“TCU is like a cockroach. It’s not so much what he eats and totes off, but what he falls into and messes up.” — Darrell Royal.
That well-repeated line from the legendary Texas coach came after the Horned Frogs had knocked off the Longhorns on November 21, 1961. The victory was a momentous one for TCU, but upset everyone else; had the Horns held on, it would have meant a likely national championship for the Southwest Conference.
That cockroach mentality has stuck with the Frogs during the Gary Patterson era; whether it was knocking off Oklahoma in 2005, coming within a breath of the College Football Playoffs in 2014, or sticking around despite playing in four different conferences in a span of just 13 seasons, TCU Football refuses to go away.
And that’s absolutely by design.
As Big 12 Media Days kicked off Monday, Gary Patterson emphasized that his Horned Frogs had no intention of backing down or playing a role, despite Blue Blood programs like Texas and Oklahoma running the headlines. When asked about facility upgrades - including a significantly sized scoreboard remodel - GP harkened back to Royal and the football program of nearly six decades prior.
To him, it’s all about staying power. “If you take the philosophy of you’re a coach, you want to be somewhere three or four years and you want to move on to the next place - that’s not our philosophy. It’s how we make everybody else better. When you when you move, you help yourself, and when you stay, you help others. I have a little bit of cockroach DNA, and you can’t kill a cockroach. You just gotta keep moving forward. I started in fifth place with my wife. I just outlasted everybody else.”
Patterson has truly outlasted everybody else, not just at TCU, but in the Big 12 Conference as a whole. With the retirement of Bill Snyder following the 2018 season, Patterson - with 18+ years at the helm of Frog Football - is by far the longest tenured coach at his school. There are four coaches making their Big 12 debut this fall (Les Miles at Kansas, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Matt Wells at Texas Tech, and Neal Brown at West Virginia) and three more in year three (Matt Rhule at Baylor, Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, and Tom Herman at Texas). Matt Campbell is a seasoned veteran heading into year four at Iowa State, and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is the only other coach with double-digit years at the same institution on his resume. It’s a young league swirling in change.
Few are more aware of this than Patterson, who has continually shown a willingness to adapt. That’s why he has survived and advanced in conference realignment, it’s why he brought in too offensive coordinators that went against everything he had believed on that side of the ball in 2014, and it’s why he’s pushed for two stadium remodels in less than a decade.
And it’s why TCU just built a big-a** scoreboard. “It was a well thought-out process; it wasn’t we wanted to do something because we wanted to do it - I think you have to be able to show kids in this day and age what you want to do, and as I keep telling people, eyes up, you gotta keep climbing. It’s impressive. I’ve been excited with the vision of the people that put it together.”
“Silliness” be damned.
“See how the east side and the new video board, how it changed the presence of our stadium. I think it was exactly what we needed as far as recruiting-wise and fan experience-wise - and I tell you, to be honest, it’s going to keep the noise in. It’s an impressive stadium for seating 50,000.”
Patterson knows that TCU Football has to continue to evolve to stay relevant, not just on the field but off, too. It’s why he’s so worried about grass on the practice fields and in his game-day stadium, why he had the program invest in top-flight facilities for player lounges and locker rooms, and why his strength and conditioning program has become one of the stellar models of effectiveness in all of college football.
Gary Patterson has that cockroach DNA, and he’s putting it to work for TCU Football.
And that’s a good thing.