Gary Patterson built TCU football now he’s trying to finish his dream season

Gary Patterson built TCU football now he’s trying to finish his dream season

Gary Patterson built the TCU football.

Now, as “special assistant coach” in Texas, where the Horned Frogs Saturday is held, his job is not necessarily to destroy the program he’s run brilliantly for nearly 22 seasons, only to be essentially fired just a year ago to become, but at least ends his dream season.

TCU is 9-0 and 4th nationally, under new coach Sonny Dykes. It controls its destiny not only for the Big 12 championship but also for a berth in the college football playoffs.

It’s a feat that was unfathomable in 2000, when Patterson took over at Fort Worth.

From 1960 to 1997, TCU rose to 136-262-13, a meager .330 win ratio. It was one of the country’s worst programs and was left behind when the Southwest Conference dissolved. His destiny appeared to be just another mid-major Auch-Ran, spinning like a tumbleweed from one non-power conference to the next.

Then Patterson took over Dennis Franchionne, who took TCU to 10 wins but immediately left for Alabama. Patterson not only made the frogs better, he stayed. There were 10 10-win seasons, including a 13-0 Rose Bowl championship team and two top-3 finishes in the polls.

TCU started out important to fans in Fort Worth, to recruits in the Metroplex, and to the wealthy alums who raised over $100 million to transform aging and limited Amos Carter Stadium into the so-called “Camden Yards of College Football.” to become.

All of this was enough to get a member of the Big 12, or in other words, access to the big time.

That’s why no single figure in recent college football is as important to a single school as Patterson is to TCU.

He is TCU. Or was.

On Halloween 2021, after a loss to Kansas State lowered TCU to 3-5, the school told Patterson he could retire for the season but his time was up. The program had slipped into mediocrity. Patterson, 62, promptly resigned from a school that had erected a statue of him on campus years earlier.

In January, he joined the faculty of Steve Sarkisian in Texas, the school he was obsessed with beating, perhaps more than any other.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson and SMU head coach Sonny Dykes talk on the field prior to an NCAA college football game Saturday, September 21, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Former TCU head coach-turned-Texas special assistant Gary Patterson, left, takes on his former team led by Sonny Dykes in a matchup that will have implications for the College Football Playoffs. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

TCU defeated Texas in seven of their last 10 matchups under Patterson, who not only despised the Longhorns and their power and money, but knew nothing made it more credible, especially when it came to recruiting, like defeating the state’s flagship program.

And now… it’s Dykes looking to not only extend his perfect start at TCU and keep the Frogs on track for the playoffs, but to celebrate his own win in the state capital. It’s a night game on national TV. The ESPN pregame show will be there. The Frogs are betting underdogs (-7) but at least partially the hunted for a change.

And it will be Patterson, a defensive genius with deep knowledge of many of TCU’s best players, who will play a role in stopping a high-profile offense (43.1 points per game) led by quarterback Max Duggan (24-2 TD-to-interception) and running back Kendre Miller (1,009 yards and 12 TDs) and a deep receiving corps.

“Gary works around the clock to beat everyone,” Sarkisian said with a laugh Monday when asked if Patterson stayed up to stop the frogs. “He has an incredible work ethic… This week was no different. He’s doing a great job of advanced scouting for us to progress for opponents coming our way. He does a great job of sharing his thoughts and information with the defense personnel.

It’s an odd situation at TCU, but just another hurdle to overcome.

“I don’t know what role Gary is playing there,” Dykes said Tuesday. “It’s hard for me to judge. Gary is a very good coach. … I know he obviously knows our players. I have no idea how that will affect the game.”

It may not be, but it’s a delicious subplot nonetheless.

Dykes knows exactly what’s at stake. His father, Spike, was a legendary high school coach in Texas, including at powerhouse Midland Lee. He spent 14 years as a head coach at Texas Tech. Sonny was an assistant at Tech after his father retired and later was a head coach at La Tech and Cal before spending four seasons at SMU in Dallas. He even spent a year as an analyst for Patterson’s TCU staff in 2017.

He jumped at the chance to take the job, confident that the program could be even better in the talent-rich Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Not surprisingly, 17 of TCU’s 20 current recruits are from Texas. The next breakthrough is when TCU can beat Texas or Oklahoma not only regularly on the field but also in recruits.

The 9:0 start is part of it. So is all the attention, the big crowds, the local excitement. A playoff offer (the first for a Texas school) would be the next level. It’s a by-product of Dykes refusing to set restrictions for this first post-Patterson season.

“We may have exceeded expectations externally, but not internally,” Dykes said. “I don’t think anyone is that surprised.”

In Fort Worth, dream seasons continue for an upstart program, only with its old architect showing up down in Austin on Saturday.

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