UPDATE 6:15 p.m. Thursday: This story has been updated from its original version to include comments from Mike Perrin.
DeLoss Dodds became a towering figure, one who oversaw Texas athletics for three decades, because he knew exactly where to stand. In the back.
Dodds never forgot several critical rules. In college athletics, the coaches are the stars. The athletes are the focus. And by all means, do whatever it takes to make all 20 varsity sports at Texas become successful. Within reason, of course.
Texas athletic director Steve Patterson was fired on Sept. 15 largely because he had become the story, and a negative one at that. Mike Perrin, a low-key trial lawyer from Houston, was installed as the interim athletic director one day later. He was asked to quietly get UT’s house in order.
On Thursday, UT President Gregory L. Fenves announced he was removing the interim tag and making Perrin the permanent athletic director with a two-year contract extension stretching through the 2017-18 academic year.
“I have throughly enjoyed reconnecting with the University of Texas,” Perrin said in an interview Thursday afternoon with the American-Statesman.
“It’s been trying to catch up to a moving train,” he added, “but with a lot of support from a lot of people, it’s been a wonderful experience and I look forward continuing to serve the university and the greater Longhorn community and the student-athletes.”
Perrin agreed to a one-year salary of $750,000 upon being named the interim AD, almost half than what Patterson made annually. In a statement, Fenves said Perrin has already started rebuilding relationship with fans and alumni.
“I am confident Mike will continue bringing positive change and pride to our men’s athletics department,” Fenves said.
Perrin, 68, has no collegiate administrative or business experience to indicate he can successfully manage a $165-million business, which is what UT athletics truly is. But already on Perrin’s short watch, the school reached an agreement with Nike for the largest shoe and apparel contract in college sports history, a deal worth $250 million over 15 years.
Perrin knows that if Texas can resurrect its football team, a lot of the athletic department’s troubles may fade into the background. That’s why he sings Strong’s praises at every turn.
As a former UT linebacker who played for legendary coach Darrell Royal, Perrin understands the value of making sure Strong knows he’s fully supported.
Prior to the Texas Tech game on Thanksgiving, Strong said of Perrin, “He just has that leadership ability about him where he can get things done.”
Fenves had said he probably wouldn’t think about a permanent AD until after the football season. But it makes some sense to install Perrin now, as Strong is likely to remake his coaching staff after Saturday’s season finale at No. 12 Baylor.
There are other issues bubbling under the surface. Several coaches of smaller sports had little to no relationship with Patterson; Perrin must rebuild those bridges. And Randa Ryan, the head of academic services for UT athletics, has been on sick leave the entire semester. Multiple sources said some coaches have express frustration with the academic support, or lack thereof, coming from Ryan’s support staff housed in the north end zone of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
It’s highly unlikely Perrin will take UT athletics abroad like Patterson did. Perrin chose to skip the men’s basketball trip to China, opting instead to go to the football game in West Virginia. With Patterson now gone, any talk of UT playing football games in Mexico is likely dead.
“It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience serving the student-athletes, working with our faculty and great staff here and alumni groups,” Perrin said, “so many stake holders that care so passionately about the University of Texas.”