Thirteen and a half months after former TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson was seen with his former boss, Texas Longhorns athletics director Chris Del Conte, in a suit at a basketball game, all but confirming his hire as special assistant to head coach Steve Sarkisian, Patterson told Horns247 on Thursday that he’s stepping down from the role.
The Dallas Morning News confirmed the news with Patterson.
“I’m so appreciative of Steve Sarkisian, the players and fans for my time at Texas this past year,” Patterson said. “I loved my time in Austin. I jumped into that role right after leaving TCU, and I put off a lot of stuff foundation-wise, because I wanted to be a sponge. I wanted to see how the coaches on staff there (at Texas), who have been at places like Alabama and Washington, recruit; how they handle practice; and how they handle things like NIL (name, image and likeness).”
But Patterson said that he wanted to spend time with his family and didn’t rule out returning to the Forty Acres in the fall after taking his wife on a vacation.
Patterson finished his tenure in Fort 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 TCU athletics director Jeremiah Donati noted, one of the most remarkable in the history of college football.
At Texas, Patterson undertook special projects assigned by Sarkisian, assisted 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 and scouting opponents. Patterson eventually helped Longhorns defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski install match-quarters coverage in the secondary, a change from the softer quarters coverage Kwiatkowski used in 2021.
If there were any questions about Patterson adjusting to his role as a special assistant after 21 years in charge of the TCU program, he quickly put them to rest.
“When we park in the parking lot, I made sure he sits in the front. I park as far back in the parking lot as I can, for everybody to understand what I need to do,” Patterson said on ESPN Radio last year.
“One thing about being a head coach, when you’re not a head coach, you know how to be a great assistant. So I know how to be a soldier. I’ve just kind of been feeling my way into things I can help with. Whatever Sark wants me to do, I’ve been trying to do, and it’s been fun.”
Sarkisian and Kwiatkowski took Patterson’s input seriously.
“Gary is a really good football mind,” Sarkisian said early in the 2022 season. “He’s obviously got a wealth of experience and he’s seen a lot of football in his time. He’s a great sounding board for not only our defensive coaches, but for myself on how to try and defend people. We lean on Gary on that front for sure because just from the experience standpoint, he’s seen a lot of football and defended a lot of football.”
And though it’s difficult to determine precisely the extent to which Patterson’s addition helped the program, Texas improved significantly defensively in 2022 during the regular season:
Points allowed per game went from #99 at 31.1 ppg to #29 at 21.2 ppg
TeamRankings has an “only defensive points allowed” (instead of total team points allowed) that has Texas at #14 with only 19.3 ppg from the defense
Yards per game went from #100 at 425.6 to #51 at 362 (not the most useful statistic)
Yards per play went from #102 at 6.03 to #19 at 4.9 (much more useful)
Points per play went from #93 at 0.43 to #11 at 0.28 (astonishing improvement)
The ratio of punts forced to scores allowed increased massively from #101 at 0.7 up to #20 at 1.5
Now Sarkisian will have to decide if he’s interesting in replacing Patterson or just waiting to see if the former TCU head coach starts to miss football after taking a few months off.