Steve Patterson, Mack Brown & The Future of Texas Longhorns Athletics

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

Winter Winners is coming.

Running a blog for several years for hardcore Texas fans gives you access to some information from some pretty interesting people.

I usually don't write about it, because I don't want to compromise anyone and I'm not interested in being Internet Rumor Guy. It detracts from sports and fun and it attracts a type of reader that I generally despise. But sometimes I share things so that it can help make sense of the big picture.

The fact is that we are all deeply interested in intel when it's about setting the course for UT Athletics over the next two decades. I just called gossip "intel." That makes it cool and OK. We're operatives now. My simple rebranding now allows us to behave like a small town sewing circle without a hint of self-consciousness.

The Texas AD Search

Understanding the dynamics here are key to understanding the current situation with Mack Brown.

West Virginia's Oliver Luck was indeed the clear front-runner. It was his job to lose.

Steve Patterson took the job away.

Oliver Luck came into the process with the assumption that this was a perfunctory tire-kicking to get sign off from all parties. His mission: don't lose the job. He would show deference to the greatness that is UT, be politically astute, do nothing incendiary or possibly offensive to any egos. A smart approach under most circumstances, particularly when dealing with a proud institution.

And a classic misreading of the room.

The committee - a perceptive bunch, and a group not exactly impressed with where Texas Athletics is right now - wanted an assertive, fearless assessment, a bold new course to address a stale bureaucracy more interested in self-preservation than the actual mission. Not a cautious toe dipped in the water, fear of being branded Kingslayer, and a desire for sign-offs from every living alumni before making substantive change. Luck also intimated that he'd prefer UT wield the sword on popular coaches - if necessary - before his arrival so that he wouldn't have to alienate any of the fan base and create division.

That didn't sit well.

Patterson impressed everyone with his intelligence, his grasp of the big issues in college sports, the homework he'd done on the pressing issues specific to UT. He came in pretty much brandishing an org chart for the new direction of UT Athletics. He had thoughts on obvious inefficiencies in the current administrative structures, offered his blueprint for consolidation, wowed them with his capital projects bona fides, and expressed not caution, but genuine excitement that he'd be picking new head coaches in every revenue sport early in his career.

Would he remove popular long-time coaches if required? Sure. He understands that you don't get to rule from the castle without spilling blood on the walls. But he's not politically impractical. Nor was this a single issue mandate hire.

The fact that he has extensive pro sports and capital projects experience (Blazers, Rockets, Texans) also supported the sense that he was well-grounded in the future challenges of the job when it comes to moving around and optimizing assets - whether in personnel, dollars, or facilities.

His boldness won the day. And the more research I do on Patterson, the more impressed I am with his background. He's done a lot of things that translate well to his current role.

The takeaway?

Steve Patterson is being brought in to remake UT Athletics. Everything is on the table. He's not going to be indiscriminate, but there is change coming. Any assumptions about the future based on the current status quo are useless. You're using someone else's playbook to predict his game plan.

Mack Brown's Future

A few weeks ago Oliver Luck was the clear frontrunner for the AD job. Then he wasn't. And the people who told you that it was Luck's job were the most plugged in and reliable. They were wrong precisely because they were plugged in. They can't control what happens in the room with live bullets. If that makes sense, read on. If it doesn't, CTRL ALT DELETE and save us the trouble.

Texas should have a new football coach in 2014. I can't get a consistent answer on the mechanics of how that happens. Which makes me less certain about that fact. Because the how makes the when real. However, good, reliable people have told me that Mack can read the writing on the wall, but he's simply playing it out to get what he wants at the end. Or hoping for a miracle. That miracle died in Waco.

Equally reliable people tell me that he's resisting with all he's got but will be persuaded when he sees the forces aligned against him this week. I find this view the most persuasive.

However, human beings get to act on that decisional equation even when all evidence points to one place. And they're not all rational actors.

Here's the insane part:

The Baylor game result mattered. What that says about us from a process and evaluation standpoint is discouraging (or how much political capital teeters on a knife's edge) and I won't get into the utter stupidity of a n of 1 - whether good or bad - dictating the future course of Longhorn football or in evaluating the totality of Mack's performance since 2010, but Art Briles did us a favor in cutting the legs out from Mack's biggest proponents.

The orchestrated Keep Mack movement in the press before the Baylor game wasn't coincidental. But Brown didn't get it done and they had no traction to build on. Which they would have had - make no mistake. Witness the idiots who were calling Mack Brown Big 12 Coach of the Year before the game and are now calling for his head. They would have been on the Keep Mack bandwagon if Texas had emerged with a flukish win.

The final bridge to cross is that Brown's self-definition is deeply tied into being head coach at Texas. He digs the ribbon-cutting. He likes being Mayor of Burnt Orange. He likes being in charge of stuff and dispensing favors. And 5.4 million dollars a year for not much work (escalating 100K a year to 6 million in 2020) is a pretty powerful antidote to some fans saying poisonous things about you. He has the salesman's and athlete's capacity for intense self-delusion. He still thinks he will turn it around. He's also pissed off and self-pitying over the fact that his dramatic turnaround of the program in '98 and a MNC doesn't buy him more understanding for what he believes to be a normal, explicable program hiccup that all coaches experience (hey, DKR had his, too).

That all written, I'm told Patterson (and others) will ask Brown to step down with triumphal arches erected in his name, a press conference saying it was his idea all along, a bunch of goodies, and a big parade...or, failing that, he'll relieve him of duties and Texas will pay his 2.75 million dollar buyout. That becomes an interesting game of chicken if Mack decides that he doesn't know what do with his free Saturdays.

The real intrigue happens in the negotiated grey area between those two options - Brown's representative (read: Jamail) digging in and threatening that he won't go easy and will split the fanbase in order to wrest more goodies from the Bellmont trough; Texas reminding them nicely that they're out of touch with common fans and they could make it so he goes out looking petty if they leak his demands and politicking.

The tension between those options means Brown will end up with more than his 2.75 million dollar buyout (that extra 750K courtesy of Dodds needlessly renegotiating in 2012) and some sort of symbolic baby-kissing role at UT from a corner office. One more good feed at the Bellmont trough, Mack still gets to be symbolic Mayor of Burnt Orange, and he gets to play around with analyst gigs.

After connecting all of the dots, I believe Brown is gone. I don't know it. Because at least one irrational human being's ego will influence how and when it happens. And if the Replace Brown camp has pinned all hopes on Saban as Magic Bullet, then dozens of irrational actors enter the picture...

Saban

I have a huge problem with how this has been handled from the start and the false construct of Saban as the magic bullet instead of dealing with Brown as the primary issue and then moving to the hiring phase. That written, the mutual interest is obviously real. I've heard everything from "it's all but a done deal, just give it time and pray Powers doesn't kibosh it" to "this is a clever shakedown of Bama by Saban's agent (Sexton) and a chance for Nick to signal to lunatic Bama fans to back off." The latter strategy has certainly worked for Nick. Right now, Alabama has a 7 million dollar a year contract re-up sitting on Saban's desk. A million dollar a year raise.

Does Saban as a temporary solution fit what we know of Patterson? Saban may be a bulletproof hire. Is he a bold one? Or is Patterson viewing this as a quick, popular fix so that he can evaluate a new (or more compelling) slate of candidates in 2017, and move on to the dozen other tasks on his immediate agenda? If Saban came, I wouldn't be surprised if his successor was on the new staff.

In any event, Powers will need to be sold on Saban - not just because of a mercenary reputation, but because this was the guy that Wallace Hall tried to use to embarrass him a year ago. Maybe his advocates can contrast Saban's APR to Mack Brown's recent efforts and remind Powers that Saban didn't know UT's power struggles.

Dunno here. Mongo only pawn in game of life. I could name 30 coaches right now off of the top of my head who would be an improvement over the status quo.

Basketball

Patterson is a capital projects whiz. We'll build a basketball arena close to campus. The question is whether it's dedicated or multi-functional. He's also far more willing than Dodds to challenge the absurd Foundation seating situation and our unimaginative marketing of the program. The new arena is a good way to start over in that process. The seating fight will be amusing and ugly.

Barnes is coaching for his job right now. We're not going to do an aggressive capital project for a bad basketball team. Our basketball fandom is a lot less resilient than football and Patterson understands that generalist fans need to watch an entertaining winner. I don't know what the success metric or the evaluation timeline is for Barnes.

Baseball

Baseball is a minor sport in the big picture, but it's a source of traditional Longhorn pride and a modest revenue plus when it's kicking ass. The current state of affairs can't go on much longer. The sense is that Augie's hands will need to be pried off of the line-up card, but it may take a year or two. I personally love Augie and what he represents, but it's time.

The Kearney Lawsuit

I've made my opinion known on it. Whatever your feelings on it, don't be surprised if UT refuses to settle, goes to discovery, and uses what it potentially reveals, however embarrassing in the short term, to document the mess in women's athletics to take away their political protection, providing the disinfecting sunlight needed to enable a new direction with a thorough house cleaning. I wont get into the details, but it's a disgrace over there.

People have avoided taking on the management nightmares in Women's Athletics - starting at the top with Plonsky -mainly out of political fear and the department wide managerial willingness to use gender/sexuality as behavioral teflon. That should be coming to an end. Which is great news for the actual Women's Programs and athletes, who should have been the focus all along. Bless the Jerritt Elliott's who succeed anyway.

Random Stuff

Expect more non-revenue program resource consolidation across all departments. Not just for efficiency and cost savings but to break down little fiefdoms. Dodds was understandably spooked dealing with women's programs because of the volatile personalities over there. And his default solution to most territorial issues was to give everyone more money, power, or head count to buy compliance or silence. It guaranteed that the very squeakiest wheels always got grease. Which encouraged more squeaking. And more bloat.

On the men's side, attempts at consolidation under football were unsuccessful, largely because the other male coaches felt (rightfully) that the football support staff heads were often incompetents. See S&C, Academics. Which is why we have separate branches set up for all other sports and football in its own little silo. Patterson will create a reporting structure for adults that still allows special carve-outs for the revenue sports in defined areas (analyst positions in support staff etc). That means the days may be numbered for the football hothouse flowers who have thrived only in the Mackvironment. Though Brown could use parting negotiations as an opportunity to look out for some of his cronies.

Texas might add a sport or two with the cost-savings created by the reorganization. I suspect it will be Olympics relevant.

We will play A&M again unless the general fan uproar is outrageous. I think Patterson may be misreading the enormous gulf in opinion between Big Donors and Joe Fan on this issue. I'm not wild about playing A&M right now, but I'm not going to make it my single issue for evaluating him.

Bill Powers wants a good football coach and is certainly no enemy of UT athletics. He understands what athletics mean to fund raising and general campus morale. Nor does he believe that good athletics are antagonistic to elite academics. And most UT professors agree with him. But he's also going to kibosh anyone that strikes him as unseemly. Defining what that means is the rub. He needs to understand, though, that preventing Mack Brown's replacement will move many Athletics First types angry with Mack over to the Sandefer camp or, at least, make them less likely fight on Powers' behalf. And that's a more important battle for him to win.

Oklahoma wants to do home and home in 2020. We don't.

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