This is a story about a football coach, but it has nothing to do with the game or the wins and losses. Instead it is about what matters – not just in college sports but in all of life as well. Gary Patterson is the head football coach at Texas Christian University. He is known throughout the land as a man “who does it right,” and – quite bluntly – this is a man you would want to mentor your child.
Last week TCU’s best player on the team, starting quarterback Casey Pachall, was arrested for driving under the influence. It was his second brush with the law and he was suspended for last week’s game against Iowa State.
TCU was unbeaten and nationally ranked but, without Pachall, the substitute quarterback threw three interceptions, the offense dissolved, and the Frogs lost, 37-23.
This week everybody figured Casey would be back for Saturday’s all-important game with Baylor. Instead he’s been shipped away for the rest of the season to a treatment center and Gary Patterson and his wife Kelsey just donated $100,000 to the TCU Recovery Support Group that helps all students battling addiction. Are you with me here?
A writer asked the coach if the decision would affect his team’s ability to win. “That never entered our thinking. I don’t know if we would have won more games … maybe we would have won them all. But we are trying to help a kid with his life. Period. For all of you who think it’s always about wins and losses – wrong.”
There were a lot of people in Fort Worth, including high-up university administrators, who tried to bend Patterson’s thinking. C’mon, TCU is a small college by Texas standards – it doesn’t even have 75,000 living alumni – but Patterson’s wizardry has put the university on the national stage. In today’s age of glamour and glitz, a winning football program is the university’s front porch.
Look what has happened to TCU in the last five years. They’re 51 and 6! In 2010 the Frogs were undefeated and finished No. 2 in the country. Last year’s team went 11-2 – with the talented Pachall setting school records -- and now Patterson has passed Dutch Meyer as the winningest coach in school history.
But there are many alums and rabid Horned Frogs followers who believe sending Pachall packing is tantamount to suicide in the demanding Big 12 Conference. Gary Patterson stood firm: “We need a drastic change … a suspension wouldn’t mean anything. You’ve got to change kids’ lives. That’s what this is all about.
“Casey just needed to step away from it all. I think that was the best decision for both this football team and for Casey Pachall. Both of us get a chance to heal and both of us get a chance to grow and we’ll see how it goes from here,” the coach said. “We’re still going to try to win games. We won before, when Casey wasn’t quarterback, and we’re going to win ball games after Casey was the quarterback.”
Back in February TCU kicked four starters off the team when a sickening drug ring was discovered. One was Tanner Brock, Pachall’s roommate, and the star quarterback admitted at the time he had experimented with cocaine and Ecstasy. Casey went through a campus counseling program during the months that followed but was not suspended for any games this fall.
Patterson said he was “totally shocked” by the February bust but he quickly became furious. At the time he said, “There are days when people want to be a head football coach, but today is not one of those days. As I heard the news this morning, I was first shocked, then hurt, and now I'm mad. Under my watch, drugs and drug use by TCU's student-athletes will not be tolerated by me or any member of my coaching staff, period. Our program is respected nationally for its strong ethics and, for that reason, the players arrested today were separated from TCU by the university."
Now he’s even more enraged and this week’s $100,000 gift to the school’s drug counseling program easily verifies it. “We're going to help escalate that where it becomes a more prominent program on this campus because what I think we're talking about is a big problem on college campuses," he said. "Casey is just one of millions. We wanted to try to make sure this turns into a positive and others could be helped because of it."
"People tiptoe around, all the time, mental illness, alcoholism because they really don't know how to deal with it because everybody is different," Patterson said. "I took the facts that I had and we did what we needed to do and felt like we made the best decision for the football team, Casey Pachall, and this university.
"Hopefully he gets himself right and keeps the door open as far as an opportunity for him to be able to come back here and enroll in the spring. He's close enough where he'd be able to graduate in two semesters, which is the ultimate goal for us, and we get a great kid and also get a good quarterback back."
Patterson has promised Pachall he can return to the team in January if he “gets clean … but those people have to tell me he’s changed. I didn’t tell him to go to a treatment center but it was important for me to tell him he had an opportunity to come back … you have to have hope in what you do.”
And there you have it; a college football coach that puts a young man’s life ahead of wins and losses. A man whose first reflex is to write a $100,000 check to help young adults just like his quarterback. But – I’m pleading with you here – make sure you note that Gary Patterson dotted the last sentence by giving the now-fallen Casey Pachall the biggest gift of his life. Hope.