THE MODERATOR: We’re now ready to start with Coach Gary Patterson from TCU. Your thoughts about the upcoming season?
GARY PATTERSON: You get back to — any time you have a season that you don’t want to have, you want to get back in as quick as you can. Really liked our off-season. Didn’t like the way we ended the season. Feel like we had to get back to being more physical. We started that in January.
I tell everybody that the good news is we have everybody back, and the bad news is we were 6-6, we got everybody back. So how do you make that work?
For us, that’s kind of the way we’ve gone about it. Really like the team. I like the kids. Really have worked hard. I like the way the guys have come back from injuries are back. It’s really kind of a different place for us, something that’s never happened, where we had had eight seniors, but really we signed 25. We had different guys medicals. We had guys out that couldn’t play anymore, different things that happened.
So I think, just like I am, they’re ready to go.
Q. Gary, how would you assess Kenny Hill throughout the summer? I know you wanted to see a lot of improvement out of him back in the spring. Where is he at right now?
GARY PATTERSON: I judge quarterbacks on Saturdays. Obviously, we went through a season where that was his first time. For me, I think I’ve got to do a better job of helping him with his swagger. I was pretty tough early doing things. And I think hadn’t been through that coach’s, so for me getting backed into it.
We’ve got to give him help. We’ve got to catch the ball better. I think we’re going to be better up front offensive line wise. We only lost one wide receiver. So I think all those things benefit him and then we’ve got to put him in an offense too that bends toward his strengths.
As we go forward, starting the two-a-days, trying to do that, with all of our quarterbacks to make sure that we put in an offense that fits us so we can do the things we need to do.
And we’ve got to play a lot better defense to help him out. We ended up, I think, statistically somewhere around second in the conference, but to be honest with you, it was very average for us. Our standards are a lot higher, football-wise, the way we want to play and how we want to do things. Because the ultimate goal is to get in the playoffs and win the Big 12 conference.
At the end of the year, we got beat up in the second half against a couple of teams. We’ve got to be stronger. We’ve got to be more physical and mentally tough. We’ve got to go on the road six ball games this year, counting Fayetteville to go to Arkansas, besides the league games.
I started talking to them in January about being road tested. When we’ve been good here, we’ve been able to play on the road, and we’re going to have to do that again this year.
Q. You coached against Bob Stoops for a number of years. You were also around him a lot in terms of meeting rooms and things of that nature off the field. You might be able to address the impact he had on the league in general as well as anyone. Could you speak to that this morning?
GARY PATTERSON: It’s hard to lose a guy, number one, what he stood for, not just for Oklahoma, but for the Big 12 obviously. I considered him a friend the years now that I’ve played in the Big 12. It’s hard when you lose somebody that you stood across the field from that you had respect for.
I understood his decision. In some ways, I understand what he did and how he did it. But obviously, you know, I think it hurts a conference a little bit when you lose somebody like that. But like all of us as coaches, we find out, it is the University of Oklahoma, and at some point in time, they’ll change or I’ll change and it will be somebody new at TCU. The great programs, the next person steps in, and they step up. Him being a part of the — going to still be part of campus, part of Oklahoma, I think is a big deal, instead of him just staying away.
And I never ever did hear him say that he was never going to be back in the sport. So I think, with his son, his sons and everybody going to be seniors, the chance to watch him play as dad. It’s hard to be in college football with the pressures of a double-edged sword of the pressure to play and win at a high level, but also hold a very firm stance on how kids act, and that’s — as a head coach, it’s really hard to do that anymore and keep everybody happy.
So those pressures, I don’t think really anybody understands unless you sit here and you do that because, like Bob — I think Coach Stoops was one of those guys, I think, had a lot of integrity and stood for a lot of the right things. It’s hard sometimes when you get put in situations that you don’t like.
Q. Coach, I’m wondering, with Coach Stoops gone, do you feel any added responsibility to take on a leadership role within the conference, both internally and externally?
GARY PATTERSON: You know, I don’t know if I have added pressure because I’ve been on — I’m on a lot of committees. So I think I’m the guy that you don’t like walking into a committee because I’m the guy that’s going to ask the question nobody else wants to ask. I’ve been doing that for a while, whether I like it or I dislike it.
But I do believe that the Big 12, I hear about having a — we have a problem with what people think about us. It’s a great conference. Anybody that doesn’t think it’s a great conference — we play in a league where you’ve got to play everybody. That’s hard to do on a year-in-and-year-out basis. We’re going to have a championship game. We graduate kids. We played well in Bowl games. We were one of the teams that lost a good ball game. We had teams that played very well.
For us, I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing as a league. I’m excited about being part of the Big 12, and I think the Big 12 is a great league. As coaches, we have a responsibility, all of us do, to recruit better players, play better on the field, and have responsibility to our league and our people that we do well.
So that’s kind of where I am. I’m a lot different — you know, when you come off a season — we only had three losing seasons in our time that we’ve been there, so the only way I know how to do that is to shore it up, get ready to go, and understand that you have a responsibility to do that.
I think sometimes we all want to put blame on somebody else, and there’s only one group that can answer that, and that’s us. So as a league, I think we need to keep doing that. The championship game is one of our steps to being able to make sure that we do — we put ourselves in the right position.
Q. Gary, you talk about the power of the Big 12 and your status, but two of the last three years, you haven’t put a team in the playoff. You’ve added the title game. How much — how important is it for this league to start putting a school in the playoff on a consistent basis? And how much do you think the championship game will affect that?
GARY PATTERSON: Well, I think the question you ask is did we have teams that were worthy of being in the playoff? Now, you’re talking to the wrong person when who should have been — to me, the Big 12 should have had teams two out of the three times in the playoffs the last couple years. And I wasn’t very happy that a team got into the playoffs that didn’t have — because I was told, and Baylor was told, that you had to play a championship game to play an extra game to get into that game, and then Ohio State got into the game without playing in their Big Ten Championship game.
So everybody wants to make — I think there should have been a team from the Big 12 that should have been in the playoffs two out of the last three years. So for me, that’s just one man’s opinion. I’m sure, as a general rule, you’re not really doing what you’re supposed to be doing unless you’re saying something that somebody doesn’t like — except at home. I found “yes, dear” works a lot better.
Q. On your offense, you were talking about possibly changing it to fit Kenny better. How much will it also change with Sonny calling the plays?
GARY PATTERSON: Not much. I mean, Sonny’s been part of — you know, our offense, the way we do it, it’s everybody’s all in as far as the ideas and how we do things. So I don’t see that — I think what we have to be able to do is we have to do what we need to do to move the football. If that’s running it, then you run it. If it’s throwing it, being able to be more of a vertical game, then be more of a vertical game.
But you have to have guys — what everybody understands is players have to step up. It’s so much — you can blame the quarterback, you can blame the coach, you can blame whatever, but at the end of the day, you have to make plays.
And that same thing goes on defense. You’ve got to make plays, and the coaches have to put you in the right situation to be able to do that.
How much it will change, I don’t know. We’re teaching the same thing. If anything we’ve gone back to — it’s more back to the essence of making sure that we can run a base offense and run it really well and then add things to it and not change on a game-to-game basis.
Q. Leaving the Big 12 aside for a moment, there were no FBS teams from the state of Texas in the final AP top 25 last year, first time in a while. I’m wondering if you think that’s indicative of any challenges that have cropped up in the past 5 years, 10 years, 20 years for the state and how you will go about overcoming those challenges.
GARY PATTERSON: Number one, we’ve got to keep players here. I think the Internet and everything else has led to that because kids go anywhere now to look at a school. It’s not regional. And we’ve got to do a better job of keeping them in the state. If you want to have great teams, you have to have great players. No doubt about it, that’s what we have to be able to do.
I think A&M going to the SEC hurt us a little bit because you have that common factor. But to be honest with you, it’s also now — I think the Big 12’s learning it’s helping us because we’re now leaving the state to be able to get kids to come into the state. But we should be embarrassed we don’t have a team in the top 25. There’s a lot of good football players, even that come to our schools, that can play and play at a high level, and we need to play better. It’s simple as that.
You should know me by now. We’re not going to make any excuses about how we do our business. We played at a high level for many years. A lot of the schools in this state have, and we need to get back to that.
But I’ve always found it’s cyclical doing it. You’re going to have senior-oriented groups. You’re going to have young-oriented groups. And when you’re older, you’re going to be better. So for us, we have to get back to keeping the players here and the players we have here playing at a high level, and we need to win ball games. There’s no secret to how you do that.
Q. I know KaVontae Turpin missed a lot of the spring with some academic issues. I was wondering what his status is.
GARY PATTERSON: He’s good right now, which is with all of them. They all have to grow up. One of the worst things that happens in this day and age is a young player is great as a freshman because I think it’s really hard with the media and everything else for them to handle being invisible.
One of the biggest problems we’ve had is when we’ve had great freshmen that have played early and got a lot of notoriety. If it was up to me — obviously, you need some of them to do that, but how do you get them back into where they get in the right lane and do the right things. I think KaVontae is, doing the right things, understanding what it is to be a college athlete and a college student. We’re a lot better football team when he’s on the field doing some of the things like a lot of our guys have been.
Right now I’m excited that he’s back in purple and black.
Q. Gary, what are you guys trying to do to improve on run defense this coming season after giving up more than — I believe it was the most you had given up since you became head coach last year?
GARY PATTERSON: As I said before, we weren’t happy with defense. We went out and recruited four deep tackles and three ends and get bigger. A guy like Travin — not Trevone Boykin, but Travin Howard, here’s a guy that basically went through — he had his appendix out. You had guys that really didn’t go through two-a-days, and he had 138 tackles in the Big 12 at 198 pounds.
Now he can lift, he can run, he can do things. He’s back up to 215, 217. Our whole football team. You get a Montrel Wilson back, and you have depth.
One of the reasons we were able to sign more guys is we were missing about four D-linemen from a year ago that would have helped us do some of the things. Guys that played, played. It’s hard to play in this league and play consistent when your best players on the inside are 260, 270 pounds. So we went out and got four guys that are in the 300-pound range.
Now we’ll find out — as I always tell people, they’re paper tigers. Can they play at this level? Can they play well at this level? We tried to address the needs both at end and as tackle and as linebacker.
Q. You mentioned the rare time coming off of a losing season and it being a different off-season. How are you a different coach in your approach to fall different coming off a losing season versus a more successful?
GARY PATTERSON: Well, I think you — number one, I’m one of those guys that believes you evaluate yourself even if you have a winning year, but I think you’re even more critical when you come off a year, and I think you start with yourself, not necessarily your players.
As I told my wife a long time ago, we all become invisible. So my second and third year as a head coach in 2002 and 2003, we went 10-2 and 10-2. Like all of us do, we think we become a Vince Lombardi. Nobody coaches this game like I coach it, right? Then in 2004, we went through a 5-6 season.
So you can talk — I have about three or four guys that are working with me that are in their 30s that were part of the 2004/2005 season. I’m going to tell you a great story. We come off the 2005 season. Our first game back, we beat Oklahoma with Adrian Peterson in Norman 17-10. At the end of the year, we’re playing Iowa State, and I’m with Dan McCarney on the stage, and Kelsey is back in the back sitting with the defensive linemen. They talked to Zarnell Fitch, which is my nose guard coach, my D-tackle coach, and they’re all asking him. They’re sitting at the table, and he turns to me and says, Mrs. P, I have a question. He was having a hard time because of what I put him through in spring and summer and two-a-days. Do you really love Coach P? They had a hard time thinking anybody could like me after what they went through. Then he’s found out what Gary is like, and they’ll tell you, she didn’t hesitate.
So the key is we all have to get back to doing what we have to do. We have an obligation to our university. Sometimes we lose our way a little bit. I felt like I hurt my team a little bit. I got my knee replaced, maybe didn’t give them as much energy. Again you have to blame yourself before you blame anybody else.
When you’ve been in a program for 20 years, 17 as a head coach, you understand the history of what we’re trying to get accomplished. For us, it’s kind of — it’s not that we’ve done anything different. It’s more that we go back — we brought back Night of Champions, which is a one lift. We do it in front of our 16 best lifters in front of a crowd, even though it scares me to death that we do it because you have some very heavy weights that get lifted that night because people do amazing things when you put a crowd in front of them.
So doing little things that sometimes you forget and you kind of get away from.
Q. I’m just curious, next month LaDainian Tomlinson is getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure — I’m just asking the impact of him, your program, and what the kids look at when they see an LT, the type of person he is, and what he’s going to have happen to him next month.
GARY PATTERSON: Yeah, the only negative of LT going to the Hall of Fame, it reminds me of how long I’ve been there because my first set of seniors are now 41 years old. That’s what 20 years means. He was a sophomore.
If you see what he’s done — I’m so proud of him as a player, but I’ll be honest with you, the best part of being a head coach and being here as long as I have, all the guys coming back, even more proud of what kind of dad he is, what kind of person he’s become, what kind of ambassador he’s become not only for TCU, but for college football and the NFL. He handles himself the right way. He does the right things, and he shows — what he does is he puts a mark on TCU and establishes the understanding that this kind of player can come from TCU.
I think that’s where we had to start 20 years ago when I came with Dennis Franchione, and they were 1-10. No facilities, no anything. To where we are now, to where it’s hard to match, we’re as good as anybody else in the country.
And really it all starts with this is the kind of guy can come to TCU and be successful. So the only thing that really has disappointed me is it’s on my first big scrimmage day. So I think half of Ft. Worth is going to his inauguration, but for me, it’s all — he’s going to be mad at me if I don’t win. It comes up, he’ll be the guy, didn’t play quite as good a defense as you usually do. I said, no, we didn’t.
Q. Good morning, Coach. Quick question about the National Signing Day, and I refer to something Coach Saban at Alabama, of all people, talked about recently. He likes the way basketball does it, where there’s an early signing period on top of the after-the-season signing period, citing that there’s so much all or nothing about this February 1st Signing Day. Are you in favor of something like that taking place in football where they also have an early signing period before the season?
GARY PATTERSON: Well, I think we are in December. Since I’ve been a part of being a head coach, we’ve been voting unanimously for the December signing period that we got right now. The thing that we got that we weren’t ready for is they put official visits in April and May. That was never brought up. So for us, the early signing day — I give a great example.
I think Oklahoma last year had 9 to 12 guys come in early. We’ve been having the signing date for junior college guys forever, and it’s been seamless. We’ve had six or seven guys come in in January. So I think the early signing period where we have it is really good.
What I worry about is us not being able to evaluate, take away time from coaches, players, everything else. Everything needs to get moved up a little bit, but for us, the early signing period — now if he was talking about all the way up in August or September, you know, I’m not sure that’s fair to anybody. I think you’d have to change a lot of other rules. But obviously, they didn’t ask me, or we would have not put a rule in effect that we have right now, how we’re doing it.
But I think all the coaches were very excited about December. I think, if you ask them, if we knew that April and May they were going to put official visits with that, I would probably have told you that all of them would have voted no because we won’t get out until April 15th to start even evaluating kids.
One of the things that — you know, all the mistakes that everybody’s talking about right now with players, kids want to decommit, well, a lot of it is because they get talked into going to a place they don’t know anything about. They just read the name, and they really don’t fit in. We’ve got to get back to kids going to our campus and see if they like the coaches, see if they like everything.
We call it the Frog factor at our place. If they like everything at TCU besides football, they’re going to have a great experience. They like the academics, the people there, they like the way we coach, they like the personnel as far as their position coach, they like the head coach, then they’re going to stay, and they grow up, and they do the things they need to do. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay somewhere for as long as I’ve been able to stay is because you’ve got to build a great foundation.
My biggest problem I have with kids right now, maybe even parents, I do more coaching of parents than I do of players. Our job is to prepare them for what’s going to happen when they get out of college, and I’m not really sure — you asked me what that has to do with Signing Day. I think that all has to do with Signing Day. We make sure kids grow up and become what we want them to become, not just as football players, but as people. They get a degree so they can go on in life and become somebody.
I think, if we’re not careful, we’re making it into a show, and that’s not really what we’re trying to get accomplished.
Basketball is a lot different. You’re recruiting a couple of kids. You’re talking about how many visits and everything we have, and all the amount of kids that you have to bring and you have to look around and see, and all the logistics that has to happen for this to happen, I think we need to move very slowly into what we need to do.
I think in Coach Saban’s case, I think it’s good for him because of the way Alabama recruits and they can recruit right now. I don’t think it’s the best for all 128 schools. And I’m one of those guys, just because I’m part of the Power Five, I still think we need to protect the rest of them. And I think that’s not what’s best for all of college football is not that we — you know, we just keep moving them up. I ask people all the time because we say, well, what does a student-athlete think? I just ask them one question, at your home, your kids growing up, do you let your teenagers decide what we do in the family? I don’t know about you because mine don’t. Do I ask them what they think? Yes, I do, because I want them to be happy. But they don’t decide how I run my household, and I definitely don’t think they should decide how I run my football program.
I have a little bit of a problem right now. Do I think we need to take care of the student-athlete? I do. Again, this goes back to recruiting. But I don’t think they should be telling us how to play our game or how to run our programs or how we run our universities.