You know when you are paranoid by something and are really inside your head, but then you say it aloud and it sounds stupid? That happens to me every time a big coaching job becomes vacant and my fears of Gary Patterson fleeing Fort Worth stir irrationally in my brain. Even with the odds of Patterson leaving at 12/1, and Florida AD, Jeremy Foley, going after an offensive mind, Frog fans are still worried. So here’s your reminder, your open letter, not just for the Florida job, but for all jobs. Gary isn’t leaving TCU. And he never will.
A legitimate panic for Patterson to leave TCU hasn’t even occurred this decade, much less this week. The only time a Patterson Panic was understandable was 2008, when rumors of him leaving for Kansas State sent a shockwave throughout TCU loyalists. The panic lasted only a few hours, as the rumor lived and died on a Kansas State message board. This was just mere days after TCU suffered a gut punch loss to Utah--a loss that cost them a BCS birth. It would’ve been the worst 1-2 punch in TCU history, but instead, Patterson stayed.
This was the last chance of Gary Patterson leaving; before any BCS Bowls--a Fiesta bowl loss, and Rose Bowl win, and well before an invite to the Big 12. The former two poured the cement, the latter turned it to concrete and made it certain that TCU’s savior would never leave Cowtown.
There was a time, I’m not sure when, when Gary Patterson told himself he’d never coach anywhere but Fort Worth. Maybe it was 2005, when TCU, for the first time, narrowly missed a BCS bowl. Maybe it was then, when Patterson, spitting fire about being the little guy--the borderline masochism that came with wanting to take on Goliath in the back of the schoolyard, even when Goliath trembled at the thought and backed down.
Maybe it was in 2008 like we said above. Maybe it was shortly after losing the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The 17-10 loss to Boise State, appropriately deemed ‘The Cop Out Bowl,’ may have been one of the best things to ever happen to TCU. The Horned Frogs barely missed a National Championship birth that year--but thanks to Mack Brown’s keen ability to allocate time, TCU settled for a Fiesta Bowl, just as Chris Peterson’s Broncos settled. Neither schools got to play a Goliath, thus neither had an opportunity to validate their season in the eyes of the general public. Instead, they played each other in a lose-lose game.
Fan 1: Yes! We won! We won a BCS game!
Fan 2: Oh, you won the Fiesta Bowl? Congrats, you beat (TCU/Boise)
Fan I: Drats, we lost.
Fan II: You couldn’t even beat (Boise State/TCU). You didn’t deserve to be there. You’ll never be big time football.
It’s that kind of talk that fuels Patterson. Possessing the perfect amount of Napoleonic complex for his school, Patterson knew there was a higher ceiling for TCU. And that loss may have permanently convinced him. Had TCU snuck into the National Championship that year, who knows what would’ve happened. But win or lose, no one would’ve been insane in thinking Patterson would’ve been just in leaving Fort Worth after taking a Mountain West school to a BCS title. So when he finally got to play redhot Wisconsin in the coveted Rose Bowl short of a year later, that’s when I knew Patterson would be a part of TCU forever. The next fall TCU, who’d already accepted an invite to the now, basically defunct Big East, got the invite they’d wanted since the mid-90s.
The Big 12 Dream
TCU in the Big 12 has given Patterson everything he’s always wanted. A great program in a great conference, with his recruits, his way. And he still gets to be the underdog. The underdog montra comes with the territory of being a school that fluctuates between 8 and 9-thousand undergraduates. As for the other points, there’s no media pressure for Patterson. Because before Patterson, in most people’s minds, there wasn’t a TCU--just pre-World War II legends like Sammy Baugh, and teams that won National Championships no one could remember.
This, again, came up last year when rumors floated around about Gary taking the Texas job. Sure, it made sense. Texas was looking at a defensive minded coach to firmly establish the anti-Brown era. And while they cartoonishly salivated over Nick Saban, and very easily lost that bid, Texas found a perfect coach in Charlie Strong. Never was that coach Gary Patterson. Media and boosters are another big reason why Patterson would never leave. Strong, to no fault of his own, struggled with it at first. Strong also, among many reasons, still hasn’t won over the boosters. Could you imagine Patterson in Austin? His cryptic press conferences that are in and of themselves labyrinths, or dealing with boosters like Red McCombs--who speaks like he hasn’t seen or read a piece of pop culture post-1963? What Patterson wants, he gets. As Nick Saban said at the beginning of the season, the greatest part of college football is the power. And as Chip Kelly said after he left Oregon, the worst part is the media and boosters. Patterson gets the former, and deals with the latter as he wishes.
If Texas "could only" get Charlie Strong, what’s that say about who Florida can get? Sure, they have a rich history--Heisman winners, National Championships, one of the greatest American sports stadiums, etc. Yet none of their dream candidates -- Bob Stoops, Steve Spurrier, or Dan Mullen -- are going to happen. The National recruiting gap has also widened in the past five years, and continues to expand by the week. I mean, the last three Big 12 champions have been Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State--this includes Oklahoma’s "shared title". There are two exceptions; Saban’s Alabama and Meyer’s Ohio State. The two greatest coaches of the 21st century, neither of whom were particularly loyal, but who are the last living relics that your school can thrive, and win on a brand. You can also argue that Les Miles is apart of this group too, and could very likely leave Baton Rouge for Ann Arbor in 2015. The job of a recruiter is infinitely harder than it was 10 years ago, and even if you’re Florida, Texas, or Southern Cal--teams who all won National Championships in the 2000s--there are no guarantees anymore, because now you have Texas A&M, Baylor, and Oregon to deal with.
The new trend is what Patterson has done at TCU. It takes a certain, socially acceptable psychopath to be a great college coach. And while our beloved psychopaths may eat grass, tie their shoes at odd times, or not give two shits about what outdated windbreaker, from whatever outdated bowl they’re wearing--the best of the best are anything but greedy. And as my friend says, what would a guy like Gary Patterson do with $100 million that he couldn’t do for $50 million? These guys don’t fly on Gulfstreams with champagne; they lock themselves in their bathroom with a case of Dr. Pepper the night before a game. Legacy takes precedence over stacks of cotton and linen woven together.
Fort Worth Forever.
Gary Patterson’s team is 9-1. His quarterback, Trevone Boykin, will likely be a Heisman finalist. And every doubt as to whether TCU can compete in the Big 12 has been eliminated. If you can compete at a National level, with a brand you’ve built, and get paid just as you would anywhere else for it--why would you leave for a school that would put a gun to your head?
I’m 25 now, and by the time I reach 50, Gary Patterson’s name will be on the stadium that he rebuilt. That’s why listing every finite detail as to why he’d never leave for Florida, or anywhere else, is just semantics. Patterson is, and always will be, the greatest thing that ever happened to TCU football. More so than Paterno did at Penn State, Bill Snyder did at Kansas State, or Bobby Bowden did in Tallahassee, Gary Patterson made TCU stand out when it was most difficult in college football, and that’s why it’s one of the greater stories in the history of the sport. He’d never do anything to jeopardize that narrative.