The Next AD at Texas must have enough people skills to befriend boosters and keep them happy. The Next AD must display the business savvy to balance budgets without appearing to be a penny-pinching lout.
The Next AD must radiate a welcoming aura to alumni and fans while understanding the formula for success in college athletics is not the same as the path to prosperity in professional sports.
In other words, Texas must find the opposite of Steve Patterson, the Former AD who tendered his resignation Tuesday in lieu of being fired after 22 tumultuous months on the job.
During a Wednesday news conference in Austin, school President Gregory L. Fenves introduced interim athletic director Mike Perrin, a Houston-based attorney who will oversee the department “at least through August” while Fenves seeks a permanent successor to Patterson.
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To help Fenves in his search, here’s a handy checklist for what he must seek, and avoid, in efforts to assure the Next AD is the right person to make the call, at a later date, on the direction of the football program under coach Charlie Strong and other ticklish issues that will surface in Austin.
In no particular order, the Next AD:
Cannot be Mack Brown. Although the former Texas football coach has a gift for schmoozing donors and fans, he’s also the guy whose recruiting whiffs and inability to develop four- and five-star signees led to the hiring of Strong after the 2013 season. Just a week ago, many Texas fans were angered when Brown told the San Antonio Express-News that he feels no responsibility for the Longhorns’ struggles under Strong, who is 7-8 at the school heading into Saturday’s game against California.
“I really don’t,” said Brown, who coached the team from 1998-2013. If not, then Brown certainly should not be the guy in position to judge whether Strong has done enough to keep his job if Strong’s record at Texas continues to hover around the .500 mark by the end of the 2016 season. The Next AD must acknowledge, and consider, that Strong inherited a roster that produced zero selections in the 2014 NFL Draft and may be shut out again next April. All of those eligible draftees were signed on Brown’s watch.
Must understand the glad-handing element of college sports. One of the primary tasks of any athletic director at the college level is to keep boosters engaged enough to fill luxury suites at the football stadium and finance new facilities. Part of that involves spending time with them, remembering their names and seeking their input (even if you disregard it) when making critical decisions. Patterson gave the cold shoulder to several influential donors during his time at Texas and shut them out in deliberations that led to the hiring of Strong and men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart. The hires were solid but the process was flawed. The Next AD cannot ignore input from donors who have their names attached to athletic facilities.
Cannot come from a professional sports background. Most of Patterson’s job history has been in professional sports, with notable stops in the NBA (Portland Trail Blazers), NFL (Houston Texans) and minor league hockey (Houston Aeros). His international branding efforts and aloof management style were not in sync with a typical campus environment. Embracing another unconventional candidate, at this point, would be a mistake. The Next AD must clean up a lot of Patterson-created messes.
Should have state-school experience. Ideally, the Next AD should have experience dealing with a large fan base because he’ll oversee a department with one of the nation’s biggest at Texas. Along with Oliver Luck, the former West Virginia AD who was runner-up for the job when it went to Patterson in 2013, names like Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione, Louisville’s Tom Jurich, Arizona’s Greg Byrne, Kansas State’s John Currie and Michigan State’s Mark Hollis are worth sounding out.
An exception to the big-school background could be made for a sharp individual like TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte, whose name has surfaced in early rounds of knee-jerk speculation. But Del Conte made his intentions clear Tuesday on his Twitter account (@_delconte), where he offered this response to a TCU fan inquiring about his interest in the Texas job: “I’m yours as long as you’ll have me … I have the best job in America.”
Must be patient. Texas is counting on having an interim AD in place for at least 11 months, meaning the search is not a front-burner issue today. When it becomes that, Fenves can refer to this checklist as he sorts through the candidates. If predecessor Bill Powers had consulted a similar list, he never would have picked Steve Patterson over Oliver Luck.