In first extended interview, Gary Patterson talks up new role at Texas: ‘Sark fires me up’

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Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, right, hired former TCU coach Gary Patterson, left, to become a special assistant with the Longhorns in January. By NCAA rules, Patterson can't be an on-field coach. But he can play an important behind-the-scenes role in prepping the team's defense, scouting and game planning.
Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, right, hired former TCU coach Gary Patterson, left, to become a special assistant with the Longhorns in January. By NCAA rules, Patterson can't be an on-field coach. But he can play an important behind-the-scenes role in prepping the team's defense, scouting and game planning.

Gary Patterson said Friday that his primary role as the special assistant to Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is to be a “good soldier.” Part of that means knowing who gets the best parking spot.

“When we park in the parking lot, I made sure he sits in the front,” Patterson said. “I park as far back in the parking lot as I can, for everybody to understand what I need to do.”

Sarkisian does not allow staff members to speak to Texas beat reporters. But Patterson spoke at length Friday about his new job and new country single “The Day I Walk Away” with ESPN Central Texas host Matt Mosley.

In his first extended comments since joining Texas, Patterson expressed genuine excitement about what the Longhorns have for the upcoming season and said that “Sark fires me up.”

“He really does, recruitingwise, all of it. He gets after it,” Patterson said. “The staff we have down to the support people, everybody we have, all the way down to (athletic director Chris) Del Conte. He gives you what you want, what you need to be successful. So we need to be successful.”

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Patterson was the head coach at TCU and left Fort Worth after 20-plus seasons with a 181-79 record. His teams went 7-3 against Texas in the last 10 matchups.

“Oh, by the way, we added a guy from Fort Worth who I think has helped a little bit in coach Gary Patterson,” Sarkisian told UT fans at the Texas Fight Tour stop in San Antonio on May 9. “So that’s been a good addition to us as well.”

Patterson joined Texas in January as Sarkisian copied the model that’s been perfected by his old boss, Alabama’s Nick Saban. As special assistant, Patterson can help with scouting and recruiting evaluations and bring a savvy perspective to the room like few others.

Former TCU coach Gary Patterson, now a special assistant at Texas, says: “I’ve just kind of been feeling my way into things I can help with. Whatever Sark wants me to do, I’ve been trying to do, and it’s been fun.”
Former TCU coach Gary Patterson, now a special assistant at Texas, says: “I’ve just kind of been feeling my way into things I can help with. Whatever Sark wants me to do, I’ve been trying to do, and it’s been fun.”

But according to NCAA rules, Patterson cannot be an on-field coach. For example, during the Orange-White spring game, he stood in the end zone behind the action and took notes — all while wearing his signature visor. A burnt orange one, not purple.

Patterson’s name is not listed among the assistant coaches on UT’s online roster. His name can be found only in the athletic department directory. He earns $150,000, a salary far greater than the typical $25,000 that quality control analysts get.

“One thing about being a head coach, when you’re not a head coach, you know how to be a great assistant. So I know how to be a soldier,” Patterson said. “I’ve just kind of been feeling my way into things I can help with. Whatever Sark wants me to do, I’ve been trying to do, and it’s been fun.”

Pressed to describe UT’s roster, Patterson demurred.

“Well, No. 1, I told you I’m a good soldier,” he said. “So that’s Sark’s job now, if you really want to talk publicly to me about as far as what we have. But the University of Texas has some good players. We need to keep recruiting, going to be going into the Southeastern Conference, keep developing.

“One of the things that I think our staff is really doing a great job of and being a part of it is just evaluating talent, making sure we take the guys that we really need, not what their stars are,” he added. “Are they going to fit what Sark and the staff wants? The last class, I think they did a good job of that, and you know, we’ve got to keep moving forward with this next class. They’ve had some good additions, and they’ve got some good players that have been there.”

With no rule limiting the number of special assistants, Sarkisian could conceivably build out an entire support staff of coaching veterans to help the Horns.

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“We all need a lot of help, and that’s one of the reasons why I hired Jerry Kill, to have another head coach in the office when I was at TCU,” Patterson said. “You wanted somebody who could manage problems, because there’s more and more of them nowadays than what there used to be.”

Kill was brought on as special assistant at TCU in February 2020 and became the interim head coach Oct. 31 when Patterson and the Horned Frogs parted ways. TCU ultimately hired Sonny Dykes away from SMU.

Does Patterson, who turned 62 in February, want to be a head coach again? One of his coaching goals is to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, which requires a five-year separation period before one can become eligible.

“One thing I do know that I want to do is stay involved in college football,” Patterson said. “It’s a great game. In some areas, we’re not going in the right directions. So I want to be able to maybe help right that ship, get it going the way we need to. Those are things that I pay attention to and have been helping from a distance.”

But he’s not closing the door entirely.

“Forever’s a long time, so I don’t know,” Patterson said. “Right now, I’m a Longhorn. Going to help the Longhorns win as many as we can, move ourselves forward. Still love TCU. I always told (the media), I liked everybody in the state of Texas except for the three hours that you had to play each other, right?”

Patterson did acknowledge that it’ll be difficult this season when Texas faces TCU. Last season, the Frogs had a team full of underclassmen.

“That’ll be a different feeling standing across from them for the first time,” Patterson said. “But outside of that, we’ve got to move forward.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or follow on Twitter via @BDavisAAS.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Gary Patterson talks up special assistant role at Texas