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Texas President Hits Reset Button for Athletics Department with Firing of AD Steve Patterson


Question: What do you do when you are playing your best friend in Madden NFL 16 and you realize this game has gotten away from you and you are getting your butt kicked in EVERY way?

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Answer: Hit the reset button on the game console and start over, because you know this was a fluke and you are WAY better than that.

Today University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves hit the reset button for his athletics department by firing contentious AD Steve Patterson. The firing comes as a small shock, only in the timing of Patterson's dismissal. However, anyone familiar with the relationship that Patterson (above right, with football head coach Charlie Strong and former University of Texas president Bill Powers) had with the entire Texas Longhorns community and administrators knew that this was coming at some point. The real question to all of this however, is what does it really mean?

FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman is reporting that Mack Brown is getting a "big push" to become the next AD. If this is true, can you imagine a more awkward situation for football head coach Charlie Strong, than your new boss is the guy whose job you took? Strong is already standing on the field in the shadows of Brown's accomplishments. If Brown is hired to replace Patterson, then Strong will truly be standing in Brown's shadow. And the last thing this Longhorns football team needs is someone else visibly present who can second guess what happens on and off the field.

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To be clear, none of what has happened is Strong's fault, just his burden. Strong inherited this problem by leaving a place where he ruled his football kingdom as a benevolent monarch in Louisville, to grab hold of the throne that Brown was forced to abdicate, thanks in large part to Patterson. When those sort of hostile takeovers occur, there is always an uneasiness and uncertainty of the future. But its even worse when the king you replace was adored by the kingdom (fans),  and the soldiers (administrators and boosters). Although they absolutely wanted change in the kingdom, it was not due to a complete dishonor of the past king, as evidenced by Brown's current role with the university as Brand Ambassador. They simply felt that there should be a new heir to usher in a new era. 

However, it was the disconnect of Patterson from the boosters and administrators that made the last 24 months such a trying experience. If Patterson had gotten "buy in" from all of the key boosters and administrators who helped build Texas football into the powerhouse it has become, then this transition would have worked, and Strong may not be getting some of the backlash he has been getting. Maybe, the Texas community would be celebrating Strong's bold stance on integrity, and his process of rebuilding with much more understanding instead of reluctance. Maybe, Strong would not have had to demote two coordinators only one game into the season just to appease the fan base and alumni, who want to see change and victory right now. 

Patterson made a hard situation worse by not including key players into the decision to hire Strong and new men's basketball coach Shaka Smart. Now to his credit, Smart has "played it smart" since being hired. Smart, who shares many of the same philosophies as his football counterpart, has embraced what it means to play basketball for the University of Texas. Smart has even tried to bridge the gap of disconnect between the program's past and its future, welcoming back veterans like former Milwaukee Buck T.J. Ford and current Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant, to name a few. Smart is preaching a new brand of basketball and encouraging the fans to be a part of this experience. Smart is endearing and fun, but he also is extremely young and it is this youth and inexperience (Smart has never coached in a Power 5 conference) that has people very concerned. It is not a bad hire to bring in Smart, who has been one of the hottest coaches in college basketball. But much like Strong it is a huge risk to bring in guys with limited experience and ties to and within the Lone Star State.

If Strong had shown significant progress between his hiring to now, then we would not be having this discussion. We are having this discussion because Patterson's decisions have ALL been questionable, up to and including the hiring of a coach who many think might be in over his integrity-filled head. The Longhorns' football season does not get any easier from this point on, and now with the covering and protection of Patterson being snatched away, it is obvious that Strong's team must string together a group of quality wins and competitive games for him to have ANY chance to secure his job for the future. Texas is not accustomed to being discussed as an after thought on the college football landscape, but that is precisely where this program is as of now. One would have to believe that after hitting the reset button on the athletic director two games into the football season, that Strong's job may be in serious jeopardy going forward. Smart should be able to at least get a pass this season, as his hiring was not quite as contentious as Strong's. But it may be safe to say that anyone connected to Patterson's tenure is probably on shaky ground now and winning is the only guaranteed way to fix that perception.

When it comes to video games like Madden NFL 16, the reset button is used when you feel as though a particular game can't be won. It gives you the opportunity to start over immediately in hopes of generating a different result.

Texas just hit the reset button on its athletics department. Now what's next?

— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.