3/29/2012 3:21:06 PM
Michael Crow finally admitted the mistake that was Lisa Love.
Not that the former athletic director didn't have her strengths. They just weren't in the areas her school needed the most. She didn't talk like a football fan. She didn't speak their language. She didn't seem comfortable in front of the media. She hired search firms to find coaching candidates. Fair or otherwise, it created a perception that she was a puppet hire for the school president.
Like most people who lose their job at ASU, Love will be targeted and blamed in the coming days. Some of it will be deserved. Her handling of Dennis Erickson's dismissal - staging interviews in small groups, in a small office - marked the end of her credibility with ASU fans. That was a moment that demanded strong leadership, someone to stand in front of the community, projecting strength and vision.
Then again, maybe she knew her days were numbered.
Either way, this is a good day for ASU. Steve Patterson is smooth, stylish and personable. He'll be part of the Todd Graham renaissance, a head coach who is wowing boosters and fans alike with breathtaking rhetoric. It will be interesting what the new athletic director thinks of Herb Sendek, and if the ASU head coach suddenly becomes more visible in the public.
And don't think for a moment that Greg Byrne's performance in Tucson didn't raise the stakes for everyone, showing Crow what a dynamic athletic director can accomplish with the two revenue-producing sports.
ASU President Michael Crow appointed Steve Patterson, hired last summer as Chief Operating Officer of Sun Devil Athletics and Managing Director of the Sun Devil Sports Group, as Love's replacement. Once the Arizona Board of Regents approves the move, he will become ASU's fourth athletic director in the past 16 years.
"Both Lisa and I know this is a tough assignment," Crow said. "We've run this path about as hard as we can run it. She's going to move on to something else, and I'm going to be very supportive. We're moving forward with Steve."
Sources told The Republic that Crow met with Love on Tuesday and relieved her of her duties. The university announced Patterson, 54, as athletic director at a news conference Wednesday morning, issuing a release that Love is leaving ASU to pursue other opportunities.
"At the end of the day, the only person responsible for who sits in the athletics-director position on any given day of the week is me, so it's ultimately my decision,'' Crow said.
Love's dismissal simply is the latest step in what has become an overhaul of ASU's athletic department, most of the change stemming from the program's top revenue-producing sports. In 2009, baseball coach Pat Murphy was fired amid an NCAA investigation over rules violations, one that will keep the Sun Devils from competing in the postseason this year.
Four months ago, football coach Dennis Erickson was fired after failing to win the Pac-12 South Division, a goal Crow said the administration fully expected ASU to capture. Although the Sun Devils participated in a bowl game, they finished without a winning record for a fourth consecutive season.
No change has come in men's basketball, but the program has underachieved the past two seasons, finishing at or near the bottom of the conference standings. To help calm fans, coach Herb Sendek this week participated in a teleconference with approximately 1,000 season-ticket holders.
"Is there happiness about the performance of (the) football team over the last few years?" Crow said. "The answer is no. ... Is there happiness about men's basketball? It goes unanswered. How can you be happy about 20 losses in a single season? It is our expectation that none of our teams and none of our programs (should) be in the bottom tier of anything. Period. And that's not where we are."
Patterson's promotion saves ASU from an extended search and a transition of uncertainty, but it doesn't come without questions. Prior to his ASU arrival, Patterson did not have much experience at the college level. He spent nearly 25 years as an executive with the NFL's Houston Texans and with the NBA's Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers. He also worked in pro hockey with the Houston Aeros.
Before coming to ASU, Patterson was president of Pro Sports Consulting. Moving forward, he will merge his duties with the Sun Devil Sports group into his new responsibilities. He said his first order of business is to meet with coaches of every ASU program, a process that began Wednesday. He doesn't expect to make immediate changes.
"To go forward from where we are here, we have to have a vision of where we want to go,'' Patterson said. "The key to that is Sun Devil athletics has to win, first and foremost. We have to be consistently competitive. We need to be top-ranked in the Director's Cup every year. We need to vie for national championships, and while we're doing it we need to have some fun."
In seven years under Love, ASU captured 15 conference championships and seven national titles, including three in women's track and field and two in softball. Crow also praised the Sun Devils' academic performance under her watch.
"(This) is an extremely challenging position,'' Crow said. " ... 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."
Love did not attend the news conference. Contacted by a Republic reporter, she said she was not ready to comment. Under contract through June 30, 2014, she had a base salary of around $341,000. According to her contract, Love is due 100 percent of her salary for up to two years if she is fired without cause. She was due a $50,000 retention bonus June 30.
Patterson, who said the terms of his new job have not been finalized, said college success starts with healthy football and basketball programs. And he's convinced ASU has the resources to make it happen.
"This is a great canvas to paint on,'' Patterson said. "If you can't figure out how to come here and be successful, it's not ASU's fault. It's the person that's coaching. If you can't convince the best athletes to come and play here ... there's something wrong. We ought to be competitive every single week, day-in and day-out in every single sport."
Steve Patterson bio
Hometown: Beaver Dam, Wis.
Education: The University of Texas, Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration in 1980. He graduated from Texas' law school in 1984.
Key background: As general manager of the Houston Rockets, Patterson helped mold the 1994 NBA champions. Later, he helped bring the Houston Texans and Super Bowl XXXVIII to Houston. In Portland, Patterson served as president of the Trail Blazers, the Rose Garden and Rose City Radio. He also was the team's general manager.
Quote: "When I first interviewed Steve for the role that he had until today, what I found was a person deeply committed to education. He comes from a family of educators. Deeply committed to what universities stand for and what we're about. ... Now I've seen him operate for nine months, and I have complete confidence that the culture shift from professional sports and university sports can be accomplished well by Steve." -- ASU President Michael Crow
Go Devils !!