There will never be another Bill Snyder, and the man’s “young apprentice” is neither quite as young, but he is now The Master.
Horrendous Star Wars analogies aside, the retirement of Bill Snyder from Kansas State as head football coach leaves Gary Patterson as college football’s remaining Purple Wizard, not of the plains but the prairie.
TCU’s Wizard is now the second-longest tenured football coach in America, second only to Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz was hired in 1999, and Gary followed him the next year at TCU.
As TCU will do its part on day one of Big 12 Media Days at Jerry’s Night Club on Monday, the quiet question for the school is how much longer can this all go?
Those close to GP have started to wonder, aloud, that their favorite coach simply has aspirations for a life after being a head football coach. Others, specifically at TCU, are quite certain he will coach until 3034, because he doesn’t know what else to do.
The TCU admins want him for as long as he wants, but few of the higher ups at the school know there will be a day when his presence is that statue. There is no escape plan or coach in waiting, but merely a willingness to acknowledge the obvious, that even the most successful periods in history have a conclusion.
Gary has intimated he has no interest in following Snyder’s path; Snyder retired after the 2018 season, for the second time, at the age of 79.
Snyder’s exit, both of them, were more sad than they were a celebration for a person who deserved it.
Patterson is a young 59. For a point of reference, Alabama’s Nick Saban is 67.
Gary is in good health and can easily go another eight years. The question is if he wants to, and whether he has the necessary energy to keep TCU relevant.
Watching Patterson address the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd at Amon G. Carter Stadium last week, he has the look of a man who is comfortable in his own skin, and is secure in his job. He enjoys being Gary Patterson.
Why would he not? He has built a life that he likely could never have envisioned. He has made more money than a poor kid from Nowhere, Kansas could have conceived. And, when Fame visits, you don’t want her to leave.
So he may never win a national title ... so what? He won the Rose Bowl at TCU. That’s harder than winning a national title.
He is coming off a 7-6 season where he was praised for one of the best coaching performances of his career. It was. How many power programs does a 7-6 record, and a win in the Cheese Crackers Bowl, result in high praise?
Much like Snyder’s impact at Kansas State, no equation exists to accurately assess GP’s value to TCU. Or even to Fort Worth.
Eventually, however, an increasing number of coaches in this era grow too tired of the kids. Their parents. The media. The fans. The boosters. The alums. The strain of the job.
They tend to fantasize about retirement, without acknowledging they need the job more than the job needs them. They certainly don’t need the money.
There is a reason why former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is now the head coach of the XFL franchise that will begin play in Arlington next year. He was bored.
TCU, however, is not OU. TCU may be the one exception in that it needs GP more than GP needs them.
He is acutely aware of that, and the responsibility he feels to the school, and specifically for his staff. For while his language towards his coaches during practice, or a game, may not be full of love, if they work he takes care of them.
There is a reason why his staff has had such little turnover despite such a remarkable run of success. He can be a bear in season, but the staffers can live, and provide, a good quality of life while coaching college football.
For as awkward as he was in front of a camera when he took the job, Patterson has become the media darling. His success on camera was almost was unforeseen as his success as a head coach.
When ESPN produced the “Coaches’ Room” during the 2017 national title telecast, which featured a handful of head coaches talking about the game in real time, Gary stole the room.
Now that he has the command of his voice, and is camera comfortable, he is a skilled teacher of the game. He would be, or will be, attractive as an analyst.
He has said before he would not mind being a defensive coordinator, or defensive analyst, in the future.
The awkward truth for TCU is that its future is not necessarily here, but everyone can see it’s coming. Because he has talked about it, and romanticized the idea.
When Bill Snyder retired for the final time, the remaining Purple Wizard is Gary Patterson, and he’s made it perfectly clear he does not want to be another Bill Snyder.