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Gary Patterson explains why he parks in the back of the parking lot at Texas

After a 21-year, statue-worthy run at TCU, the future College Football Hall of Fame coach is embracing being at the bottom of Steve Sarkisian's org chart.

The noted philosopher Ferris Bueller once taught us all that life moves pretty fast, and it's hard to think of an example of life moving faster than Gary Patterson using the pronoun "we" in reference to the Texas Longhorns preparing to move to the SEC. 

To reduce the vertigo anyone who just emerged from an 11-month coma is experiencing right now, let's back up a bit. 

After 21 seasons leading the program, Gary Patterson stepped away as TCU's head coach on Halloween. Patterson's inevitable departure was always going to be a delicate dance considering everyone involved with TCU football walks past his statue on their way to work each morning but, from the outside, his exit seemed awkward even by those standards. At 3-5 and four seasons removed from their last 10-win season, one could see why TCU and Patterson thought the time was right for a divorce. 

Except they didn't really divorce. Or, they did divorce but continued living together until the lease ran out.

Patterson announced his resignation on a Sunday, then showed up to work the following Monday. And continued showing up. It begged the question: if Patterson was going to continue game-planning through the end of the season... why not just let him finish out the year and take a well-deserved victory lap? Why the rush to remove him from the sidelines if he was going to stick around anyway? 

In an interview with ESPN Central Texas, Patterson explained that their unusual arrangement was: A) his idea, and B) beneficial to his assistants' impending job hunts and his own well-being. 

"I made the decision, not so much for Gary Patterson but for TCU. They needed to go out and find a coach, which they started looking. The staff, Jerry Kill, he became the interim head coach, because of his health he needed to show he could still be a really good head coach, and he got a head coaching job out of it. My staff, especially my defensive staff because I've always called it, if they were going to go get other jobs, then what they needed to be able to do is to do it themselves," Patterson said. 

"I went in on Sundays and Mondays, watched Tuesdays, watched the walk-throughs, and then I went home. I helped on Wednesday morning, and then I went home. I felt like for TCU's sake, for the recruits and everybody else, that (it was important) everyone knew where they stood. All of that helped me understand my place and what I needed to do. I was in a better place by the time it got to December, and I don't think I would've been there had I stayed there."

Patterson happily reported that each of his assistants, even down to GAs and equipment staff, have each found jobs elsewhere. Patterson also received job offers, which should come as no surprise given he was easily the most accomplished program builder, defensive coach, and talent evaluator on the market at that time. 

Patterson turned them down, feeling he wasn't ready to jump immediately into the commitment of a full-time, on-the-field job just yet, and that he wasn't ready to leave Fort Worth. He did, however, want to remain in the game and remain in Fort Worth at least part-time, and so he took a job at Texas as the special assistant to head coach Steve Sarkisian.

Jarring as it was for the rest of us to see Patterson trade his trademark purple-and-black for burnt orange-and-white, the transition made sense to him. Though Texas was his north star and later his target in dragging TCU from Conference USA to the Big 12 -- at one point winning seven of eight from 2014-20, including a devastatingly dismissive, "We've beaten better with less" comment in a pre-game TV interview before a 50-7 win in 2015 -- Texas was not his mortal enemy. (That was Baylor. Kidding. Kinda.) 

In fact, Patterson's wife, Kelsey, graduated from Texas. Texas AD Chris Del Conte is a friend, dating back to their TCU days. So is former Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, whose blessing was required for TCU to even get into the Big 12. A large part of the strategy TCU used to build itself into an athletics department that would be attractive to the Big 12 was to recruit the Fort Worth elite whose first allegiance may have been to Texas, Oklahoma or A&M. 

"There were Longhorns that helped us build our facility here in Fort Worth," Patterson said. "I have a lot of friends that are Longhorns. It was about two and a half hours away, where I could keep my house in Fort Worth and go back and forth."

Beyond his ties to Texas, his desire to remain in the game, and his desire to remain in the game while staying at his Fort Worth home at least part-time, there's one reason why Patterson now wears a burnt orange polo to work: "I really like Sark. He works his tail off."

"Sark fires me up. He really does," he said at another point. "He gets after it. The staff we have, all the way down to Mr. Del Conte, he gives you what you need to be successful, and so we need to go be successful."

Patterson easily could have found a place in Nick Saban's Finishing School for Once and Future Head Coaches had he so desired, but instead he chose to help Steve Sarkisian start his own satellite campus in Austin. 

As a future Hall of Fame head coach who could easily be a head coach or a Power 5 coordinator elsewhere, Patterson is at a place where he can afford -- monetarily and personally -- to embrace the grunt work. The 2022 season marks the first time in his adult life he's not either climbing the professional ladder or efforting to remain on top, and the first time since 1996 he's not responsible for designing and calling a defense.

In joining a defensive staff that ranked 99th in scoring and 102nd in yards per play in their first year together, Patterson essentially walked into a no-lose situation. If the defense improves, people will point to his presence as the obvious difference. If it doesn't, those same people will clamor to throw coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski under the bus and let him steer. 

But Patterson says embracing the opportunity to make suggestions, not decisions. His choice of parking spot is symbolic for his place on Sarkisian's org chart. 

"One of the things I wanted to make sure I did with Sark and the defensive staff, I didn't want to overstep my bounds. One of the things about being a head coach, when you're not a head coach you know how to be a great assistant. I know how to be a solider. I've just been kind of feeling my way in, finding the things I can help with. Whatever Sark wants me to do, I've been trying to do. It's been fun," he said.

"When we park in the parking lot, I park as far back in the parking lot as I can, where everybody understands (what I'm there to do.) Like I said before, I'm just trying to help."

Asked point-blank if he'd like to head coach again, Patterson gave a point-blank answer: "I don't know."

"When you have an opportunity like Bob Stoops did, when you stay out of that head coaching thing, after five years you can be nominated into the College Football Hall of Fame. That's something that's one of my goals. The one thing I do know I want to do is, I want to stay involved in college football. It's a great game. In some areas we're not going in the right directions, so I want to be able to maybe right that ship. Those are things that I pay attention to and have been helping from a distance. I want to help these young head coaches manage kids... Forever's a long time, so I don't know. 

"Right now I'm a Longhorn, so I'm going to help the Longhorns win as many ball games as I can."