Patterson, Horned Frogs Ready For The Big 12

DALLAS, Texas – This weekend I was around some relatives from Azle, Texas, near Fort Worth, and they kept talking about how TCU backers were going bonkers over being in the Big 12 and their first football season in the league. It didn't take long Monday during Big 12 Media Days to figure out that TCU quarterback Casey Pachall and his head coach Gary Patterson are excited to be in the Big 12.

But they are more excited because they think they can win the Big 12. Diplomatically, though, they are talking about the honor and the financial gain of being in the Big 12.

‘Well, I would say this to you, and I've kind of used this line, I think Fort Worth, before we play a ball game, wins," said Patterson. "I think before we play a ballgame, TCU wins financially, credibility-wise.

"Gary Patterson's job got harder. That's okay. If you look at what we've had to accomplish and the facilities, we were walking a mile and a half to practice 15 years ago when L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson) was our starting running back, and now our practice fields are right outside.

"So there's a lot of things that stand in front of us but I would say as a university and as a group totally that we do feel like that we're a little bit more stable in what we're doing."

So how tough will it be for TCU to compete in the Big 12 than any of their previous conferences such as the Mountain West they have dominated the past two seasons? Patterson explained that it shouldn't be.

Oklahoma State fans should believe him because the Cowboys have competed with TCU more than anybody else in recent years in recruiting. They have gone tooth and nail on players like running back Kendall Hunter and cornerback Justin Gilbert.

"We've been recruiting against the Big 12 for the last seven or eight years," said Patterson. "And we always felt like if we could get a few of those guys that could play at that level that we could win the Mountain West or whatever conference we were part of. And we've won more of those battles here in the three or four years. So we know a lot about the players.

"Most of those teams we're talking about have Texas players. We recruited them. We had them in camp. We understand the kind of players they have. It's no different.

"That's the one great thing about coming back in the Big 12 for us is that when you do step on the field, you're stepping on the field that you knew all kids, they're going to know guys they played against in high school," continued Patterson. "There's a natural challenge to all of this.

"You know, you've heard me say this a lot, and I truly believe it, for three hours you've got to hate each other. It's a violent game, go get after each other. But afterwards I firmly believe it's about life and how do you help everybody else and it's about friendships and relationships.

"I keep talking to alumni all the time now coming back into the Big 12 of the people they played against from Baylor and Texas Tech and Texas. If you go down the list of alumni that talk about their friends and how they tailgate together, now they're going to get a chance every year to go whether it's at their place or ours, they're going to get a chance to spend a whole day with them or maybe a couple of days. So besides what I need to get done and my team needs to get done, I think everybody else wins."

I think the biggest question about TCU is the schedule and facing good team after good team each week coming from a league where even Pachall admitted there were weeks you watched video and knew you were going to win. That doesn't happen in the Big 12. Kansas may be the one exception to that premise this season. TCU's schedule is really loaded at the end with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

"Everybody keeps talking about all the games tough at the end," said Patterson to the media in the main ballroom on Monday. "I've always approached it, I think starting from the beginning, obviously if you're going to struggle with the one AA school coming in your place and you got a chance to open a new stadium, break a record, then you're going to probably struggle the rest of the year.

"I think starting even with Kansas, I think all the way through it, each one of those games poses a problem and we should approach it like that. We've always been a very workman-like group when it comes to ball games like that. I tell people who give me a bad time talking about winning by one point, but really whether it's about life or about football, it's about the same thing.

"Because people said, 'You're not going to be playing New Mexico anymore. You're not going to be playing Vegas anymore.' Yeah, but those were 50-point ball games. What's reality? Because all you have to do is win by one point to get where you need to get to.

"Last year was a great example of kind of the mental toughness that our group had," continued Patterson. "All the games we had to win, all the bowl teams in our conference were all on the road. The Mountain West commissioners and presidents changed the ballgame from Fort Worth to Boise because we were only going to play them once. You had to go to San Diego State. You had to go to Air Force.

"You could talk to Coach Stoops about playing Air Force and what's that like because you're used to playing -- getting ready for a regular conventional offense and then getting ready for the triple (option). So along the way all of them present problems. And for us, we're going to -- it's going to be -- it's a lot of work, but I think one of the things is everybody's kind of excited about it because kids that come from the state of Texas, they grew up being told they're supposed to play in big games. We've just gotta do what we've gotta do."

Patterson is an intense fellow and there was sweat on his brow early Monday, and there will be sweat working at TCU every day of every week with the goal being to turn that sweat and effort into a Big 12 inaugural season that will be unforgettable.

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