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Gary Patterson was the second-longest tenured Division I head coach in the country before he resigned on Sunday. Melissa Triebwasser

Writing to my Buck U readers is typically the cherry on my weekend, as used to be watching the Horned Frogs grace the gridiron. Sadly, this week feels much like an obituary as we recount the career of the now former TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who resigned on Sunday after one of the worst performances by a Patterson-coached team that I can remember.

The sad irony is that Patterson’s coaching career ended where his playing career began: in the Little Apple, where the native Kansan played linebacker. His resignation came in reaction to an offer to finish the season as head honcho before transitioning to a different, unspecified role. Nobody wanted it to happen this way, not Gary, not the university, and especially not the fans. 

The on-campus statue of Patterson should remain as tribute to the most important person to Texas Christian University in the 21st century. There’s undoubtedly those who have made significant contributions to society outside the athletic sphere, and a non-academic being lauded with this amount of praise through a scholastic institution might seem like heresy, but Patterson — through our collective obsession with football — has skyrocketed our Fort Worth university to national recognition where none existed. Most undergraduate Frogs weren’t even born when Gary took the reins of TCU when competing in the Western Athletic Conference, and those of my generation naively hoped this day would never come. The separation press conference felt even more surreal on Halloween night. My neighbor dressed as Jason Voorhees with a lifeless body stuffed under his riding lawn mower didn’t shake me, but the thought of life without Patterson does.  

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Patterson’s departure was inevitable, but a seamless transition was never in the cards. For all of Gary’s gifts, developing a sustainable legacy for life without him wasn’t one of them. There is no head-coach-in-waiting. His most successful former assistants are about to be fired from other jobs (Justin Fuente, Sonny Cumbie), retired (Dick Bumpas), or unqualified for this position. Patterson’s 4-2-5 defense, which is historically fantastic but terrible this year, was always his calling card and hands-on project. The system he pioneered isn’t sustainable without Coach P pulling the joysticks and barking the nuances. 

Patterson’s loyalty to his assistants meant he would never clean house when his team was down, leaving him to be the captain going down with the ship. For us fans, our fan-parents have just died, and there’s no will to be adjudicated. We’ll have to start from scratch while trying to salvage what’s left. Expect the worst, for as bad as the Frogs have been this year — and they’re bad — the worst might be yet to come. There hasn’t been a better head coach option, and still isn’t. We’re not the Dallas Cowboys canning Jason Garrett here The Frogs won’t instantaneously become better. TCU is already struggling, so it’s as good a time as any to burn it all down and start the rebuilding process now. Baylor rebuilt multiple sports after respective rape and murder scandals, so presumably we should be able to overcome a few downtrodden seasons. Jerry Kill — Patterson’s best friend and special assistant — will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of a season in which the Frogs, optimistically, win one more game. Kill, the former head coach of Minnesota, is perfectly capable of moving things along while athletic director Jeremiah Donati and Patterson start to shop for replacements.

Gary resigning midseason is the best thing he could have done to aid in what will be a competitive search. Donati wants the ability to shop this job around before the coaching carousel starts spinning. Thanks to Patterson, TCU is now a destination as much as it possibly can be. Facilities and conference standing aren’t holding anyone back from making a playoff run, and unlike a program like LSU, the year-to-year expectations are more reasonable and the path to post-conference play somewhat manageable, especially after Oklahoma leaves for the SEC. It’s entirely possible you’ll see a mass exodus to the transfer portal for high-profile existing Frogs. No one should fault these young men. They owe the fans nothing, and the resignation of a head coach who’s been as constant as gravity over the last two decades means their self-determination shouldn’t be questioned.

Inevitably, there are supporters who are thrilled about a transition, and I envy them. Some people love change, and the only real constant in this world is that things always do. But don’t expect another Patterson. Ever. A new head coach would need to win the national championship 13 consecutive times while going undefeated to eclipse Coach P’s win total. There are only 10 Division I head coaches who have even been with their institutions that long. The internet trolls — like the children of a divorce — are going to be looking for someone to blame. No one needs to be angry with TCU for giving Gary an ultimatum, and even fewer should be upset with Coach P that the Frogs haven’t been performing. Everyone should just take a collective step back and reminisce on what was perhaps the greatest coaching career at TCU there ever has been or ever will be and just say, “Thanks for the memories, Gary.”

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