In 2016, coming off of back to back years that saw TCU Football reach new heights, Gary Patterson had questions.
Sure, his team had been within a whisker of the playoffs in 2014 and won 11 games in 2015, but he knew that he needed to find a way to get better if he was going to compete with the Oklahoma and Texas teams of his conference, as well as the SEC teams that were controlling the postseason narrative.
So, he did what most coaches do: he called a guy doing it better than him, and offered a trade.
That spring, Patterson invited Lane and Monte Kiffin to Fort Worth to study the Sonny Cumbie Doug Meacham offense, while the defensive wizard headed to Tuscaloosa to talk recruiting with Nick Saban. What he took away wasn’t a way to lure recruits to Fort Worth, it was more about how to build a staff that makes it easier to identify the right players and build relationships with them more quickly — and with more impact. At the time, he said “I need to grow analysts. You’ve got to have people who can help you find out about recruits faster. That’s somebody that’s won championships, that’s always had the No. 1, 2, 3 recruiting class.”
Since that spring, Patterson has overhauled the way his staff is constructed, if not the staff itself. Though positions are finite due to NCAA rules, Patterson has done what Saban has: found ways to bring in smart guys who are good at their job in roles that don’t “count against the cap”. He calls it“the best system in place” among college staffs, building his out in a way that models what Nick Saban has been so successful with in Tuscaloosa. Patterson has looked to create a mix of TCU veterans, other coaching veterans, and young, relatable guys.
This has led to bringing in Jerry Kill, Tim Beck, and Tony Sanchez in various roles as well as elevating up and comers like Kenny Hill and Malcolm Kelly. And he likes to keep it in house, for a specific reason, noting that “seven out of my 10 full-time coaches started out as GAs or played for me, and then out of the other 20, 10 of them started as GAs and have been around the program. So you don’t have to teach the culture.”
While the fanbase isn’t always happy with the loyalty Patterson has shown, it’s hard to deny the importance of consistency and what that means to potential recruits. Jarrett Anderson and Dan Sharp have long been key recruiters, especially for the lines, and Chad Glasgow and Paul Gonzales routinely build the kind of authentic relationships that connect players and parents with the program. Anyone with half a brain can see how great Zarnell Fitch and Jeremy Modkins are on the trail, and Kenny Hill and Malcolm Kelly just ooze cool and connection. Of course we know what Doug Meacham can do for offensive players — and has an incredible track record of bringing highly recruited players to Fort Worth — and even the new guy on the block, Bryan Applewhite, quickly made a name for himself as a critical part of bringing in and developing key pieces in the running game.
And while the Frogs have been active on the transfer market, it’s the longevity and the track record of developing talent at an elite level that ultimately wins the day for TCU Football — something Patterson pointed out Wednesday as well. “We are still a developmental school. That’s why we had three of those guys that came, they were grad transfers that came here because their people told them that they could get better and be more draftable and go higher in the draft if they came to TCU because that’s what our reputation is.”
Sure, it would be fun to bring in some of the hot young coaching names, and every time someone hits the market, it’s hard not to envision them patrolling the sideline. And while Patterson has shown the willingness to be flexible, he’s always got an eye toward the mission of his program. “We have a saying: it’s not how we grow them up for the four years but what we are going to do for them from 22 to 62. I’ve been there at TCU 24 years. I think we can probably talk about that as well as anybody around the country about that, and I think it’s really important for us to understand how do we help.”
With a mantra of #40not4, Patterson doesn’t often bring in someone on their way up the ladder, but often focuses on those wanting to build a family in Fort Worth. When Kirk Saarloos says it, we swoon, when GP does, we scream.
That’s the difference winning makes — and if Patterson does that in 2021, we will be thankful for the firm foundation around the program. If he doesn’t, well, he’s got bigger fish to fry. “Especially in this day and age, to have somebody else that can be a father figure, a guy that can sit down with kids — 125 of them at TCU and there’s only one of me — to have other guys that can actually sit down and help kids with their lives, with the NIL, everything else that’s going on, how do you navigate the world. I think it’s probably as good a system as anybody could have in college football right now because I have guys in place behind the scenes that help do all the things we need to do.”
If TCU Football can get the things done it needs to do, the wins will follow.