TCU was a dark place mid-morning Tuesday, with overcast skies and temperatures dropping into a more comfortable fall feel.
We wondered if Mother Nature would challenge the weather experts with a surprise plunge into the winter numbers. After all, it was believed, since Abraham was apparently a puppy, that hell would freeze over before Gary Patterson was the head coach of the TCU football program.
But, alas, this is where we are at this most difficult TCU football season in who knows when. Pick an era of TCU football before Patterson arrives. The moral of this sad story has been heard time and time again: nothing lasts forever; everything is in motion, nothing stands still.
Not even Patterson – the iconic TCU football leader with a statue on campus – and TCU. Sporting director Jeremiah Donati informed Patterson on Sunday afternoon that the school will make a change of coach at the end of the season. Rather than stick around for the last four games, Patterson said he would leave immediately.
Like any separation, emotions ran the gamut.
However, TCU doesn’t have time to praise (although, of course, they did, as Donati did on Tuesday) or bury the coach. (And it’s also pretty obvious that Patterson has no plans to retire. In fact, Donati said he told Patterson that they need to act now to cover all the bases of the school and explore all of their options. Patterson said he didn’t want to coach the last four games because he needed to explore all of his options.)
There are things to do quickly.
That was the message from Donati, who carries the biggest burden of his career, and interim head coach Jerry Kill, who has vowed to make his close friend Patterson proud in the Horned Frogs’ last four games. .
“Last time I knew that, life wasn’t easy,” said Kill, former program assistant to the head coach ahead of the staff move on Sunday. “There is no guarantee. You have to deal with adversity. If you don’t, you won’t be successful in this world. We will be fine. We will be playing for Gary Patterson for the next four weeks. This is our job. This is what we have to do.
Don’t feel sorry for anyone, Kill said.
“There was a lot of emotion, but it’s my job to represent him and TCU. I can’t sit back and be sorry. Is there emotion? Yes. It’s difficult. It is a difficult job. He would be disappointed if I sat down and felt sorry for myself or him.
The guy with the hardest job is Donati. Giving the news to Patterson on Sunday was the easiest part of that transition.
Finding a replacement to replace TCU’s most successful football coach will be like finding the smallest shard of glass to sweep away.
Donati said the search was ongoing and potential candidates were already being screened. A small committee was formed on campus, made up of staff and board members. Donati did not say if LaDainian Tomlinson was on that committee, but said he would certainly seek advice from the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
The decision to inform Patterson of the college’s decision with four games to go was prompted by the relatively new day of college football singing on December 15.
This means that a coach and staff must be in place before that date, at least December 1.
Donati has set fairly broad criteria for what the school is looking for.
- Someone who is the head coach of the university. “This job is very different from what it was” 25 years ago, Donati said.
- And most importantly: someone who understands the new world of college football, especially the transfer portal, which made college athletics a kind of free agency in professional sports, and the name , the ever-changing image and likeness, aka the NULL.
“I really want to hear [a candidate’s] vision of how we can do a better job ”with the NIL, Donati said. “The NIL is still evolving. It is going to be very important that the new coach has an NIL strategy. “
One wondered if Donati also revealed a big reason why TCU decided to take the program in another direction.
In September, Patterson pleaded with Boosters to get involved with the new game. How schools will help players take advantage of NIL is at the heart of rookies’ concerns, he said. Some schools, for example, have websites that pay players for exclusive interviews.
“We’ll have to be up and running for my group by the end of November,” Patterson told the assembly, “or I have a chance of losing 25, 30 guys. It’s as clear and simple as I can talk about it.
Maybe that wasn’t a message boosters and donors wanted to hear.
It would be, said Donati, “very difficult to fill those shoes. So it probably seems more natural to go the other way” in a new hire.
There is a belief that this guy could be EMS coach Sonny Dykes, son of Spike, the former Texas Tech coaching legend. Sonny made the transfer portal art form at SMU. A former city sports reporter swears from top to bottom that the Frogs had Spike Dykes at the top of a list of potential candidates when coach Pat Sullivan flirted with LSU in the 1990s.
Talk about the butterfly effect. It would have, well, changed everything. If Spike, who wasn’t on very good terms with his AD at the time, had arrived, there probably wouldn’t have been Dennis Franchione, hired by TCU in 1998, who brought in Patterson as the defensive coordinator.
It’s easy to talk about change. It is quite another thing to do it. Like everywhere else, it is better to be lucky than good.