Gary Patterson is out at TCU after 20 years as coach of the Horned Frogs, the school announced on Sunday night.
In meeting with the longtime coach Sunday, school officials asked Patterson to finish this season, but he declined. Instead, Patterson, who coached in the Horned Frogs’ 31-12 loss at Kansas State on Saturday, will be replaced by Jerry Kill, an assistant on his staff, on an interim basis for a team that is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 this season.
“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 Sunday night. “Under his leadership, TCU has become a nationally recognized brand name in football and in collegiate athletics.”
TCU has dropped three in a row, all in conference, including Saturday’s loss to the Wildcats. That decision, in what turned out to be Patterson’s finale, was a microcosm of the problems that have plagued a proud program of late: The Horned Frogs can’t get off the field on defense and can’t muster up enough offense in a points-heavy conference.
Horned Frogs quarterback Max Duggan was just 9 of 13 for 73 yards before getting benched in the third quarter, and Chandler Morris was 9 of 14 for 111 yards in relief. Kendre Miller ran for 102 yards, but most of it came on a 61-yard scamper.
Frustrations began to mount for TCU in the loss, and that didn’t likely help Patterson’s situation. Tempers flared midway through the third quarter when the Horned Frogs’ Josh Foster delivered a big hit on Thompson as he stepped out of bounds. Players from both teams joined the melee as TCU coaches tried in vain to intervene; two of their players and one from Kansas State were ejected for throwing punches.
The Horned Frogs’ frustration probably stemmed from the fact that they actually drove inside the Kansas State 5 on three occasions — two times in the first half and one in the second — and came away with a total of three points.
Indeed, it appears like a far cry from the seasons when the Horned Frogs were competing for conference championships and eyeing major bowl appearances. Only Kansas, winless in the Big 12 this season, is below TCU in the conference standings.
Patterson arrived at TCU as Dennis Franchione’s defensive coordinator in 1998 and took over as head coach in 2001. He went 181-79 at TCU and oversaw the Horned Frogs’ rise from being left behind after the breakup of the Southwest Conference back through Conference USA, the Mountain West and back into the Big 12, largely due to the success the school had under Patterson.
The 2010 Horned Frogs, in the Mountain West, made history as the first team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to play in the Rose Bowl during the BCS era, and they finished the season 13-0 with a 21-19 win over No. 5 Wisconsin. Patterson was also celebrated in Fort Worth for his dominance of Texas, going 7-3 against the Longhorns since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 in 2012.
Patterson was the second-longest tenured active head coach in the FBS, trailing only Iowa‘s Kirk Ferentz, who took over in 1999.
Despite his history at TCU, Patterson started to come under fire in recent years. The Horned Frogs haven’t finished a season ranked in the AP poll since 2017, when they went 11-2. The past four seasons, they were 21-22. He had also lost two straight to rival SMU after seven consecutive wins over the Mustangs.
After this year’s loss to SMU, Patterson made headlines when he accused a Mustangs player of hitting Kill with a helmet after their rivalry game, despite video evidence to the contrary.
Patterson won every major national coach of the year award in 2009 and 2014, was honored at the conference level by Conference USA in 2002, the Mountain West in 2005 and 2009 and the Big 12 in 2014.
Patterson led TCU to 17 bowl appearances during his tenure — the school had previously been to a total of 17 bowl games between 1896 and his first season as head coach — and he went 11-6 in those bowls. TCU finished in the top 10 of the AP postseason poll six times, including a No. 2 finish in 2010 and No. 3 in 2013.
“[We] mutually agreed that the time has come for a new voice and leadership in our football program,” Donati wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.