Big 12 Sports Articles

Gary Patterson’s Time Was Up, But His Legacy Shouldn’t be Tarnished

NCAA Football: SMU at Texas Christian

Gary Patterson redefined TCU football over 21 years. 

Look at any record or program milestone and the former head coach’s name will likely be attached. 

He finished as the all-time winningest coach in program history with 181 victories. The Horned Frogs grabbed six conference titles in three conferences (C-USA, Mountain West, and Big 12) and Patterson earned coach of the year honors at each stop.  

TCU had just four 10-win seasons prior to Patterson’s arrival. Now, the count is at 15. 

The accomplishments go on and on. But, when Patterson and TCU mutually parted ways on Sunday, it made sense. 


The last four seasons have not met expectations. After reaching the 2017 Big 12 title game and winning 11 games, the Frogs have posted a 21-22 record. 

It’s unfortunate Patterson’s final four seasons did not reflect his legacy. 

During a time when head coaches are constantly looking for a better, high-paying job, Patterson did something unprecedent. He stayed put for 21 years. Only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz has been at one school longer. 

Patterson knew TCU could be a special place. 

He took overlooked recruits and turned them into all-conference players and all-American selections. Eventually, TCU gained enough national attention that Patterson and his staff could form recruiting classes that rivaled the best teams in the Big 12. 

Patterson helped more than 260 players make all-conference teams and 18 found a home on first-team all-American lists.

At last count, Patterson helped 134 players reach NFL camps and many build successful careers. Defensive end Jerry Hughes has been in the league for a decade. LaDainian Tomlinson earned a hall of fame nod after an 11-year career. 

The newest professionals, including Ben Banogu, Trevon Moehrig, Jalen Reagor, and Ross Blacklock, are slowly making their marks. 


These and many other players helped TCU become a mid-major power. Eventually, the Horned Frogs broke into the BCS and emerged with a Fiesta Bowl appearance and Rose Bowl win. 

Patterson almost tripled TCU’s bowl game trophy haul. He guided the Horned Frogs to 11 bowl victories for 15 total wins in program history.

The 2011 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin proved TCU could compete with anyone. It also helped the Horned Frogs snag a spot in the Big 12 in 2012. 

TCU earned a share of the Big 12 title just three years after joining the conference. The Horned Frogs missed the initial College Football Playoff, but finished the season ranked No. 3. 

Patterson was named national coach of the year in 2010, 2011, and 2014. He created a 4-2-5 defensive scheme that is well-respected and used across the country as the spread offense continues evolving. 

Defense became Patterson’s calling card. It started in 1998 as the defensive coordinator under Dennis Franchione. Patterson’s defense scored a school-record six defensive touchdowns and surrendered a 30-year best 19.6 points per game. 

The defense improved throughout Patterson’s time as a coordinator and head coach. TCU consistently topped conferences in different defensive categories and even led the nation in total defense in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Patterson also had a few memorable habits. Whether it was screaming at the top of his lungs, hiking up pants or tying shoes, Patterson always drew attention on the sideline. 


His most infamous antic occurred during the 2016 Alamo bowl. TCU trailed Oregon 31-0 at halftime. During the break, Patterson changed from a black long-sleeve shirt into a purple short-sleeved shirt. 

Suddenly, everything clicked against the Ducks, and the Horned Frogs won 47-41 in overtime. 

A statue outside the basketball arena, unveiled in 2016, ensures Patterson will forever hold a unique place in TCU’s athletic lore. The $164 million stadium reconstruction project from 2010 to 2012 and another $118 million expansion on the east side reflect the growth TCU football experienced the last two decades.

The ending might not have been ideal, but there’s little doubt Patterson will go down as the best football coach in TCU history and a college football hall of famer. 

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