A safety and linebacker at Kansas State, Patterson began his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Wildcats in 1982 before getting his first job as a linebacker coach for Tennessee Tech the following two seasons.
The personification of perseverance, Patterson continuously climbed up the coaching ladder with stops at UC-Davis, Cal-Lutheran, Pittsburgh (Kansas) State and Sonoma State (California) the next five years.
In 1992 he made the move to coach the defense for the Oregon Lightning Bolts of the Professional Spring Football League, but seven days before the first game the league folded. That fall Patterson was back on the field coaching the secondary at Utah State. Staying with the Aggies for three years, Patterson coached two of the top three players for interceptions in school history.
Moving to Navy in 1995, Patterson got his first coordinator gig the following season when he moved to New Mexico to coach the safeties in addition to his job as defensive coordinator. With the Lobos for two seasons with Dennis Franchione, he helped the team win nine games and a WAC Mountain Division Championship.
Patterson moved to TCU in 1998 and was defensive coordinator for the Horned Frogs for three seasons. In Patterson's first season at TCU the Horned Frogs scored a school-record six defensive touchdowns, intercepted 12 passes and allowed only 19.6 points per game; the fewest points per game in over 30 years. It was accomplished by a team that was 1-10 the previous season.
Patterson's 1999 TCU defense ended the season ranked fifth in the country in total defense. The Frogs posted two shutouts and led the Western Athletic Conference in every major defensive category. In 2000, the Frogs allowed only 245.0 total yards and 9.6 points per game, ranking first in the nation in both categories. Five of Patterson's players earned first-team all-conference recognition and he was a finalist for the Frank Broyles National Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Taking over for Franchione as head coach before the 2000 GMAC Bowl, Patterson has only seen his star rise in the coaching world in his 12 years on the job. Leading the Horned Frogs to a bowl game in his first season, Patterson's TCU squad went 10-2 in 2002 and won the Conference USA Championship.
Patterson was interviewed for the then-vacant Auburn head coaching job after the 2008 season.
In 2003 TCU went 11-2 overall and finished in the Top 25 for the second consecutive season. Following a down year in 2004, the Horned Frogs went 11-1 and defeated Iowa State in the Houston Bowl. That started a run of at least 11 wins in six of seven seasons for the Horned Frogs, including a perfect 13-0 season in 2010 when TCU finished behind Auburn in both polls. The Horned Frogs finished the perfect season with a win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Patterson is currently 116-34 as a head coach and is one of just eight active coaches to have won at least 100 games at his current school.
Patterson is a guy who knows how to run a program and get results on the field. In his 11 seasons at TCU he's won at least 10 games eight times and has just one losing season (5-6). Before his arrival as an assistant coach in 1998 TCU had been to just two bowl games since 1965. He has led the Horned Frogs to 10 bowl games as a head coach and has been part of 13 during his time in Fort Worth.
For a school like Auburn that has dealt with its fair share of off-the-field problems the last few years, the addition of Patterson wouldn't necessarily be comforting news. In February four TCU football players were among the 17 students arrested as part of a six-month drug sting at Texas Christian University for allegedly selling marijuana to undercover policemen. One of the players arrested was standout linebacker Tanner Brock. His roommate, quarterback Casey Paschall, was suspended following a DWI in early October as well. After having earlier avoided punishment following the admittance of the use of marijuana, Paschall left school to enter a drug and alcohol treatment facility for the remainder of 2012. To his credit Patterson didn't hesitate to suspend his starting quarterback, but there is no question that 2012 was a rough year in places other than Auburn.