AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Steve Patterson is leaving Arizona State for Texas, where he will take over the wealthiest athletic department in the country and a program facing serious questions about the job security of its football and men's basketball coaches as well as its president.
Patterson accepted an offer from Texas on Tuesday after interviewing for the athletic director opening over the weekend. West Virginia's Oliver Luck had reportedly been the leading candidate, but Patterson was the choice to succeed DeLoss Dodds, who is stepping down at Texas after 32 years.
"Steve Patterson emerged as the perfect candidate to build on Texas' athletic success and DeLoss Dodds' legacy," Texas President Bill Powers said.
Patterson's hiring must be approved by the University of Texas System Board of Regents, which meets Nov. 12-13, but that step is considered likely. The search panel included two regents, Steve Hicks and Robert Stillwell, who are the board's athletics liaisons. Powers' office said Patterson would be introduced as a news conference later this week.
Patterson's most immediate questions at Texas likely center on the future of the football coach Mack Brown, men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, and a potential federal civil rights lawsuit from former women's track coach Bev Kearney, who was forced to resign in January after revelations of a previous relationship with one of her athletes.
He also comes to Austin at a time when his new boss is also fighting for his job. Powers has tangled with the regents in recent years over tuition and graduation rates and other issues, and has a thin majority of support on the nine-member board. State lawmakers are investigating whether to impeach one regent over attempts to force Powers out.
Dodds and Powers have been Brown's staunchest allies through three consecutive sub-par seasons for the storied Texas football program. Brown faced intense criticism and renewed speculation about his job security when Texas started 1-2, but the Longhorns are on a five-game winning streak and in first place in the Big 12.
The men's basketball program opens its season Friday night at home against Mercer. The Longhorns had their first losing season in 15 years under Barnes last year and haven't made it past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in five years.
Texas began its job search last month when Dodds announced he would leave by Aug. 31, 2014. Dodds had said he would stay in the job until his replacement was found, but would step aside into an advising role once that person got to campus.
Patterson, 55, has been Arizona State's athletic director since March 2012 and had previously been responsible for the school's athletics business operations and facilities. Patterson has deep Texas ties: He got his undergraduate and law degrees at Texas, and had executive jobs with the Houston Texans in the NFL and the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA.
"Steve helped build an NBA championship team and brought the Super Bowl game to Houston," Powers said. "Far more important, he's run a winning program at Arizona State that places students first and is committed to their lifelong success."
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Patterson said he was proud of Arizona State's accomplishments during his tenure, including a solid athlete graduation rate, growth on the business side and reconnecting with the overall community.
"I appreciate everything the ASU community has done to make my family and I feel welcome here in the valley," he said. However, he said he took the Texas job "because it is an opportunity I just couldn't pass up."
"I look forward to continuing to build upon the great work of DeLoss Dodds," he said, adding, "We are all excited to have the opportunity to come home."
Arizona State President Michael M. Crow said senior vice president James Rund would serve as the Sun Devil's interim athletic director. Crow said he understood Patterson's desire to return to Texas and wished him well.
"During his stay at ASU, Steve Patterson has positioned Sun Devil athletics to continue its forward momentum well into the future," Crow said. "He first became involved with ASU three years ago to put the university's athletic department on a sound financial footing and that is exactly what he has done."