This is the second of a four part series where we exchange five questions with Ben Findley, who covers TCU for SBNation's Mountain West Connection. This week we take a look at the head coaches. You can find my answers to MWC's questions about Bret Bielema here. The series continues every Thursday until the Rose Bowl.
B5Q: Where did Gary Patterson come from? What led him to TCU and why has he been able to stay there for 10 years?
MWC: Patterson hails from Rozel, Kansas and played defensive back and linebacker for Kansas State in 1980 and 1981. From there "papa was a rolling stone" and he bounced around to a different random directional-type school each year until Dennis Franchione, then the head coach at New Mexico, hired a 35-year-old Gary Patterson as his defensive coordinator in 1996. Patterson served as the Lobo's defensive coordinator for the '96 and '97 seasons where he coached a young Brian Urlacher and developed quite a reputation as a fiery defensive mastermind. In 1998 Franchione decided to take his show on the road and took the head coaching job with the TCU Horned Frogs. Patterson interviewed for the now vacant New Mexico head coaching position but lost out to Rocky Long who was then UCLA's defensive coordinator, so Patterson packed his bags and followed Franchione to Fort Worth. After three seasons in Fort Worth Franchione leveraged his successes at TCU to once again hop to a bigger a lily pad, this time to the Alabama Crimson Tide (and from there he hopped to Texas A&M and then into obscurity, karma is a b'). Patterson took over for Franchione as head coach at TCU in December 2000, and never looked back. I feel that Patterson has stayed at TCU for various reasons, but I truly believe that it can largely be attributed to watching what happened to Franchione and learning the invaluable lesson that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the mountain.
B5Q: How many job opportunities has Patterson had elsewhere and why has he decided to stay at TCU?
MWC: It is hard to say for sure but in 2007 he turned down the Minnesota gig and in 2008 it was reported that he had taken the Kansas State job but as they say, don't believe everything you read. Both schools reportedly offered salaries of $2 million which Patterson wisely turned into a pay raise and he is now estimated to make approximately $2.5 million a year at TCU. Patterson is a unique fellow and is not a ladder climbing a-hole like Brian Kelly or Bobby Petrino. He is a visionary and a transcendent leader that has not only built up our football team but the entire program. Patterson is entrenched here, he helped raise the funds for the new stadium renovations and without him there would be no Big East offer to speak of. I truly believe that he wants to see this thing through all the way and reach his goal of winning a national championship at TCU, and when he does, he'll want to do it again. Patterson is already well paid at $2.5 million and TCU has deep pocketed donors and will soon have increased revenues from the Big East so TCU can and will continue to pay Patterson and his staff what they deserve and then some. Why would he want to leave for another job where the expectations will be so high that he could be on the hotseat within 2-3 years if the ball doesn't bounce his way in a few games (see Mack Brown, Les Miles, & Mark Richt). Patterson will be welcome at TCU for life, win or lose. Patterson knows that he can be to TCU what Joe Paterno is to Penn State and Bobby Bowden was to Florida State.
B5Q: The state of Texas is obviously filled with hundreds of football recruits, but there are also a bunch of FBS programs within the state. Where does TCU rank among the Texas schools as far as recruiting goes and how has Patterson been able to have success in recruiting?
MWC: Recruiting in the state of Texas definitely has a tiered pecking order with the Texas Longhorns on the 1st tier, Oklahoma on the 2nd tier, just about everyone else in the region has to fight in out on the 3rd tier, and the 4th tier is basically the scraps that round out the rosters of Rice, UTEP and the like. Patterson's staff has had success because they are fantastic evaluators of talent and character first, recruiters second, and they do not base their recruiting on the amount of stars some chucklehead at Rivals gave a kid based on a grainy youtube video. The #1 criteria Patterson is looking for in a recruit is "speed baby," if a kid can really run Patterson will find a spot for him on the team. To find that speed Patterson looks hard at high school running backs and mobile quarterbacks to fill out his rosters, since that is where the best athletes on every high school team usually end up. For example Jerry Hughes was a high school running back that Patterson molded into a NFL first rounder at defensive end, WR/PR/KR Jeremy Kerley was a high school quarterback and now he's a first-team All-American kick returner, and this list could go on and on. If a kid has speed that is only half the battle, he also has to be a high character guy that is ready to work, wants to win, and is highly coachable, let's call it the "Frog factor." In my opinion what happened to the Texas Longhorns this season can largely be attributed to the fact that they have a roster full of prima-donna's and when the going got tough they just flat-out quit, TCU will never have that problem. Not being in the Big 12 has presented many challenges because of the non-AQ stigma but Patterson just branded us as the un-cola of Texas schools to combat that, and now that we are headed to the Big East that stigma should lift substantially. With back-to-back BCS appearances, a new stadium on the way, and a Big East invitation, things on the recruiting front appear to be on the up and up as we just nabbed our highest rated recruit ever, Rivals100 (44) member LaDarius Brown.
B5Q: Patterson was very outspoken about the BCS this year. Like Bret Bielema, he made the trip to ESPN to promote his program, but unlike Bielema, it seemed like Patterson launched a political campaign. How fed up with the BCS is Patterson and do you think he believes he can win a national championship at TCU?
MWC: I highly disagree with him being outspoken regarding the BCS and think people might assume that because the media champions it on his behalf and because TCU fans cry bloody murder that so does Patterson and he doesn't. But I'd love to see someone bring me some links that prove otherwise. Patterson is not in love with the BCS system, but it is the devil he knows and the past two years he has been a missed field goal away from playing for the title, so yes I believe he thinks he can win a national championship at TCU. He obviously knows how to work the current system and there are no guarantees that a playoff would mean better access for a non-AQ team so for now it will have to do.
As far as the trip to ESPN goes, the "mothership" invited him and TCU had a bye that week and another bye the next week in the form of 1-10 New Mexico. Since we couldn't play any games to keep us in the voters minds he kept us relevant by doing some radio and television interviews, and I imagine every coach in his position would have done the same thing. The MWC screwed us by giving us a lackluster end to our schedule so we took lemons and made lemonade. Would you have rather he spent his off-week laid out on the couch all weekend drinking beer and eating cheese doodles? Also to call it a "political campaign" is a bit much and tells me that you didn't listen to a word he said because he was pretty even handed (too much so in my opinion), if you want to see a politician masquerading as coach take a good look at guys like Mack Brown and Les Miles, Patterson did no such thing because it's just not his nature. Also remember that at that time we were battling Boise State, who was being pimped non-stop by ESPN (the MWC does not play on ESPN), to be the highest ranked non-AQ in the BCS standings and that if Nevada didn't beat Boise we very well could have be playing Toledo in the Las Vegas Bowl right now, so it's not like there wasn't a damn good reason for him to be there reminding the voters that we were still around.
B5Q: At Wisconsin, the coaching staff believes in running the football first and not taking chances in the air. What are Patterson’s core coaching philosophies?
MWC: On defense his coaching mantra is "hunting together" meaning the whole team playing together as one and his teams play very disciplined defense with an emphasis on technique, leverage, gap responsibility, and speed. On offense it's about controlling the clock with a balanced offense that will spread you out and make you defend the entire field from sideline to sideline. As an overall philosophy Patterson is constantly talking about "winning by one point" which I know drives most TCU fans crazy, but it seems to keep the team focused on the task at hand each Saturday when they step out on the field which is notching a "W."