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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Gridiron: Patterson talks his 20th season at TCU

Many TCU fans hungry for football got an added treat with their barbecue July 12 at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Sports Series Luncheon.

Horned Frogs Head Coach Gary Patterson was the featured speaker at the event, held in the Champions Club at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Patterson addressed a number of topics, including the earlier preseason practices thanks to the NCAA’s ban on two-a-day practices. Teams are capped at 29 preseason practices, and Texas Christian University will get theirs underway on July 30, with players reporting July 29, Patterson said.

“We’re going to try to do what’s best for the student-athlete,” Patterson said.

Patterson, who is entering his 20th season at TCU and 17th as head coach, spoke of the changes during his time. He praised the university for changes throughout its entire system.

“It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of changes. They’re trying to win a national championship across campus at every level,” he said, referring to other education areas where TCU is looking to excel.

Patterson said that over the years he has also evolved into more than a football coach.

“I try to be an ambassador for TCU and Fort Worth,” he said, adding about the area, “The more people move in here, the less I have to travel to recruit.”

Whatever the process, it has worked well for Patterson and the Horned Frogs. With a record of 149-54, he is TCU’s all-time winnningest football coach, and his .734 winning percentage ranks fifth among active coaches nationally with a minimum of 10 years experience.

But the ever-humble Patterson, as always, deflected his success with comments such as, “The only reason I’m standing here is you” and “People give me a lot of credit, and I’ll be honest, I deserve a lot less.”

And while the crowd listened, each one watching knew better. His humble attitude only enhances a resume that includes six conference championships in three different leagues, including the 2014 Big 12 championship, and 20 national coach of the year awards.

Patterson took a moment to mention his friend and former TCU Heisman Trophy finalist LaDainian Tomlinson, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 5. He said unfortunately he will not be able to attend the ceremony because of a practice conflict.

“That’s the day of our first major scrimmage,” he said. “I think half of the rest of the town is going.”

Tomlinson played for the Horned Frogs from 1997-2000. Patterson was the team’s defensive coordinator from 1998-2000.

“Our first set of seniors is now 41 years old,” Patterson said, noting they are eight years older than new Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.

Patterson also spoke of this season’s schedule, a little about this season’s team, about tweaking the offense some, the coaching staff, and he had a suggestion for those wondering what it’s like working with players aged 18-22.

“Everybody should have to be in charge of 125 sometime in their life,” he said, bringing a laugh from the crowd.

And he praised the players, most of which are back from last season’s 6-7 squad. Though he said they must claim their share for that record, he also said they are “probably one of the better group of guys” he’s coached.

As he closed, Patterson stressed that the main job of anyone at a university is to promote success in the classroom, something he’s done throughout his career. In eight of the past nine seasons, TCU has been recognized by the American Football Coaches Association as one of the nation’s leaders in graduation rate for student-athletes.

“We need to educate him, give him the tools to be successful,” Patterson said to a roar of applause.

At the conclusion, Patterson was presented a check for his Gary Patterson Foundation from Bill Thornton, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Chamber. The foundation is dedicated to the support of economically disadvantaged children as well as other charitable causes.

A LITTLE EXTRA

Following the luncheon, Patterson met with the media to discuss a few other items, including a little more about the coming season and getting his players fired up.

“Sometimes it’s not what I’m saying, it’s what you write in the paper. You say they’re not very good, they want to prove you wrong,” he said.

He also said he, like his players, is already preparing for the upcoming fall workouts. However, he does not do everything quite like them, such as getting up to run at 5 a.m.

“Oh no, I run at 5 p.m.,” he said with a laugh.

And, he discussed the return of the Big 12 Conference Championship Game this season. The league held one from 1996 through 2010 before dropping to 10 teams.

“If it helps us, great,” Patterson said. “Though you can argue that Ohio State didn’t make its conference championship game (Big Ten), but made it into the playoffs.”

The Big 12 does not have divisions. Instead, the 10 teams will play each other, with the top two at the end of the regular season meeting again in the title game.

“You want your top two teams,” Patterson said.

The format has drawn both praise for the reason Patterson mentioned above, but has also drawn criticism for another reason. For example, if a team defeats another soundly, say by 17 points, but then loses the rematch by a field goal, it is possible the winner of the rematch could advance to the four-team playoff despite the point difference.

“That’s just part of the deal,” he said. “Any time you play somebody twice it’s harder. Basketball does it all the time.

“Are you worried about playing again or getting to the playoffs?”

Patterson wrapped with a comment from one of his favorite movies, offering a thought for all involved in football and college athletics in general.

“As the food critic in Ratatouille’ said, ‘I want a little more perspective.'”

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