Pat Sullivan, who won a Southwest Conference title as the head coach of TCU in 1994, has passed away at the age of 69.
The first Heisman trophy winner for the University of Auburn, Sullivan is one of the greatest players in Tigers’ history. After a decorated collegiate career, he spent six seasons in the NFL as a quarterback with the Falcons and Redskins. After his playing career ended, he stayed connected to football, serving as Auburn’s color commentator before joining the staff as the quarterback’s coach. He spent six seasons on the sidelines of Jordan-Hare, helping the Tigers to three SEC championships before being offered the head coaching position at TCU in 1992.
Inheriting a program racked with penalties and probations, Sullivan led the Horned Frogs to consecutive losing seasons before breaking through with a 7-5 record in 1994, good enough for a share of the SWC title. A buyout snafu kept Sullivan in Fort Worth despite overtures from LSU, preceding TCU’s move to the WAC after the breakup of the SWC a season later. The Frogs would fall on hard times again, leading to Sullivan’s resignation in October of 1997, paving the way for Dennis Franchione, and eventually, Gary Patterson. Sullivan finished his career in Fort Worth with 24-42-1 record, but is credited with recruiting LaDainian Tomlinson to the Frogs.
Longing to stay on the sidelines, Sullivan was hired by UAB to serve as their offensive coordinator in 1999. A cancer diagnosis in 2003 did not slow Sullivan down, as he was named head coach of Samford just three years later. The leader of the Bulldogs until 2014, Sullivan won one championship before retiring for good after eight seasons.
Sullivan is a member of the College Football an Alabama Sports Hall of Fames, and continued to stay involved with the game in various capacities throughout his life, especially his beloved Tigers. He served on the search committee that hired head coach Gus Malzahn and felt called to sports, saying “I’ve said it many, many times, and I believe it: What you get out of athletics is the relationships that last for a lifetime.”
Pat Sullivan was the head coach of the Horned Frogs when I arrived on campus in 1997, and though he knew it was his last season at TCU halfway through it, he stayed and finished a 1-10 grind that ended with the memorable defeat of SMU at Amon G Carter (many of us are still washing pepper spray out of our eyes from that night). Current TCU AD Jeremiah Donati released a statement Sunday, saying “Pat Sullivan is not only a big part of our football history, leading us to a Southwest Conference championship in 1994, but also a prominent figure in the sport as a Heisman Trophy winner. He was the driving force in our 2014 game with Samford, as he was the head coach there and it coincided with the 20-year anniversary of our SWC title. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be forever missed.”
Sullivan is survived by his wife of 50 years, three children and eight grandchildren.