TCU coach Gary Patterson hopes to live up to his own statue

FORT WORTH, Texas -- How does Gary Patterson really feel about having a bronze statue of himself standing outside TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium? The head coach has a long, complex response to that question. Here’s a shorter answer.

“If I had to use one word,” Patterson said Tuesday, “I would tell you: hate.”

Not that Patterson is legitimately upset about the life-sized sculpture. He just wants to make it clear this honor was not something he wanted.

He’s not retired and he’s not dead, so he’s not all that comfortable with this. Patterson understands what kind of a statement a statue makes.

“People might say, ‘Well, you’ve got a statue, you’re accomplished.’ To me, it just made my job harder,” he said. “Now I have to live up to the statue. To be honest with you, the bottom line to it is, for me, there’s more pressure now.”

And maybe that is the short-term view: The guy with his own statue better keep winning. But Patterson also recognized he had an opportunity last Saturday, during the statue’s unveiling, to appreciate the bigger picture.

He’s entering his 19th year at TCU and his 16th season as its head coach. During that span, the Horned Frogs have gone from the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West (and, for a second, the Big East) and finally up to the big leagues of the Big 12. They’ve won six conference titles. They’ve put their small private school on a national stage. And despite what a statue might suggest, no one person is responsible for all of that.

“The positive thing for me is I was able to pause and thank everybody,” Patterson said. “We’re almost at 20 years here. You’re able to thank everybody from the beginning to where we are now. It’s about the players and the people, and there are so many people who’ve had something to do with this.”

He wanted to put this off for later, of course, but couldn’t say no to prominent donors Bill and Sue Parrish. They put up the money for the bronze version of Patterson and statues of TCU legends Davey O’Brien and Dutch Meyer.

Why unveil them now? Bill Parrish’s health has worsened recently -- he went into a coma, in fact, and came out of it -- and these monuments mattered to him. Parrish wanted to see them in place before he's gone. So Patterson obliged.

He’s grateful he doesn’t walk past it on his way to work every day. He jokes that it might be an easy target for vandalism from rival fans. But there is one thing Patterson appreciates about the sculpture: What it says about his staff's longevity.

He thinks back to his introductory news conference and one of his biggest goals: grow and unite the fan base and the community. No matter where you went to school, he says, TCU must be Fort Worth’s team.

“We’re probably closer right now to doing that -- if we haven’t accomplished it already -- than we ever have,” Patterson said.

Of course, after all these years, there’s really only one thing missing.

Walk past Patterson’s statue and through the main doors of the renovated Schollmaier Arena and you’ll find the Frogs’ new Hall of Fame. Sitting on a table, right in front of a wall commemorating TCU’s move to the Big 12, are the program’s two national championship trophies won during Meyer's tenure in 1935 and 1938.

“Everything we said we wanted, we’ve been able to get done -- except win a national championship,” Patterson said. “And that’s what we’re trying to get accomplished. Some day be able to recruit so we have good enough players that we’re able to do that. Until we get done, that’s going to be the goal.”

The program is now well positioned to get there. Patterson points out this will be the first year TCU gets a full Big 12 revenue share. Their resources, facilities, buy-in from fans and access to recruits are all stronger than ever.

“But this is still a tough job,” Patterson said. “You’ve still got to go to work. You know history is not on your side. For us, that’s why we keep the attitude we have here.”

He describes that attitude as being comfortable with being uncomfortable. And Patterson is definitely feeling uncomfortable these days.

“Some people might think, ‘Oh, he’s got a statue. He can do whatever he wants,’” Patterson said. “No. That’s not what we’re here for.”