Gary Patterson, the current head football coach at TCU who is likely to have his phone ringing off the hook over the coming months as several high-profile coaching positions come open, recently opened up to ESPN about his happiness in Fort Worth, Texas, and included an interesting nugget about Nebraska in the process.
Patterson said he has “never truly been close” to leaving TCU, even though he has interviewed for several positions over the years, including Tennessee in 2009 and Nebraska in 2008.
"Tennessee didn't think I could handle the big stage," Patterson said. "My wife and I went to dinner with them, and I could tell they had already decided on [Lane] Kiffin. It was the same with Nebraska. I interviewed and could tell they had already decided on [Bo] Pelini. I think a lot of these ADs now are more interesting in hiring guys who're going to win the podium than they are in hiring football coaches, and there's a lot more to it than that if you're going to win championships."
Patterson smiled when asked whether he would have taken either the Tennessee or Nebraska job had he been offered.
"It's sort of like the old Garth Brooks song. Sometimes the best prayers are unanswered prayers," Patterson said.
Nebraska legend Tom Osborne hired Pelini away from LSU in the summer of 2008 after the defensive coordinator had helped the Tigers win the BCS National Championship during the 2007 season.
Patterson didn’t explicitly say whether he would have accepted the Nebraska position if offered, but it’s safe to say the Huskers decided to pass on him in favor of Pelini.
Since that decision, Patterson has won 87 games at TCU against just 27 losses. Over the same time frame, Nebraska is 81-38. Pelini was fired in 2014 and replaced with current head coach Mike Riley who is sitting on a very hot seat with a record of 19-16.
Patterson’s success at TCU has helped the Horned Frogs to renovate Amon G. Carter Stadium (a $164 million project) and move from the now-defunct Mountain West Conference to the Big 12. Since 2008, Patterson has four top-10 finishes in the AP poll, a Rose Bowl win, a Peach Bowl win and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
Nebraska has finished in the top 25 in the AP poll just four times over that span, with no top-10 finishes and a 4-5 record in bowl games.