<
>

Texas fans' Steve Patterson banner is victorious, but buyers stay in shadows

Four days before Steve Patterson was fired, pilot Don Arsenault flies over Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a message from fans. Max Olson/ESPN

Steve Patterson's ouster as athletic director at Texas came just four days after fans paid to fly a banner over Texas' Royal-Memorial Stadium that read, "PATTERSON MUST GO."

But the benefactors behind the campaign aren't willing to declare victory after their swift success -- publicly at least.

According to Eddie Thompson of AirSign, the company that facilitated the stunt, the buyers did not wish to be identified, preferring to remain deep undercover.

"They wanted to drop the money off in dollars," Thompson said, declining to reveal the cost. "They were worried Patterson would hire a [private investigator]."

They may sound a little paranoid, but there is precedent for concern.

When Patterson was president of the Portland Trail Blazers, he bought the domain name of John Canzano, a sports columnist at the Oregonian with whom he was less than pleased.

"This was a group of alumni that runs in those circles," Thompson said, explaining why the boosters told him they were so cautious about staying behind the scenes. "Apparently, Patterson is very vindictive."

AirSign is a national company that offers banners, skywriting and blimps, deals with controversy in sports and politics, including flying a #GOODELLMUSTGO banner over MetLife Stadium last year aimed at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But Thompson said he was shocked at the amount of discussion when the Patterson banner photos hit Twitter.

The pilot, Don Arsenault of Austin, also has his own local air banner business. He flew over Texas' game against Rice on Saturday after being contracted by Thompson.

Arsenault, a longtime Texas fan, has a code about criticizing his Longhorns, but this was exempt.

"I've been doing this for 39 years here in Austin. I pretty much bleed burnt orange and am really pro-team," he said. "No matter what, I will not say anything bad about them. But as far as coaches or administrators? Those guys make so much money, they [couldn't] care less what I say."

This one wasn't even his first banner critical of an athletic director. He flashed back to 1997, when Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and coach John Mackovic were on the hot seat because of the Longhorns' downward spiral in football, punctuated by a 66-3 home loss to UCLA.

As the Longhorns lost 47-30 at home to Colorado to fall to 3-4, Arsenault circled overhead.

"I did the one," he said, "for 'Dump DeLoss and Flush The John.'"