Gary Patterson realized well before he signed a new six-year contract last week from TCU that he is starting to outlast some big names in the Big 12.
He’s proud of it, and proud for TCU, because it signals the Frogs’ success.
But the veteran head coach likely can’t help mixed emotions.
“Well, I’ll be honest with you, I miss Bobby Stoops. I’ll miss Coach Snyder. I miss Mack Brown,” he said.
In his 17th year as head coach in Fort Worth, Patterson has seen nine coaching changes at six of the other nine schools in the league since the Horned Frogs joined in 2012.
In four years since Brown’s retirement, Texas hired and fired Charlie Strong and hired Tom Herman. Post-Art Briles, Baylor employed Jim Grobe for one year before turning to Matt Rhule. Texas Tech used Chris Thomsen as head coach for a bowl game after Tommy Tuberville abruptly left for Cincinnati in 2012, then switched gears to hire Kliff Kingsbury. Kansas parted ways with Charlie Weis in 2014, gave Clint Bowen eight games, then turned to David Beatty. Two years ago, Iowa State dismissed Paul Rhoads and brought in Matt Campbell. In June, Oklahoma promoted assistant Lincoln Riley to replace the retired Bob Stoops.
Only K-State with Snyder, Oklahoma State with Mike Gundy and West Virginia with Dana Holgorsen have kept the same head coach all six seasons with TCU in the league.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte can count his blessings. He has never had to conduct a football coaching search in eight years on the job in Fort Worth.
“Knowing that there are jobs open today, we’re very fortunate that we have a coach that wants to be at TCU and loves TCU and realizes that his DNA permeates not only the football field but the entire institution,” Del Conte said.
Patterson’s name has been linked in at least speculation to jobs at Texas A&M, Tennessee and Nebraska this fall. He told ESPN he once interviewed at Tennessee and Nebraska but sensed he was not going to get an offer.
Patterson said it’s his policy to “never say never” on job opportunities. But he has yet to be compelled enough to leave.
“I read articles like, ‘Gary Patterson wasn’t interested in A&M,’ ” he said. “I would never say anything bad about A&M or Tennessee or any of the jobs that can open. To be honest with you, my wife and I sat down and said, ‘We want to win a national championship, period.’ But it takes a lot of energy. You’ve got to make sure if you want to go take a job that you can do the best job you can of changing that job to what you need to do. And the bottom line to it is, I thought I could do a better job here than I could go do anywhere else.”
Patterson is second in wins among the Big 12 coaches. His 159 going into Saturday’s Big 12 championship game are second only to Snyder’s 209.
With the new contract, which pushes out TCU’s commitment to Patterson two more years, through the 2023 season, Patterson is set to assume status as the Big 12’s winningest head coach when the 78-year-old Snyder retires.
Saturday, Patterson and TCU play in the newly resumed Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma, looking for their first outright title. They shared the championship in 2014 with Baylor following their third season in the league.
“It’s gratifying to see that he has made this his home,” Del Conte said. “He loves TCU, and he’s become an iconic figure for this institution. Today, he has a statue out front. It’s not for what he did for football, but what he did for the entire university and how he helped galvanize TCU through the rough waters.”
Patterson’s TCU teams have won six championships or co-championships in Conference USA, the Mountain West and Big 12 since he became head coach for the Mobile Alabama Bowl in December 2000.
“I’ve been lucky,” Patterson said. “The Mountain West, when I went through, it was Fisher DeBerry, Lavell Edwards. You had some unbelievable coaches that were head coaches that you could look up to.”
Patterson is 57. He has said he doesn’t want to be coaching into his 70s like Snyder or 80s like Joe Paterno.
His new deal amounted to a two-year extension, which would take him to age 63 in the final season. He said it was an easy call to go two more years because it reassures recruits and donors that he is not retiring any time soon. He announced it himself in a postgame press conference. Two weeks ago, TCU kicked off a fundraising effort for $100 million to add a club and suites to the east side of Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“I don’t look at myself as an older guy,” Patterson said. “On the field, the way I am on the sideline, I just don’t look at myself as an older guy. I still think I have a lot of energy, and I like coaching. I like what I got into football for — coaching ball.”
He could be saying that for a while.