AUSTIN, Texas - Texas athletic director Steve Patterson has been fired after two rocky years on the job, pushed out after clashing with fans and donors upset with his aggressive push to raise money for the nation's wealthiest athletic department, a person with direct knowledge of the decision said Tuesday.
Patterson met with new university President Greg Fenves on Tuesday morning, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the move had not been announced. The school did not immediately release details of the meeting or Patterson's departure.
University spokesman Gary Susswein said Fenves would not discuss "the nature of his private conversations." Patterson had a guaranteed contract through August 2019 worth at least $1.4 million annually.
Texas thought it hit a home run when it hired Patterson in November 2013 from Arizona State. The school had put together a star-studded search committee to find a replacement for DeLoss Dodds. Former West Virginias Oliver Luck was considered the front-runner until Patterson impressed the committee with his final interview.
Patterson has overseen two popular hires at Texas -- football coach Charlie Strong and men's basketball coach Shaka Smart, both now in charge of underperforming programs -- but has been unable to win over fans and university donors and has had several meetings with Fenves to soften his approach to business.
He also pushed and won approval for alcohol sales at athletics events, scheduled a men's basketball game in China for next season and talked of someday taking the football team to Mexico.
But Patterson raised football ticket prices after a 6-7 season in 2014, and instituted a "loyalty" program for tickets that rewarded some long-time donors. It also pushed some long-time season ticket-holders out of their seats.
Most of Patterson's career was spent as an executive in professional sports, notably the NBA, and he struggled to connect with university officials and supporters in the same way as Dodds.
One of his first missteps was an awkward public push to have the city of Austin help finance a new basketball arena after having not "invested a nickel" in the current Erwin Center over the previous 30 years. Those comments caught city officials off guard and forced the school to backtrack.
And several actions raised questions of whether he connected with his coaches.
At his exit news conference, former basketball coach Rick Barnes accused Patterson of leaking private conversations and demands that Barnes shake up his staff before he was ultimately fired.
Patterson also refused to engage in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by Oklahoma State against Texas offensive line coach Joe Wickline. Texas was not named as a party in the case, which is still on-going, but led to Strong and his staff being subjected to embarrassing depositions to describe who calls plays. By last weekend's home-opening game against Rice, a plane flew around the stadium with a banner "Patterson Must Go."
Firing Patterson is a bold move for Fenves, who been on the job since June and admitted early that he had a lot to learn about the business of athletics. Now he must find a replacement to run an athletic department with an annual budget of approximately $160 million.