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Gary Patterson is the elder statesman of the Big 12

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With Bill Snyder’s retirement, Patterson officially becomes the longest-tenured coach in the conference. But he’s been the true leader for a while.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Monday evening, news broke that Kansas State had made a hire to replace the recently-retired Bill Snyder, in the form of North Dakota State University head coach Chris Klieman.

Klieman, was 67-6 for the Bison in five seasons, winning the Missouri Valley Conference in each and taking home three National Championships. It’s an impressive resume at the FCS level, though replacing a legend is never easy.

Snyder won 215 games over two different stints with the Wildcats, the winningness coach in conference history. Bob Stoops, who retired having won 190 games in 18 seasons is second, with TCU’s Gary Patterson coming in third with 166 - though only 57 have come since the Frogs joined the conference.

With Snyder retiring and Kliff Kingsbury having been fired, the Big 12 boasts one of the youngest groups of Head Coaches in the Power Five. Guys like Lincoln Riley, Tom Herman, and Matt Rhule (both completing year two) as well as Matt Campbell (in his third year) are still relatively new to coaching football at the FBS level. Mike Gundy and Dana Holgorsen have both been at their respective positions for a good long while - 14 and eight years, respectively - and each has only been a head coach at their current place of employment. Recent hires Matt Wells (Texas Tech) and Klieman will be heading up their first ever Power Five programs this fall.

With all that recent turnover and all these young/rookie head coaches, it falls on the veteran leaders to speak out for the conference and the players in it, a role that Gary Patterson seems to relish. Patterson, who played at Kansas State as a linebacker prior to Snyder taking over the program, has always thought highly on the man known as the Wizard of Manhattan. Snyder took over what was once the most moribund program in the country and made it a winner, earning respect from his peers and his players in the process. It’s something that has inspired Patterson, and others, over the last two decades. “Bill Snyder is what’s good for college football. He took a program that was probably in the most dire straights, and in the last 30 years, he’s turned it into something to remember. He’s won championships, done what he’s supposed to do, and he should be respected for that. It’s as simple as that.”

But it wasn’t just the wins, just the handwritten notes, or just the success on and off the field of the players that have come through the program that led to that examples, it’s the way he did it, the attention to detail, and the small touches that made big impacts. “He’s taught a lot of us a lot of lessons on how to treat people, how to go about our business - a lot of lessons learned from Bill Snyder. I learned from him - it’s why i pull up the team at halftime, because that’s what he used to do.”

Coach P has always had an open door policy for coaches that want to come through his program, learn his defense, and see how TCU has done things. And unlike most coaches at this level, he has also been proactive in learning from others. While the TCU staff has visited places like Alabama and other blue chip programs, where he learns the most is from the folks that have had to do things the way he has at the small, private school in Texas that fought to get a seat at the table. “I have watched people who have done more with less, when they started, and he was one of those guys that did that. You have to respect the things he’s done and how he does it.”

All of those lessons have given Patterson the respect of not just the coaches in the Big 12 conference, but across the country. And thus, he has gleaned leadership opportunities in not just his league, but at the national NCAA level. Patterson has served on multiple committees that examine the rules in and around college football, and is potentially in the running to preside over one of them in the future. He has served on the board of the American Football Coaches Foundation and is currently a president of the American Football Coaches Association, meaning he could very well be next in line to be football commander in chief. He knows the impact his voice can have on the future of the game and those involved in it. “To me, I keep fighting for the kids and for us doing the right thing. Not about money, but how we make decisions as a NCAA group, as a college group, making decisions for whats right for the student athlete, but more importantly - giving them what they want isn’t always right for them. It’s like your kids, you don’t always give them what they want bc they ask for it - usually that leads to a lot of problems.”

Having Gary Patterson as a voice of reason for NCAA Football is a good thing for all involved. Having him as the face of TCU Football is certainly great for TCU fans.