Gil LeBreton

Bond between TCU, Patterson still peachy

TCU football coach Gary Patterson, with his players, gather around the Big 12 trophy.
TCU football coach Gary Patterson, with his players, gather around the Big 12 trophy. AP

A friend and respected business colleague from another state — let’s call it “Louisiana” — called the other day with a question.

Would football coach Gary Patterson, he wondered, ever leave TCU for another school?

Sure, I told my friend, anything is possible in the business of sports. There’s a Rose Bowl trophy in the TCU football lobby to remind us of that.

But why would Patterson leave?

In the giddy moments after the Horned Frogs’ final regular-season victory two weeks ago, as students and moist-eyed alums swarmed the field, a crowd began a building chant:

“Ga-ry! Ga-ry! Ga-ry!” they shouted.

Patterson, ascending to a makeshift podium to receive the Big 12 Conference championship trophy, rasped into the microphone that he only had two things to say.

“No. 1,” he gravelly began, “I love you.”

The crowd exploded in cheers.

He meant it, too. Of all the accomplishments in his 17 years at TCU — a span that includes six conference titles, the Rose Bowl win, the renovation of Amon G. Carter Stadium and more victories than any coach in school history — none seem to tickle Patterson more than the way that the community has embraced him and his football program.

Maybe it was a mere formality, therefore, that athletic director Chris Del Conte announced Tuesday that Patterson’s contract had been extended — through some undisclosed distant year. Nor should it have been a surprise that Del Conte moved quickly that final weekend to put the school’s fondness for Patterson on paper.

The bold move into the Big 12, Del Conte noted, turned out to be only a “three-year plan.” The Peach Bowl officials that formally presented him and Patterson with their bowl invitation Tuesday were further confirmation of that.

As consolation prizes go, the Frogs have been rewarded with a challenging one. Ole Miss might well have been on its way to the College Football Playoff when Laquon Treadwell fumbled at the goal line in the final 90 seconds against Auburn. The Rebels, at the time, held the SEC tiebreaker over Alabama.

For the 11-1 Frogs, the Sugar Bowl would have been a just reward for their turn-around season. But in the new playoff era’s bowl selection process, the Peach and Cotton games are just partners in the same poker game.

The New Year’s Six, they’re calling the six designated major-major bowls. In the College Football Playoff’s three-year rotation, the Peach Bowl will host one of the two semifinal games after the 2016 season.

It’s another place for Patterson to check off of his football program’s bucket list. The Peach Bowl promises TCU and Ole Miss a parade, a fan festival, a $4 million-per-conference payday and a probable sellout audience for the 18th year in a row.

They, too, also appreciate the head coach, as bowl president Gary Stokan said Tuesday.

“I’d like to congratulate coach Patterson not only for the five coach of the year awards,” Stokan said, “but to me, more importantly, the class he’s exhibited throughout the whole college football playoff process.

“In this business, you teach as much as you coach. I think what Gary taught not only his players, but all of us in this business, to rise above adversity is a lesson I’m sure those kids will be able to use later in life.”

Stokan didn’t have to name any names. Everyone at TCU knows what he meant.

If he can get to a Peach Bowl, logic — and a returning Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback — suggest that he can get to a playoff bowl.

That must be in the “five-year” plan.

Would Gary Patterson ever leave TCU?

The better question is why?

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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