time, fanboy favorite and current West Virginia University AD Oliver Luck.

Patterson's departure from ASU was not without hurt feelings. Only days after confirming to president Crow (according to Crow) of no interest in the UT position, Patterson accepted the gig. The chance to return to his alma mater, along with a sizeable raise, was too good to pass up.

***

Holding the money interests at arm's length at a place like Texas is no easy task. Tasked with overseeing coach Mack Brown's retirement, Patterson set out to formulate a plan that would give everyone as much opportunity as possible to peacefully transition.

Texas had not hired a top three team coach in many years. The landscape has changed considerably since those days. And Texas needed this process to be managed, not brokered. Patterson's plan included hiring Hughes and naming a search committee. He also received the endorsement from President Powers to own the hiring process. All of these steps proved that Texas would in fact move from an old school, back-room decision process to a respectable one that will serve University for years to come.

Securing the services of Hughes was important in assisting the search process in answering the important questions facing Texas. Those exact questions weren't revealed but it's not a case of rocket science in identifying what they are:

  • Restore physical toughness and remove soft reputation
  • Thwart the recruiting momentum of Texas A&M
  • Have experience in winning championships
  • Have extensive college coaching experience
  • Lead organizations with dignity and class

Notice that in none those questions is nary a mention of media savvy or public relations polish. Texas had that in spades with Mack Brown. Admirable traits that served the university's interests in many ways except the most important.

Hughes is no ordinary agent man having coached defensively in the NFL for many years under the likes of Chuck Knoll, Bud Grant, and Bo Schembechler coaching the likes of HOF linebacker Jack Lambert and Mike Merriweather. He knows a thing or two of toughness. And his 42 years of experience have shown he knows a thing or two of right fit.

Of all the top drawer candidates mentioned in association with the job, Charlie Strong represents an opportunity to answer a question others have already achieved and that is one of hunger. At 53, Strong is by no means a young man but he sure looks and acts like one, is respected by players and coaches alike, and is maybe loyal to a fault. Those are important characteristics but the key to his ultimately being selected is Charlie is still looking for the pinnacle, that rarified air which requires a ceaseless energy and effort in each and every action.

And Patterson desires that same pinnacle helping to restore the toughness to Texas that will put the University back on the track as one of, if not the, king of college athletics.

***

While you cannot control the actions of individuals, Patterson nevertheless successfully oversaw a path that ultimately led to the hiring of his coach. A coach that Jed Hughes, according to unnamed sources, went to the mattresses over with the Texas selection committee in dramatic style over a perceived lacking resume.

It was smart of Powers to hire Jed Hughes as AD search consultant and it was smart of Powers to let Patterson take the reigns and hire Jed Hughes as coaching search consultant.

But it was the feats of mental strength and chops to stay that course and be the driving force to overcome every obstacle thrown Patterson's way that truly defined the process.

Only time will tell whether this coaching decision works out the best for Patterson and Texas. But early returns indicate that Texas selected the right man for the job at hand as the following testament reveals.

I know countless folks throughout college athletics who have worked with Charlie Strong on a daily basis and even more who know him. I have spoken with many and also recruits, former players, parents, high school coaches and more about the hire.

But overwhelmingly the statement most commonly made about Strong -- and this was true at South Carolina, then Florida, then Louisville, is that he's a "great leader of young men" and motivates to a high standard of excellence.

He's worked for Lou Holtz (Notre Dame and SC), Steve Spurrier (Florida) and Urban Meyer (Florida) and all speak glowingly about him. While he worked under Holtz the second time, Cal, Kansas and Vanderbilt wanted to hire him to lead their programs, if just wasn't the right time.

To me, he's a great fit for a program that aspires to the highest standard of excellence, Texas.

Strong and his staff will recruit, evaluate (think Al Golden wishes he had Teddy Bridgewater?) and coach the current players up. Toughness is a trademark of his teams, especially on defense, and that side of the ball will get fixed quickly.

He's outstanding, just as Mack Brown, at building relationships with recruits and their families. He's not the public speaker Mack is, but not many are. What he is is a great football coach, human being and leader.

I don't think the political aspects of this job will phase him, because I believe he will win and win big.

-JC Shurrburtt / National Recruiting Analyst - 247Sports

Is Texas the Joneses? That was fun but in the end an arrogant fool's errand. But we just might be the Patterson's. Nah. Let's just say we hired the right man for the job.

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