Berry Tramel: OSU's Mike Gundy & TCU's Gary Patterson have incredibly similar stories
STILLWATER — In his 19th year as the TCU head coach, Gary Patterson has a succinct answer when asked how he has kept his job so long.
“You gotta win and say no,” Patterson said.
Patterson has done both. He’s as revered around Horned Frog football as Bill Snyder was at Kansas State. Patterson had made TCU nationally relevant and a Big 12 force. And suitors have come calling.
Texas A&M. Tennessee. Nebraska. All have inquired about Patterson’s interest in leaving Fort Worth, and he’s talked to most of them. Maybe even been tempted. But he’s never jumped.
“A guy once told me, you gotta get to the point in your life where you say no more than you say yes,” Patterson said. “Find a place that’s good and you have confidence in yourself that you can coach the kids that you can recruit every year, then stay there.”
It’s the Mike Gundy story, only without the reverence.
Oklahoma State and TCU play Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in a game that will help sort out the Big 12’s middle class, and it’s a matchup of two of college football’s longest-tenured coaches.
Gundy’s hair remains long and his wisecracks remain frequent. But at 52 and in his 15th season as the Cowboy head coach, Gundy is no less an old-timer than the 59-year-old Patterson.
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Of major college football’s 130 head coaches, only Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (21st year) has been on his current job longer than have Gundy and Patterson. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Ohio’s Frank Solich joined Gundy as part of the 2005 class of coaching changes.
Patterson and Gundy have a similar story. Each has made these the glory days of their respective programs, at least since World War II. The 2010 Horned Frogs beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The 2011 Cowboys won the Big 12 championship. Each coaches in a glittering new stadium that replaced a relic void of charm. Each has established a national brand on a side of the ball; Gundy with offense, Patterson with defense.
TCU hadn’t reached 10 wins in a season since 1938; now the Frogs have done it 11 times under Patterson. OSU has reached 10 wins in a season nine times in its history; six of those were Gundy teams.
Both Gundy and Patterson have had their down seasons. The only difference seems to be that during a disappointing year, OSU fans seem to grumble more about Gundy than TCU fans grumble about Patterson. That could be simple vantage point. Or it could be the tense relationship that developed between Gundy and OSU patriarch Boone Pickens that caused some in Stillwater to take sides. Or it could be because Patterson was better at keeping the lid on his dalliances with other jobs, while Gundy’s flirtations with Arkansas and Tennessee have riled the masses.
Such frustrations cause everyone to take their eye off the ball. Cause some to forget that what Gundy has done in Stillwater is as impressive as what Patterson has done in Fort Worth, and to have such stability is invaluable in trying to get ahead or even just keep up in Big 12 football.
I asked Gundy this week why he thinks Patterson has been so good for so long in a turbulent industry.
“He’s a very, very good football coach,” Gundy said. “He’s as good a defensive mind as there is out there. He’s very well thought of in this profession. He’s done a great job. It’s extremely difficult to stay in one place a long time.”
When Gundy talks about Patterson, it’s not difficult to imagine Gundy talking about himself.
“There’s a little bit of luck involved in recruiting,” Gundy said. “We’re both at a place where we just don’t get the top of the line, in some people’s opinions, falling in our laps in recruiting. So we have to work extremely hard at it to get the type of players that we need for our system. That’s what he does, very similar to what we do.
“He’s a proven coach. He’ll have some years they have not played as well as they wanted to, like maybe last year. Then you start looking around and saying, ‘OK, well who are we going to go get that’s better?’ You’re not going to find anyone who’s better.”
Few TCU people would say they could find a better coach than Patterson. Lots of OSU people would say they could find a better coach than Gundy. Which is about the biggest difference in these coaches who have won and said no.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.