Second Thought: Tuesday November 25, 2008
Glad We Knew Ya

Patterson has earned a new job, to a fare-thee-well.


Texas Christian University football coach Gary Patterson should get out of town.
I’m not saying this because TCU has lost two games this year, meaning that the Horned Frogs won’t be busting through to the big-buck Bowl Championship Series games. No, Patterson should leave Cowtown because he has done all he can as the TCU football coach. He deserves to get to a program where he can move up.
A few weeks ago, a fan web site for the Kansas State University football program posted news that Patterson would be taking over the coaching gig there. Patterson was pissed off and called local sports talk radio to deny the report, and the web site quickly pulled down the item.
But Patterson never denied he might be interested in the KSU job, which was recently given to former KSU coach Bill Snyder. There are other big-school coaching vacancies, however, at Ten-nessee, Clemson, and Syracuse, all in conferences that get first crack at the BCS bowl games.
Patterson has won 72 games in eight seasons as head coach at TCU. Five times, including this year, his teams have won at least 10 games. TCU has the seventh- best record in the nation in the last four years. Among private colleges, only the University of Southern California has a better record since 2005.
So why shouldn’t Patterson hang around and take the $1.3 million a year the school pays him to do what he loves and does well? Because Patterson has just about zero chances of getting to a BCS bowl game and a shot at the national championship at TCU. But more importantly, neither the school nor Fort Worth shows much support for Patterson or the Horned Frogs.
The Frogs play in the Mountain West Conference, and many of the games are shown on the conference’s cable TV channel, which is not carried on most of the cable services here. TCU draws about 30,000 fans per home game, less than 70 percent of the capacity at Amon G. Carter Stadium. The team also gets little attention from the mostly Dallas-based sports media. Think of how much you’ve heard about Southern Methodist University coach June Jones or University of North Texas coach Todd Dodge, both with 1-10 records this year. Now think about the coverage that Patterson gets.
For TCU to get even a chance at the BCS bowl game, they would have to win all their games and do some praying. This year they lost two games to top-10 ranked schools and might have to settle for the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
At 48, Patterson still has some good years of coaching ahead. And if he wants to see an example of what a Big 12 program looks like that isn’t quite on the big-time scale of UT or OU, he should consider Lubbock. Texas Tech University lost to OU last weekend, but they’re still in the national championship hunt. Tech gets to play on national television most weeks, and Coach Mike Leach is now able to recruit the blue-chippers.
Patterson’s players come from the ranks of those left behind from the football powerhouses. TCU games are shown on TV channels no one can find. And yet he still manages to win more than 10 games in most years and to get to a bowl game. That’s the best anyone can do under those circumstances. Dennis Dodd, a senior writer for CBS put it succinctly: “Right now, [Patterson is] Sinatra playing a truck stop lounge, or U2 doing a set at Starbucks.”
That’s a bit exaggerated. But the stage he’s playing on right now is obviously not big enough for the level of success he has achieved. He took over a program that had been in the dumps and brought it up to a level where the team usually gets ranked in the top 20.
So we should all wish him well in the next phase of his career. When I did a cover story on him a few years ago for Fort Worth Weekly, I found him to be a very interesting guy. He’s an excellent guitar player (he was in bands, before the head-coaching gig ate up all his time), an avid reader, a coach who puts his student/athletes’ education above everything else. And he has very little ego.
Patterson expressed his love and appreciation for Fort Worth and TCU, but I sensed a bit of frustration — due to not getting the respect he deserves from the national football establishment nor the support his program deserves from the locals.
He might be able to change those two variables if he goes to a place like Clemson or the University of Tennessee. He would be the big guy in those places, with a chance to recruit better players than the ’tweeners he gets now. He’s earned that chance. And TCU and Fort Worth should thank him and give him their blessing as he moves on.

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