When evaluating the entirety of Texas Longhorns athletic director Steve Patterson's career, there are several central questions.
Did Patterson learn anything from a tenure as the Portland Trailblazers general manager that went poorly in everyone's estimation? And were the characterizations of Patterson by Oregonian columnist John Conzano fair or not?
Known as something of a hot take artist, Conzano wrote several excoriating columns about Patterson since his hire in November of 2013, with one takedown from late that year including this anecodote:
Patterson once threatened to fire a line of staffers at the practice facility because a trade proposal appeared in The Oregonian. He lined up the secretaries, demanding to know who leaked the deal. He roared, saying he'd fire them all to ensure he got the guilty party. One of the women cried.
What Patterson never knew, and to this day probably doesn't care to know, is that the source of the leak was -- himself. He'd accidentally left the trade proposal in plain view on a fax machine tray at the practice facility.
That was Patterson.
That column, and others, paint a picture of a man attempting to control with the media and his staffers who showed few, if any, people skills in his managerial position and furthermore suffered from paranoia and bouts of excessive pettiness. During one such incident, Patterson registered the domain name JohnConzano.com after he didn't like a column that Conzano wrote, then eventually transferred it to the writer after becoming worried that his purchase would become public.
All while the Trailblazers organization was burning down around him. Priorities.
So it was hardly surprising to hear rumblings out of the athletic department that Patterson had not learned from his time with the Blazers when he was reportedly the source of the leak about former head coach Rick Barnes having to decide whether to fire his assistants or lose his job himself.
Following the ugly end to Barnes' tenure, one donor wrote to BON's Peter Bean about the incident, saying that "there's a bull in our china shop." Bean himself called the tactic "a bush league, bullshit move."
On Thursday, Chip Brown of Horns Digest published a long, in-depth evaluation of Patterson's tenure detailing numerous ways in which the athletics director has alienated those around him, from members of the athletic department to coaches to donors to former UT-Austin president Bill Powers. In other words, virtually everyone associated with the Texas program.
Many of the complaints center around Patterson's perceived lack of interpersonal communication skills and penchant for commoditizing the Texas brand through attempts to increase profits and cut costs instead of actually supporting athletics programs.
Notable incidents include the resignation of the women's tennis coach after Patterson restricted coaches to 30 visits per year to Texas dining halls before incurring a cost of $10 per visit thereafter and the 10,000 Texas fans deciding not to renew their season tickets due to price increases. In fact, an open records request found that almost 60 percent of season-ticket holders experienced a price increase between 25 and 50 percent. All this after years of declining season-ticket sales.
While Patterson was busy raising ticket prices, he was also cutting the budget for student-athletes, including reducing the number of chartered planes and squeezing the salaries for the football support staff:
Sources said football coach Charlie Strong, who saw his and his coaching staff's personal ticket allotment cut from eight to four last year, fought to increase the salaries of his eight quality control coaches from $24,000 to $50,000 after last season.
Texas has the lowest salaries in the Big 12 for its quality control coaches - even behind last-place football finisher Kansas ($45,000).
Strong's request was denied by Patterson, and six of Texas' eight quality control coaches who had built relationships with the rest of the staff, left to find better paying jobs, the sources said.
Did someone mention the phrase "bush league" earlier?
Then there are the issues with fundraising. Texas has several massive projects coming up, most notably the construction of a new basketball facility and new football facilities, including the planned south end zone reconstruction and construction of new football practice fields.
The stakes are high right now and the relationships between donors and the athletic department must be strong in order to secure much-needed funding. However, that isn't the case, as Patterson reportedly alienated or flat-out ignored many donors to the extent that his wife is now handling a significant portion of donor relations.
Here's a particularly damning anecdoate about Patterson's lack of interactions with those crucial to the athletic department's future:
When TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte asked Patterson at the Texas-TCU football game last November, in front of media members, where Del Conte could find the suite of Dallas real estate mogul Mike A. Myers, whose name is on Texas' track and soccer stadium, Patterson didn't know.
How much of this is on Patterson and how much is a result of the often dysfunctional political climate that exists in the state of Texas and particularly at the state's flagship university? The answer to that question rests to some extent in the eye of the beholder.
Of course, there's also the question of Brown's credibility following some high-profile misses during the conference realignment saga several years ago. But the depth of research in this piece -- including "three dozen interviews" -- and the fact that other journalists like Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports have heard similar stories about Patterson's issues dealing with booster help alleviate those concerns -- there's simply too much here to disregard all or even most of it.
Should Texas consider firing Patterson? Based on the number of potential agendas at work here, it's difficult to say that with justifiable certainty, but there's a preponderance of evidence accumulating to suggest that Patterson can not or will not learn from his previous mistakes and is repeating them at Texas in a way that could cause significant longterm harm in a number of areas.
The type of harm that winning a few more football games won't rectify.
Given those significant personality limitations and detrimental professional proclivities, perhaps Patterson should be nothing more than a temporary steward of Longhorns athletics through a difficult transition period. With new coaches in place in both of the major sports, that time may be nearing an end unless he can repair all these damaged relationships and make fewer tone-deaf decisions.
With Patterson's track record, don't count on that.