Speaking publicly from The University of Texas at Austin campus for the first time since being announced as the new men's athletic director, a visibly emotional Steve Patterson said, "It's good to be home."
Patterson, who earned both a bachelor's degree in business and a law degree from UT, spoke to reporters at an introductory press conference with President Bill Powers Thursday.
Wearing an orange tie and Longhorn lapel pin, he called Texas the premiere college athletics program in the country, saying, "We want to compete for championships day in and day out and continue to graduate our students with ethics." He said he accepted the job before any salary or contract discussion. "This really was a homecoming," he said.
Patterson, 55, has served as athletic director at Arizona State University since 2012. Previously, he worked for more than two decades in professional sports as an executive with the NFL's Houston Texans, the NBA's Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Aeros hockey team. He also served as president of Pro Sports Consulting.
Powers called Patterson "the perfect man" to continue the UT athletics tradition that flourished under legendary directors like Dana X. Bible, Darrell K Royal and current athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who will serve as an assistant to the president after Patterson takes over later this fall. Powers said he was most impressed with the fact that Patterson opened his job interview with stories about the transformative effect being at Arizona State had on its student athletes.
Calling sports the "front porch" of the university, Patterson said he wants to grow the athletics programs in such a way that advances the university as a whole and prepares student-athletes for life after college. Patterson was asked about facilities, the coaching staff and conference alignment, but said it's too early for those discussions.
"My approach is not to make change for the sake of change," he said. "But when you have a vision and goals and expectations, people in the organization have to meet those expectations," he added. "The only way to be successful is to have everyone pulling in the same direction, and that's from the guy mowing the lawn to the guy in the AD seat."
Asked about his fondest memories as a UT student, Patterson mentioned watching Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell and legendary basketball coach Abe Lemons. He also referenced a notorious student government presidential campaign he managed, helping elect a fictional cartoon character over Paul Begala, who would later become a national political operative. (Begala was later declared the victor.)
Patterson also spoke about his love for Austin, its culture, music and food. ("It was great to get off the plane last night and smell barbecue in the airport," he said.) The city even served as the inspiration behind naming his son, Austin, who is a UT advertising senior. Patterson joked that he originally wanted to name him Bevo, but his wife wouldn't allow it.
Patterson will return to Arizona State next week to meet with the president and close out work there and expects to be on the job in Austin within the next few weeks.
Watch the full press conference: