Report: Heat on Texas AD stems in part from treatment of Rick Barnes

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A year and a half ago, Texas reached into the professional ranks to hire Steve Patterson as Athletic Director, replacing Deloss Dodds, who spent three decades in that role.

Patterson has made two strong hires in the school’s most high profile coaching positions — poaching football coach Charlie Strong from Louisville and the highly-sought after Shaka Smart from VCU — but according to a bombshell story from Horns Digest on Thursday morning, Patterson is facing some serious questions in the athletic department. The biggest issues, according to the story, are that Patterson is ruthlessly frugal, putting the bottom line over student athlete welfare and community relations, and that he’s not good at dealing with people.

There are a myriad of examples in that story, but we’re going to stick with what Patterson’s has reportedly done to hurt the hoops program. For starters, he has reportedly changed the way that the basketball team can recruit. Former head coach Rick Barnes was allowed to use a 737 with 50 first class seats to travel to recruiting events, per Horns Digest. It was negotiated into Barnes’ contract as a way to compete with Kansas, the only other Big 12 team to use a jet that big to travel, but Patterson has cut the 737. Texas will be using smaller charter jets under Smart.

Patterson also failed to discuss this season’s travel plans with the basketball team. They’ll be flying to China for a game on Nov. 13 against Washington, an effort to develop the Pac-12’s brand in the basketball-mad country, and then heading to the Bahamas on Nov. 21 for a tournament. According to Horns Digest, when he was asked by the basketball staff about that decision, he simply responded, “we’re going”.

Last September, Patterson told Texas Monthly that the city of Austin should chip in on the new Texas basketball arena, scheduled to be built in the coming years, because they’ve gotten a free ride with the Erwin Center.

But here’s the big one: Patterson planted the story that Barnes had to fire his staff to keep his job. From Horns Digest:

Former basketball coach Rick Barnes indicated publicly Patterson was the source of a vicious press leak before Barnes’ firing.

A source told the Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News that Barnes had to change out his staff or face termination. All the while, sources said, Patterson was telling Barnes privately that he was fighting for him but that “people above me” wanted Barnes out.

Barnes’ accusation caught the attention of other UT coaches and some key power brokers at Texas and raised serious questions about the way Patterson does business, multiple sources said.

There’s a lot more in that story, and if you’re a Texas sports fan, I really suggest you read it. The story’s author, Chip Brown, has covered Texas sports for a long time and was one of the biggest news-breakers when it came to conference realignment a few years back.