New interim Texas athletic director Mike Perrin, left, was all smiles Wednesday when he was introduced by UT President Gregory L. Fenves.

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls, on Perrin: We know who Perrin’s not, but not who he is

Posted December 3rd, 2015

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The best thing Mike Perrin has done in office the last two months? That’s easy, because the instructions he received were very straightforward:

Don’t be Steve Patterson.

Perrin passed that test with flying colors and was rewarded with the permanent job as Texas athletic director with a two-year contract extension. But what are Perrin’s true colors?

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That’s much more vague.

I really have no idea. He reveals very little in interviews and says even less. Maybe he deserves a pass because he’s learning on the job and has a lot to devour.

Perrin certainly has been a calming influence in the athletic department and has cleared Gregory L. Fenves’ schedule enough so that Fenves can actually work as president of the university instead of just president of the football program. I really think that’s the main reason Perrin was tabbed to do this task on a full-time basis, but he clearly has Fenves’ confidence.

Mike Perrin will be named the interim athletics director at the University of Texas.
Mike Perrin is the new  athletics director at the University of Texas.

As one prominent Longhorns backer said, Perrin has been “a steady finger in the dike.”

Plus, he’s family. Among Longhorns, he’s one of them as a former player and someone who shares the intense passion to be back on top in every arena.

Perrin has soothed the waters, allayed any fears of restless coaches who were operating under the tight-fisted, demanding and polarizing Patterson and has shaken more hands this fall than Ted Cruz. But the job of AD entails so much more than that.

“I think he has done a good job of calming things down and reconnecting with donors,” the source said. “He has a high degree of integrity, compassion and an understanding of the legacy of UT athletics. But he will ultimately be judged by the football record. I see next year as a steep hill.”

So do I. So far it’s been puppies and rainbows for Perrin, even with a 4-7 football record and a slow start in basketball.

Patterson deserves credit (blame?) for hiring Charlie Strong and high marks for luring Shaka Smart away from VCU. Perrin will ultimately survive by making the tough calls on whether to fire or keep Strong after next season and playing fair with fans on ticket prices and other issues. I see Perrin as smart, logical and analytical, but very guarded and way too tight-lipped. He doesn’t have DeLoss Dodds’ boldness or candor, but maybe he’ll grow into that role.

Perrin can’t just be a cheerleader and a yes-man for Strong and Smart, as Dodds had become for Mack Brown and Rick Barnes, by giving his coaches everything they want. It is well and good that he whole-heartedly supports all his coaches and that he actually hears their concerns, but being AD involves making the difficult choices. I’m already on record as opposing Perrin’s decision not to lower football season ticket prices, which Patterson did in a very cavalier, abrasive way. Texas is 10-14 the last two years and is not going to a bowl game, Mike. And he should have made the Joe Wickline lawsuit with Oklahoma State go away.

Texas also botched this move by not conducting an open press conference and allowing reporters to ask Perrin and Fenves the hard questions, but then the school totally blew the announcement of a landmark deal with Nike as well by not revealing it with trumpets blaring.

By making Perrin the permanent leader, Fenves has gone out on a limb as well. He could have gone after former West Virginia AD Oliver Luck (and probably gotten him) or TCU’s Chris Del Conte, a rising star. But Fenves knows or thinks he knows what he has in Perrin.

The rest of us do not.

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