Quotes: Steve Patterson's introductory press conference
Let me start by articulating very clearly our objectives for ASU Athletics. From time to time, we find some doubters out there that believe that ASU Athletics is not committed to competitiveness, is not committed to national excellence and is not committed to national championships. But, it turns out we are very committed to all of those things. We are a proud member of the Pac-12, as you know. We’ve been heavily involved in the reengineering of the conference over the last couple of years: the expansion of the conference, the movement towards the new television contract, the movement towards the new image for the conference. The desire here on the part of the Pac-12 schools, including ASU, is to advance in a direction where the competitiveness of the conference is the most competitive over all the other conferences in the United States, having won more national championships in more sports than all the other conferences combined. We’re looking - as a part of that conference - for us to be as competitive as we can and compete for Pac-12 championships; that is for championships of the most competitive conference in all of our sports.
In advancing ASU Athletics, we have a number of challenges. We live in a complex, multi-leveled sports environment with multiple levels of amateur teams and multiple levels of professional teams in a highly saturated environment. We live in a place where, to be competitive, we have to bring all the talent to bear that we possibly can to be athletically competitive, to be academically competitive, to be financially viable and to live within the constraints and designs of the NCAA and all that it stands for. We’ve taken a number of positions in the last few years as an institution and within the last year in particular where ASU has argued for higher academic standards, supporting in every possible way the higher academic performance objectives of the NCAA and supporting the reforms of President Mark Emmert as he advances his position at the NCAA and at the same time calling for a reform in the bowl championship series design and calling for a national championship in football and a range of other things. I’m trying to contextualize how we think about the world. We think that college athletics is a fantastically important part of the American culture, a fantastically important part of American Universities. It’s a fantastic way in which universities can compete and we hold ourselves to a very high standard at every imaginable level.
In doing all of that, I’ve made the decision to appoint Steve Patterson as Vice President for University Athletics and Director of Sun Devil Athletics. Those are two very important roles within the university. They should reflect - as we had done with the appointment of Lisa Love seven years ago - the importance of university athletics to the structure of ASU and thus the appointment of Vice President for university athletics. These roles are combined at this institution.
My decision for appointing Steve at this time is that Lisa Love has made a number of accomplishments in her seven years. ASU has achieved previously unattainable levels of academic performance and previously unattained levels of repeat national championship teams. But Lisa and I both came to the conclusion that at this stage of our evolution, her interests in moving on to other things and our interest in concentrating on moving forward and gaining national championships, gaining conference championships and rebuilding our facilities meant that now would be a good time to make a new appointment in the role of Vice President for university athletics. Steve joined us less than a year ago after a multi-decadal career in which he was involved in guiding multiple sports - professional sports - at the executive level. Building programs, building teams in basketball and football and hockey, building facilities, conceptualizing facilities, building community relationships, designing community relationships, and advancing athletic enterprises in Texas and in Oregon. That experience matched with what we’ve learned about Steve since his appointment here as our managing director for Sun Devil Sports group and chief operating officer for intercollegiate athletics makes our ability to move forward quicker rather than slower. So today, I’m announcing Steve’s appointment in these positions subject to approval (this is one of the positions that requires approval from the Arizona board of regions, let me just reiterate that for everyone) - but this is the appointment that I’m making. Let me be clear about Lisa Love and her assignment. I don’t know how many of you have been athletic directors of major Division I athletic programs at young and maturing universities but it is an extremely challenging position. It’s unbelievably challenging. It has to be a self-supporting enterprise. It has to be an enterprise for which you seek the highest level of competitiveness for coaches and athletes. The NCAA is very complex in terms of its rules, rule-making, and its enforcement. We were just recertified for 10 years without comment from the NCAA and that’s an achievement in and of itself. We’ve won seven national championships after we’d won none since 1998 and the time of Lisa’s appointment. So Lisa Love achieved what we asked her to achieve and here we are seeking to achieve more and wanting to achieve more and Steve Patterson’s appointment is the best pathway for us to achieve more.
I want to thank Dr. Crow for this opportunity. I’m excited to be here today in Tempe at Arizona State University. I also want to thank all the people that have helped me get to this position in life. The folks that have been so welcoming since I got here: Dr. Crow, and his senior staff, as well as all the folks that work in Sun Devil Athletics and Lisa herself. I think we had a great working relationship and I like working with her. To go forward from where we are here, we have to have a vision of where we want go for Sun Devil Athletics. I think the key to that is that Sun Devil Athletics has to win, first and foremost. We have to be consistently competitive and top-ranked in the Director’s Cup every year. While we’re doing it, we need to have some fun out there. I think we’ve missed a bit of that with some of the teams we’ve had this year. We want to graduate our athletes and we’re doing a great job of that with Jean Boyd and the rest of the folks that work so hard at that. We’re right up there at 80 percent of our students graduating and it’s far better than the rest of the campus, actually. We ought to be proud of that and where we’re headed. We want to have comprehensive life skills development for our student-athletes and we’re doing more and more of that every day. We want our folks to be Sun Devils for life and uphold the images and traditions of this university that we hold so dear. We want to serve the community and operate with integrity and respect, but at the same time be fiscally responsible. We need to grow our revenues and do a better job of being able to provide the kind of support that our student-athletes need and the university needs as a whole. We want to be out there playing in the best facilities, with the best coaches, with the best support staff and everything else that we need for our student-athletes. It was interesting when I came here, I got to learn a little bit about where this university came from and with people here like Frank Kush that went door-to-door to make this a full-fledged university. It’s had tremendous growth since then and tremendous growth since Dr. Crow came here. We really have great assets to work with. The student-athletes that are great students, they have a chance to go to a great school at Barrett Honors College. If they want to study business, they can go to the W.P. Carey School, one of the best-ranked in the country. If they want to be in communications, we have the Cronkite School in Downtown. I’ll tell you having toured those facilities, when they leave there, 90 percent of those folks are going to some place that’s not as nice and not as well-appointed as the Cronkite School. We have many great student-athletes, great national championships, great moments that we need to honor and remember as we go forward.
So now, what we have is successes on many fronts. Our Spring sports including softball, our water polo team that has really been fun to watch this spring, our baseball team which is traditionally very good led by Tim Esmay, and great success stories like Anthony Robles - as you all know - in wrestling. These are the kind of successes we have to have in our Fall and Winter sports if we are going to move this program forward. We have 550 student athletes that are in our trust and care and we need to help them reach the heights that they never thought were possible. We can do that here. Some people, since I got here, said ‘Well, you know, Steve…’. Every time I go into a different town they have different concerns. It is different in Houston, it is different in Portland, and it has been different here. I think there is a history of people looking at Sun Devils Athletics and asking, ‘Are you going to stick around?’ and ‘Why are you here?’ or ‘Why do you want to do this?’ I think back to when I was at the University of Texas and we had a Football program that had fallen on hard times after a great run of many, many years of tremendous success. A guy name DeLoss Dodds came to town and he was not so popular, but he was there when I was a student and he still is there today. He has built one of the great Athletic Departments in America, one of the greatest sports enterprises in America. I think we have all the resources to do that here and I do not see why we can’t do it. That’s what I want to try to do while I’m here.
I look out there and I say to folks that we need your help. We have great strength in numbers. We have great strength in assets. We need people to give us a chance. We need people to get behind us so we can build something that we can all be proud of. It’s great when we go to the Rose Bowl, we’ve done that in the past, and we are going to do it again. It’s great when we get to the playoffs and do the kind of things that we want to do with our basketball teams, baseball teams, softball teams, our water polo teams and all the rest. So I ask people to open your eyes, open your ears. Listen to what we have to say. We are making progress and we are changing. I ask you to open your minds to the possibilities of what we can do here at ASU because we have great assets, great leadership and great student-athletes. I ask you to open your hearts to ASU. So many people in this community have graduated from here, have had great experiences here, and have great chances of having great experiences again as we go forward. When you look at that, think about it and lend us your voices. It might be just around the water cooler, it might be as a reporter, it might be on television, it might be in a blog and it might be on the radio. If you look at what where we are going and you like what we are doing, then I ask you to talk about it. As our Football coach likes to say, ‘We are speaking victory everyday.’ That’s what we need to be doing and that’s where we are headed. We are excited to have Todd [Graham] here and the progress he has made in a very short period of time. If you see what you like and talk about it a little bit, I might ask you to open your wallet a little bit and help us as we go forward because we are going to need it to get where we want to get.
I want to thank Dr. Crow for this opportunity. I want to thank all of you for being here today. I want to thank you for the support you have given ASU in the past. I think we are well-thought of in this community and I want to see to it that we grow this and we make it into a great institution that is well-thought of and respected nationally and internationally.”
ON IF THE PAST UNSUCCESSFUL SEASONS CONTRIBUTED TO THE ROLE CHANGE
“What is interesting about pressure by the Alumni or others, there’s pressures by many sources and groups on anything. It is just constant. When I was appointed to the University, there were all these people that did not want me appointed. After I’ve been appointed now for 10 years, there are plenty of people who probably want to get rid of me. I don’t know who they are talking to, but so far I’m still here. It is not much more complicated than that. There are lots of views and lots of angles. Is there happiness about the performance of football over the past few years? The answer is no. There is excitement about the potential and Coach Graham. He knows what his objectives are. Is there happiness about men’s basketball? It goes unanswered. How could you be happy about 20 loses in a single season? It is our expectation that none of our programs and none our teams will be in the bottom tier of anything. Period. That’s not where we are. So, there are objectives that we are not yet attaining and that we are working toward with everything that we got.”
ON WHAT WILL BRING CONTINUED SUCCESS TO REVENUE-GENERATING SPORTS
“I think bringing in Coach Graham and his staff goes along ways into entering that. We needed to have somebody who could build leaders, somebody who could develop a program, somebody that could play winning football, somebody that would connect to the community, somebody that would be available to the press and somebody who could do all kinds of things that weren’t happening here: to build affinity, build revenues and build a winning culture tradition. If we do that, I think the community will react positively and we will get to where we need to. Sports are the great front door to the University and have an inordinate impact on the image of the institution. I get reminded every so often that we are relatively tiny part of the overall budget, but we get an inordinate amount of attention because of the athletic success or failures on the floor or field. So, we have to have success at football, we have to have success at basketball if we’re going to have success in total at Sun Devils Athletics.”
“Let me say relative to the football coaching model, one of the main requirements that we had when finding the new coach - Coach Graham - was that we were looking for an individual who was first and foremost, above all other things, a teacher who wanted to take the teacher model as opposed to the professional coach model. Not that he is not a professional coach - he is - but what is he before a coach? He is a teacher before he is a coach and he uses teaching methodology. We also wanted someone that, as Steve suggested, in the way a local team should, be deeply connected to the community. Those were two conditions for the hiring of the new coach. Those were two things that we thought we needed to correct”.
ON FIRST ORDERS OF BUSINESS IN NEW ROLE
“I think really evaluating the team side of the operation. I have spent most of the past nine months really reforming a lot of what we have done business-wise. We are going to sit down with the coaches here and after we are done here, we are going to sit down with the student-athletes really working on those two parts of it, evaluating those parts of our operation. Then, creating a plan to go forward to have the kind of success we need to have. I am very encouraged with what has happened with Coach Graham so far and with that transition. We are going to continue to build on that”.
ON THE EXPECATIONS OF ANY FURTHER STAFF CHANGES
“I do not see us changing coaches, if that’s what you’re asking me right now.”
ON WHAT HE EXPECTS TO CHANGE WITH THIS TRANSITION
“Well I don’t know that a move by itself changes anything other than who sits in the chair. But, what it indicates is that we are so committed to our objective that we will continue to evolve the team until we have the team that can get it right. We’re not on the path that we have wanted to be on and so we’re continuing to adjust. If you have leaders that are trying to win and they are not making adjustments to obtain their objectives, then there is something wrong with them. So we’re making the adjustments to hope to attain the objectives we’re trying to pursue.”
ON THE THOUGHT PROCESS THAT WENT INTO THE CHANGE
“Lisa achieved a lot and the people that might be in this room that don’t think that, you’re not tracking. She achieved a lot. How much more can be achieved from her position and what are the variables that might be needed to move forward? From time-to-time, this will be true with me and this will be true with anyone that’s in an executive position. When you’re in an executive position and it looks like you’ve achieved a lot but we still got four quarters to play, it’s time to change the configuration a little bit to continue to make achievement. So it’s not one thing. It’s not one dynamic. How much more can we gain with the executives we have in place? It’s not different than Coach Graham saying to quarterback X or quarterback Y, ‘I’d like to win this game and it looks like you’re having a hard time so lets go with Johnny here instead of Billy.’ So it’s basically that calculation. It’s a calculation of how do we continue to make forward progress at the level we want to make forward progress. We’re not making as much forward progress at the speed I would like to make forward progress, so we’re adjusting the team.”
ON STEVE PATTERSON’S CREDENTIALS AS A DIRECTOR
“One of the things we’ve had an opportunity to do is to get to know Steve in-depth. Obviously we’ve selected him from a pool that’s not the normal pool. Although it is the case that university directors do come from diverse backgrounds, the Notre Dame athletic director or the Indiana athletic director, just picking two as examples, they come from diverse backgrounds. When I first interviewed Steve for the role he had until today, what I found was a person deeply committed to education. He comes from a family of educators who became involved in sports, deeply committed to what universities stand for and what we’re about from his own educational attainment, his family’s educational attainment, his children’s educational attainment. But then having set that aside, I still hadn’t seen him operate. So now I’ve seen him operate for nine months, I have complete confidence that the culture-shift from professional sports and university sports can be accomplished well by Steve. Even those of you who have gotten to know him, he’s only been focused on the business side for the most part for the last nine months and he’s done a great job reengineering our business structure, setting new objectives, restructuring and moving things forward from a financial prospective, and the stadium renovation project in a significant way and mastering those things very quickly. But in the midst of all of that I have gotten to know him and I know that he has the right temperament and the right commitment to our purpose. Sports are not a business for us, it is a part of our academic enterprise. But, to make this program work we need to earn $100 million a year. We’re not earning $100 million a year. By ear,n I mean you can raise it, you can earn it through ticket revenues, television, bowl games, or what have you. We’re not at that level yet. So it’s this combination of skills that Steve brings to the table as well as an understanding of sports themselves. He does understand athletics and sports and their business. From my perspective, he has the requisite temperament, skill set, and background to accomplish this assignment.”
ON BEING FAMILIAR WITH THE COMMUNITY
“I think if we look back historically, I’ve had to do that whether its putting the legislation together for the Super Bowl in Houston and all the other major events that happened in the state of Texas, whether it’s putting the coalition together of city, county, state, rodeo, sports authorities and Houston Texans to get Reliant Stadium built. You can’t do that if you’re not connected to the community, working with media, working with the elected and appointed officials on a regular basis, working with sponsors and season ticket holders. There’s a difference here in that you have a philanthropy component at universities that isn’t exactly the same, but I’ve spend a great deal of time working with a number of those people over the last nine months. I was on the phone with a dozen of them this morning before this press conference and will continue to roll out those kinds of meetings as we go forward throughout the next months to get the projects done that we need to get done here and to help endow the university’s athletic departments. We have to get the facilities built that we need to get built and if you’re not comfortable doing that, you’re not going to be successful in this role and it’s something I’ve done over the last 35 years.”
ON CONTINUING TO OPERATE A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS
“Well, we’ve made a lot of changes on the business side and over the last nine months we went out and hired a thirty-person sales and service team that wasn’t there before. We’ve merged our marketing department with that of the university to have far greater resources on a go-forth basis, much more integrated with the foundation and the alumni association then we were nine months ago so we’re going to be an evolving enterprise. We’ll continue to look at that in terms of what it means for the administration and coaching and support of the student-athletes as we go forward. We have a great student services operation that Jean runs. You look at what we do academically and we’re right there with the best in the Pac-12, right there with the best in the nation. Dr. Crow changed the model a bit when he brought in Steve Webb to run compliance. We’re going to be compliant so it’s a different model than you might find at other universities. So, as we take time and evaluate what we’re doing on the sports side, we can make the same kind of potential changes. We brought Tim (Cassidy) here to work with Todd Graham, though how in the world I hired an Aggie to come in here and do this, I don’t know. But he’s doing a great job for us. So we’re revamping the operations of the football side and we’re going to continue to push those and be what ASU is, which is innovative, leveraging off our local place.”
“The reason I gave the revenue target is because we still have sports that are competing without even all of the coaching positions that we’re authorized to fill by the NCAA rules, filled. We have serious resource limits. We have serious resource constraints. We would like at some point, once we get certain sports to the level of performance and competitiveness where they’re vying for conference championships every season, we would like to start other sports. We think this is a fantastic model for projecting Arizona and projecting ASU, but we don’t have a revenue position at the moment to do that. Would there be additions to the athletics program? The answer is yes, when we are financially successful enough to be able to do that.
ON REASONS FOR Lisa Love DEPARTURE
“Well Lisa and I have a close relationship. We’ve worked very closely over the last seven years together. I hired Lisa from USC where she had been a very successful associate athletic director and, prior to that, was one of the most successful coaches in women’s volleyball and the NCAA. She brought the teacher spirit and the coaching spirit. What’s fair to say is that both Lisa and I know this is a tough assignment and both Lisa and I know that we’ve run this path about as hard as we can run it and so she’s going to move on to something else and I’m going to be very supportive and am very supportive of her doing that. So it’s that nature of a relationship. We’re moving forward with Steve and she’s a strong supporter of Steve and believes that Steve can get this assignment done. I would say yes there’s always the timing. But at the end of the day, the only person responsible for who sits in the athletic director’s position on any given day of the week is me. So, ultimately, it is my decision.”
“I believe that is goes to the concept of not only achievement - Lisa achieved a lot - but also capital that you have to spend so in the job that I have, I have so much political capital to spend to advance the university and Lisa and I agreed that her political capital relative to the advancement of this role had been spent. So Steve starts fresh and he has new political capital and new angles, new views and new ways of making things happen so that’s my reason.”
ON EXPECTATIONS OF THE ATHLETIC PROGRAM
“Quite frankly, we had very high expectations of the football team going into this year and they weren’t realized. That was a plan put in place long before I got here. We’ve got to be competing for Pac-12 championships every year. We’ve got to be a top-25 ranked team. We’ve got to be winning the South. We went through a process over the last six weeks meeting with every coach and we laid out certain metrics for what certain expectations were of performance. We sat down with Coach Graham, for example, and said this is the level of expectation and he said if I don’t hit that, you better fire me. That’s the kind of commitment we want to see. We have the resources, we have the community, we have a great campus, a great place to come play and get an education. I wake up every day and think this is a great canvas to paint on. If you can’t figure out how to come here and be successful, it’s not ASU’s fault. If you can’t convince the best athletes to come and play here with the business school that we got, the communications school that we got, with the Barrett Honors School we got, with the weather, with a great city, there is something wrong. We ought to be competitive every single week, day in and day out.
“It was our expectation that we would be playing in the football championship game for the Pac-12 conference for the first time and that was our expectation. That expectation was not realized for a number of complex reasons and we have made adjustments so that we can reset that expectation. That is our expectation.”
ON WHETHER THIS DAY WAS INEVITABLE FOLLOWING PATTERSON’S HIRING LAST YEAR
“No, not inevitable.”
“I didn’t come here with the charge to take this job. It wasn’t what we talked about at all. The reality was, I have certain skill sets and things I’m better at than Lisa. There are plenty of things she’s better at than I am. She asked me for help. I thought the eventual outcome was a great success. It was great teamwork.”
ON CHALLENGES OF LISA BEING A FEMALE
“I think that the question of Lisa’s gender did prove to be challenging with some folks that she was dealing with. Absolutely. Was it a determining factor? No. Was it a factor in terms of that? Is this a male-dominated role? The answer is yes. Is it a male-dominated function? Yes. But to her credit, she got right in the thick of it. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Never giving up, always advancing even against some bias that still sits out there.”
ON WHAT THE DEPARTMENT NEEDS TO DO TO CONTINUE IMPROVING ITS IMAGE
“I think we have to do a better job of telling our story. I think we have to hold people accountable that are in the positions of recruiting these athletes to come here. I think we have to hold people accountable that work with those student-athletes on a daily basis. I think we’ve had tremendous success when it comes to bringing in students and helping them graduate and change their lives. I don’t accept that we can’t compete. I’ll never accept that. I’ll never accept that in an over-crowded marketplace, that we can’t be relevant in this marketplace. The staff and the administrators need to make sure that it gets done on a daily basis. That’s their charge.”
“One thing that I would add to that is relative to an arrow that Steve has in his quiver now that, to a lesser extent, previous ASU athletic directors had a smaller arrow, is that the University’s academic reputation has evolved very rapidly now, allowing us to recruit athletes from the full spectrum of potential athletes. Whereas it’s not always been the case that we’ve had the opportunity to look at every athlete because if an athlete got an offer from Stanford or somewhere else their parents would usually guide them in that direction. But now, we are trying to win and are winning those head-to-heads.”