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Hire of Gary Patterson by Texas as special assistant to the head coach is now official

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Patterson reunites with Chris Del Conte as Steve Sarkisian attempts to bounce back from a 5-7 record in his first season with the Longhorns.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The slow burn of interest by the Texas Longhorns in adding former TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson to head coach Steve Sarkisian’s staff in the Forty Acres has allowed plenty of time to adjust to the remarkable nature of the pursuit, which officially came to an end on Friday with the acknowledgement from the school to the Austin Austin-American Statesman that Patterson’s hire as special assistant to the head coach is official.

It was all but official when Patterson was spotted wearing Longhorn gear at Tuesday’s basketball game between Texas and Kansas State, but now that the hiring process is complete, there’s enough space to step back and consider how unlikely this all would have seemed a year ago when Sarkisian took the job.

At that time, Patterson had won six of his last seven games against Texas and while he was coming off a 6-4 season, a third straight disappointing campaign after an 11-3 season in 2017, he didn’t exactly seem like he was on the hot seat.

But the Horned Frogs moved quickly to remove Patterson after a 3-5 start that featured losses in four of the first five Big 12 games, including three straight. Instead of coaching for the rest of the season, Patterson chose to resign instead, ending his 20-year run as the head coach at TCU.

“The story of Gary Patterson and the rise in the fortunes of the TCU football program over the last 20 years is clearly one of the most remarkable in the history of college football. We are grateful to Gary and Kelsey Patterson and appreciate everything they have meant to TCU and the Fort Worth community,” athletic director Jeremiah Donati said in a statement when Patterson resigned. “Under his leadership, TCU has become a nationally recognized brand name in football and in collegiate athletics.”

Patterson finished his tenure in Forth Worth with a 181-79 record, a remarkable Rose Bowl win in 2010 to cap an undefeated season, and a 7-3 mark against Texas in the Big 12. After TCU got left out when the Big 12 was created, Patterson’s success almost single-handedly allowed the Horned Frogs to go from Conference USA to the Mountain West and then to the Big 12, a journey that truly was, as Donati said, one of the most remarkable in the history of college football.

Now, as Patterson undertakes special projects assigned by Sarkisian, assists with practice and game day preparation, statistical analysis, and video analysis of opposing teams, as well as self-scouting all three phases of the Texas football program, the former head coach will have a chance to consider his next move.

At 61, will he receive another chance as a head coach? Could he become the next Texas defensive coordinator if Pete Kwiatkowski falters once again following the massively disappointing performance of the 2021 Longhorns defense?

The answers to those questions won’t become apparent until after the 2022 season unless the defense starts so poorly that Sarkisian elevates Patterson to the on-field staff in the middle of the season, much as Mack Brown did with Greg Robinson in 2013 after firing Manny Diaz.

Unless that move becomes necessary, Sarkisian intends to use Patterson’s expertise as one of the best defensive minds in the country to bolster the Texas defense. At TCU, Patterson perfected a 4-2-5 defense thanks to his tireless work scouting opponents and ability to seamlessly mix coverages on the back end while simultaneously mixing his fronts and blitzes at the point of attack.

It’s a defense that he’s refined over four decades, but Patterson’s contributions clearly won’t be limited to the defense — he’ll help Sarkisian self-scout the Texas offense, share his thoughts on special teams, and provide any necessary recommendations about how Sarkisian can improve his overall program management.

Patterson could impact Texas recruiting, too, as he’s long been known for his ability to identify overlooked talent, many of them jumbo athletes from East Texas who project to other positions in college. Evaluating some of the highly-rated players that Patterson always struggled to land as a head coach could help the Longhorns narrow their focus to the recruits who have the best chance of developing into contributors in college.

Coming off a 5-7 season for Sarkisian in his first year at Texas, there’s pressure on the Longhorns head coach to execute a quick turnaround. Patterson’s expertise should provide a significant boost for Texas, and perhaps even allow Patterson to get a little revenge on the school that employed him for so long and still has a statue of him outside Amon G. Carter Stadium.