TCU coach Gary Patterson can entertain by playing the acoustic guitar, his golden retrievers, Chloe and Mattie, are rescues, and the front door of his home always is open for players to walk in and talk life or hang out. He has been called a doting husband, and he is a father to three grown sons.
But when he drapes a whistle around his neck for practice or puts on a purple shirt or jacket on game day, it’s as if another person has stepped inside his skin. “Coach P,” as players refer to him, becomes a Tasmanian devil.
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“Coach Patterson’s face turns the same shade of purple as the Frogs’ uniforms when he gets angry,” former player Bart Johnson said. “Outside of football, he’s Gary.”
Patterson, 58, has kept the team 30 minutes longer in practice when he’s not satisfied.
“In practice, he’s Coach P,” senior defensive end Ben Banogu said. “He’s intense, and he wants the best from you.”
This is who acting coach Ryan Day and Ohio State will be up against when they play TCU on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.
The Horned Frogs were as far behind Texas and Texas A&M as the state is wide when Patterson was hired as defensive coordinator under Dennis Franchione in 1998. Now, TCU is the unquestioned No. 1 with four straight victories over the Longhorns.
When Franchione left for Alabama in December 2000, Patterson continued to build a national powerhouse. Starting with the 2001 season, the Horned Frogs have won 10 games or more 11 times and are 10-5 in bowl games under him. There was controversy 2014 when the team finished 12-1 but did not make the College Football Playoff.
TCU fans haven’t had this much to cheer for since quarterback Sammy Baugh began a run of strong teams during the Great Depression with a 12-1 record in 1935.
The university probably wouldn’t have been invited to move from the Mountain West Conference into the Big 12 in 2012 had Patterson not been coach. He is 162-57 since taking over for Franchione to coach the bowl game after the 2000 season.
That success has meant that Patterson’s contract has been extended multiple times, most recently last November for two years through 2024. TCU is a private university and not required to post salaries, but it is estimated that he is making in excess of $5.1 million per season.
“We make sure that he’s taken care of, to know that there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind — ever — that he’s not going to be a Frog,” former athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “Gary Patterson is synonymous with TCU and Fort Worth.”
Schools might have approached Patterson about leaving, but he has never listened for long.
“When I was an assistant under Gary Darnell at Tennessee Tech, he told me, ‘Gary, you want to get to a place where you have to say ‘no’ more than you say ‘yes,’ and that’s what I’ve found here at TCU,” he said. “We’ve got everything we need right here.”
Part of Patterson’s intensity comes from not having blue-blood roots. He was considered an average defensive back and linebacker at Kansas State, and his coaching stops include Tennessee Tech, UC Davis, Cal Lutheran, Sonoma State and Pittsburg State.
“I didn’t come the high road. I came the low road,” he said. “I didn’t build this program backing down to anybody.”
Patterson gets testy when asked about TCU being unable to recruit few four- and five-star players.
“No. 1, that rating is your rating,” he said. “That’s not my rating.”
Patterson prides himself on running a clean program — “the way we’ve stayed here is we’ve stayed within the lines” — but there has been controversy in regard to his treatment of injured players.
On Jan. 12, former receiver Kolby Listenbee filed a lawsuit against Patterson, the university and Big 12 saying he was “harassed and berated” for not playing through a pelvis injury suffered in September 2015. The request for dismissal was denied on May 22.
“I’m excited to tell our side,” Patterson said.
In 2010, then-team doctor Samuel Haraldson and Patterson argued during a game against SMU when Haraldson ruled out running back Ed Wesley because of a concussion. He had lost consciousness.
“I literally was verbally accosted by the coach,” Haraldson wrote in the American Medical News. “He was screaming at me insanely at the top of his lungs that he doesn’t think (Wesley) has a concussion and what right do I have to hold him out.”
Haraldson and Patterson have since exchanged apologies.