With longtime Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds and Head Football Coach Mack Brown gone from the 40 Acres, it’s new and unexplored country for the Longhorns.
By Steve Habel
The changes during the past six months in the Athletic Department at the University of Texas caught many casual fans by surprise. After all, the Longhorns are so successful in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics that UT is the only school in the nation with a dedicated television network. But insiders and those who conduct business day in and day out with the movers and shakers of Texas sports might have predicted that changes were not only imminent, but needed for the Longhorns to continue the successes on the field that the program feeds upon.
The winds of change started to blow in Oct. 1, when DeLoss Dodds, the man who built the Texas Athletic Department in to a huge, money-making machine with his determination and connections in the college sports universe, resigned as athletic director after 32 years on the job. Come the second week in December, the changing of the guard was complete, as Mack Brown stepped away from the Texas program, saying UT football needed to move “in a different direction.”
By the first week of January 2014, Texas had hired not only a new athletic director, Steve Patterson, but also a new head football coach, Charlie Strong. Both have already taken steps to begin a new era with fresh direction for the UT Longhorns. Only time will tell if Patterson and Strong can have even a touch of the impact on Texas athletics that Dodds and Brown did during their respective tenures.
Dodds’ Retirement Marks a Major Change in the Landscape of UT Athletics.
When Dodds retired Oct. 1 after most of four decades in charge at Bellmont Hall, it marked a paradigm shift in the way the business of athletics would be conducted in Austin, and perhaps elsewhere across the landscape of college sports. Under Dodds’ direction, the University of Texas grew to national acclaim and championship success, winning 14 national championships and 108 conference (Southwest Conference and Big 12) titles in nine different men’s sports.
“DeLoss Dodds is one of the giants of college athletics,” University of Texas President Bill Powers says. “His vision reshaped the University of Texas and the entire NCAA, and it’s been an honor to both work with him and call him a friend for so many years. I know that we will never truly be able to replace DeLoss Dodds. But the house that he built will remain strong for future generations of Longhorns.”
Dodds’ retirement as men’s athletics director is effective Aug. 31, 2014, but he will continue to support the University of Texas as a consultant until 2020. He says he wants to spend more time traveling with his wife and driving a rarely used tractor around his property in Marble Falls.
“I love the University of Texas, and I love the people,” says Dodds, 76. “We’ve had a great run and I have been contemplating this decision for a while. This is something I am ready to do at this time.”
Dodds became Texas’ ninth athletics director in the fall of 1981, and in the 32 years since, UT men’s athletics has enjoyed some of its most vibrant times. The football program’s fourth national title at the 2006 Rose Bowl after the 2005 season highlights a decade of excellence that featured at least 10 victories in nine consecutive seasons, five straight bowl victories and appearances in the national title game in 2006 and 2010.
Additionally, men’s basketball advanced to a school record 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four appearance in 2003, Sweet 16 appearances in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008 and three Elite Eight appearances in 2003, 2006 and 2008. The Horns’ baseball team has earned berths in the NCAA Men’s College World Series seven times since 2000, winning national championships in 2002 and 2005. Under Dodds, Texas became the most profitable entity in college athletics, one valued at the start of 2013 at $761.7 million.
UT has enjoyed eight consecutive years of leading all collegiate licensing royalties and amassed the first-ever season of more than $100 million in football revenue. Dodds was also a central figure in forming the Big 12 Conference, which began competition in 1996-1997, born out of a melding of the Big Eight and Southwest Conferences. UT has been a member of the Big 12 since its inception, and Dodds’ vision helped guide the Big 12 through the unstable climate of conference realignment in the summer of 2010. In January 2011, the University of Texas and ESPN announced the creation of the Longhorn Network, the first sports network devoted to a single school. Dodds was Texas’ key power player in the formation of the network, which will bring the university $300 million in 20 years.
On Nov. 7, Patterson was introduced as the Longhorns’ new athletic director. He comes to the 40 Acres after a 17-month stint as AD at Arizona State, which was his only experience as a college sports administrator. Patterson and West Virginia AD Oliver Luck were the final two candidates for the Longhorns job, but Patterson eventually got the nod because of his marketing and business experience. Prior to running the athletic department at Arizona State, Patterson, 55, worked in professional sports for more than 20 years as an executive for the NBA’s Houston Rockets (he was general manager from 1989 to 1993) and Portland Trail Blazers (team president, 2003 to 2007), the NFL’s Houston Texans (senior vice president and chief development officer from 1997 to 2003) and the Houston Aeros hockey team.
“Steve has the right values [and is a]stand-up person,” Powers says. “Everybody speaks so well of him, and he’s been very successful. That was what we were looking for, and that’s what we found.”
Thanks to Dodds, Patterson inherited one of the marquee programs in all of college sports. He is the seventh UT men’s athletics director.
“How do you follow somebody like DeLoss, who’s really built this program?” Patterson says. “He’s built [Texas] in to the envy of college athletic departments across the United States. I look forward to continuing that tradition. We want to compete for championships day in and day out. We want to continue to graduate our students and do it with great ethics.”
Patterson, who earned both an undergraduate and law degree from the University of Texas, will be responsible for managing a budget of more than $150 million and the eventual building of a new arena and practice facilities for the Texas basketball teams as the Erwin Center and its surrounds are engulfed by UT’s new medical school. The new AD says he will take some time to evaluate the culture, the people that are at Texas and where the organization is heading before making any decision on changes.
“I don’t see this as an organization that’s over in the ditch,” Patterson says. “It’s a place that has had tremendous success for many years and it’s got all the resources it needs. Texas has some great people that have been working in the organization for a long time, and I just hope to continue to grow that.”
Brown Steps Down Before Alamo Bowl.
After months of speculation and denials and fits and starts, Mack Brown announced Dec. 14 that he was resigning as head football coach at Texas, effective immediately after the 2013 Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 in San Antonio. Brown’s announcement ended a sad saga that overshadowed many of the on-the-field achievements for the Texas football team in 2013, and set in motion a mad scramble to find a replacement for Brown and a new direction for the Longhorns, on and off the field.
Some will say Coach Brown’s tenure on the 40 Acres was all but decided by an early season swoon by his 2013 team, a squad that seemed poised to break back in to the upper echelon of college football, only to flounder in September, and sink in November and December to finish at 8-5. There were several tributes to Brown before, during and after the Alamo Bowl. Afterward, a majority of the normally fickle Texas fan base jammed the Alamodome, stood and chanted Brown’s name and cheered when he led his team to the south end of the stadium, his hook ’em Horns raised high for the final time as Texas coach.
Brown’s accomplishments dwarf those of all but a handful of his contemporaries. From 2001 to 2009, Texas never won fewer than 10 games, claimed a national title (2005), played for another (2009) and won two other BCS bowls (the Rose in 2004, the Fiesta in 2008). The Longhorns finished in the top six of the polls in six of nine seasons. But Texas earned just two Big 12 Championships with Brown as coach, and in the past four seasons, the Longhorns have won just one more conference game (18) than they’ve lost (17).
“It’s been a wonderful ride. Now the program is again being pulled in different directions, and I think the time is right for a change,” Brown says. “It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America. I sincerely want it to get back to the top. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again.”
Brown’s program was as unrelenting as a wrecking ball at its peak, helped by the coach’s ability to bring great players to campus. In total, 16 first-round draft picks and 52 All-Americas played under Brown at Texas.
A new era on the 40 Acres began Jan. 6, when former Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong was introduced as the new face of Texas football, becoming the 29th head coach for the Longhorns and instilled with the mantra to return UT to the upper echelon of the sport. Strong, 53, was two-time Conference Coach of the Year at Louisville, where he posted a 37-15 overall record in four seasons that included to a 12-win campaign in 2013 and bowl wins the past three years. Strong is the only coach in Louisville history to win three bowl games; prior to his arrival, the Cardinals had won just six bowl games in the program’s 100-year history. During the past two years, Louisville has been one of the nation’s winningest programs, posting a 23-3 record (88.5 percent).
“I am humbled [by being chosen for the Texas coaching position]and so happy and proud,” Strong says. “We’ll always strive for excellence on the field. We’ll strive for excellence off the field. It’s never about me; it’s always about the young men. I want to make sure this is all about building them and making sure they represent this university the right way.”
Strong was handpicked for the job by Patterson and with blessing of Powers and a prestigious eight-person selection committee. Strong was interviewed by Patterson in his Louisville home on Jan. 3 and chosen after a number of other high-profile coaches—including Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, UCLA’s Jim Mora Jr. and Baylor’s Art Briles—said they were not interested in coaching at Texas.
“Charlie is the only one we offered the position to,” Patterson says. “We wanted somebody who was bright and an ethical leader, somebody who was physically and mentally tough, somebody who could really recruit and evaluate talent. And then once that talent is here, we wanted somebody who is a great coach and teacher who can really help our young football players grow both on the field and off.”
Strong is also the first African-American head coach at Texas, in football or in any other men’s sport. “There is always going to be a first somewhere, so this had to be the first,” he says. “Whenever there is a first, we’re going to make it good. We’re going to do what we have to do, and we’re going to work to make it better. I don’t ever want to look at it as being the first. I want to look at it as I’m a coach and that’s the way I want to be treated.”