University of Texas president Gregory Fenves and interim men’s athletic director Mike Perrin addressed media Wednesday afternoon following the resignation of athletic director Steve Patterson. Patterson, who vacated the position after a tumultuous 22-month stint, submitted his resignation on Tuesday morning.
“It was a mutual decision,” Fenves said. “Steve is a talented sports executive and brought many good ideas to UT Athletics. He had a very positive impact on many aspects of this department and our programs.”
Texas will wait to begin its search for a permanent athletic director. For now, Perrin will serve in the interim position. He received a one-year contract worth $750,000, but said that he will serve for however long Fenves asks. Fenves said Perrin’s perspective from his time as a Texas undergraduate, law student, athlete and department volunteer makes him a good choice.
“Mike has sat in every seat at this university,” Fenves said. “Everyone I’ve talked to who knows Mike says he has absolute integrity and confidence in his ability to lead our great athletics department.”
Perrin played linebacker for Texas under legendary coach Darrell K Royal from 1966 to 1968. He received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics followed by his J.D. from UT Law. He has since worked as an attorney in Houston, focusing on personal injury litigation.
Perrin has remained involved with UT athletics on a volunteer basis for the last three decades. He has served on the university’s Council for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, spearheaded fundraising efforts for the law school and was inducted into UT’s Men’s Hall of Honor in 2010. Perrin said Fenves first reached out to him on Labor Day, eight days before Patterson’s resignation—initially reported as a firing—became official.
Fenves and women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky touted Perrin’s legal experience among the reasons he’s qualified for the interim position. Texas must address Oklahoma State’s lawsuit against offensive coordinator Joe Wickline, which alleges that he violated his contract when making a lateral move to coach at Texas. Patterson received criticism for not quieting the case (the university is not a party to the lawsuit), and Perrin said Wednesday he knows little about the conflict.
Texas is also renegotiating its equipment and apparel contract with Nike. Plonsky said Perrin’s extensive contract experience will be an asset to the deals, though Perrin says that will be an area in which he’ll draw “heavily on staff experience” to negotiate the best deal.
“That’s one of the areas we’ve long been tag-teaming,” Plonsky said. “We’re exclusive with our current and great partner, Nike. Mike will step in and we’ll get him up to speed.”
Perrin assumes the position after months of unrest surrounding Patterson. Boosters said the business-minded former AD wasn’t personable enough. Students said Patterson viewed athletics solely through a financial lens, minimizing the traditions and school spirit. Even faculty members expressed discontent when their football ticket prices increased and their benefits plans changed.
Although Perrin said he plans to meet with many constituencies including the faculty, Fenves said the faculty ticket policy likely will not change this season.
“The season’s already underway,” Fenves said. “In most cases, it’s not possible to make changes… We’re going to keep going [but] this is a big operation so I don’t anticipate many changes in the short-term.”
For now, Perrin’s background will likely win him support with donors, many of whom carry significant influence. The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that donors disliked Patterson so much that they would pay off his contract. The final severance package has not yet been announced, but $5.6 million and four years remained in Patterson’s contract.
Perrin will also work with a changing structure within the department. Patterson fired longtime sports information director John Bianco this summer after 23 years. Bianco— a constant at former football coach Mack Brown and current coach Charlie Strong’s sides—was told in June that his “appointment would not be renewed.” At Big 12 Media Days in August, Strong said Bianco was “my guy” and he was not consulted on the decision. Texas athletics named Kevin Mortesen its new chief communication officers on Sept. 8, though Plonsky said Perrin will decide if the appointment stands.
Perrin began his responsibilities by meeting Strong and men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart on Wednesday morning. He expressed support for both head coaches, calling Strong a close friend and praising Smart’s style.
“If you don’t get infectious about basketball with Shaka Smart, your switch isn’t turned on,” Perrin said.
With three home football games in September and the apparel contract, Plonsky said it will be busy. Among the pair’s first goals: reassuring the fan base. Perrin said he’s excited.
“To come here and wear the orange & white is a valuable activity that I went through a long time ago,” Perrin said. “It is a thrill to be back filling a different role & it’s hitting me at the right time in my life.”
Jori Epstein is the University of Texas correspondent for SI Campus Rush. Follow her on Twitter.