TCU head football coach Gary Patterson did Wednesday's pro-am and talked about the tournament and celeb Bill Murray. bgosset@star-telegram.com
TCU head football coach Gary Patterson did Wednesday's pro-am and talked about the tournament and celeb Bill Murray. bgosset@star-telegram.com

Gil LeBreton

Would TCU’s Gary Patterson ever walk away as OU’s Bob Stoops did?

June 08, 2017 6:12 PM

To everything there is a season, Bob Stoops said Wednesday.

And a time to every purpose.

“After 18  1/2 years, when is the right time?” the retiring Oklahoma football coach asked as he made his formal announcement.

Stoops’ was June 7, as it turned out. And the college football world shook at the news.

A defending conference champion. A Heisman candidate quarterback. A top 10 recruiting class.

And the head coach just walks away?

Who, when blessed with good health, would do such a thing?

Gary Patterson was like a lot of us Wednesday afternoon, staggered by the news from Norman, wondering if something had happened.

“But when you think about it, the timing makes sense,” the TCU head coach said. “Oklahoma’s got a great group of players coming back for next year. Summer school has started and his recruiting class has arrived, so there’s not going to be a bunch of them leaving because he’s retiring.

“And his sons are going to be seniors in high school, and now he gets to watch them play.”

It says something about our cynical, gotcha-Twitter times that many immediately assumed that Stoops’ abrupt announcement meant that something was amiss. A cover-up to the Joe Mixon cover-up had been unearthed, or something.

I’m grateful for this season of my life, and I feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.

Retiring Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops

But some of the people who know him best — among them athletic director Joe Castiglione, columnist Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman and former OU quarterback Dean Blevins of KWTV — seem convinced that Stoops just felt it was time.

The most compelling explanation comes from Stoops’ own bio. He is the son of a former high school football coach and part of a family of coaches.

In 1988 Stoops’ father, Ron Sr., suffered a fatal heart attack on the sideline of a game against one of his sons’ teams. He died on the way to the hospital at age 54.

Bob Stoops is 56. He assured Wednesday that his health wasn’t an issue, but Stoops has talked before about the family’s history of heart trouble.

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose,” he said Wednesday. “I’m grateful for this season of my life, and I feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.”

With Stoops retired, the longest-tenured major college football coach is now Kirk Ferentz of Iowa.

The second longest? Gary Patterson, age 57.

It seems like only yesterday I was standing at the podium and everyone was wondering whether I was good enough to be the head coach.

TCU coach Gary Patterson

“I don’t want to think about that right now,” Patterson said, finding some humor in the distinction.

“It seems like only yesterday I was standing at the podium and everyone was wondering whether I was good enough to be the head coach.”

Patterson took over the Horned Frogs in 2000. His overall record (149-54) may not have the shimmer that Stoops’ does (190-48, including the 2000 national championship), but it’s shiny enough.

Could Patterson walk away from it all one day? Absolutely. His weekly grind during the season is intense, but he seems far from married to it.

Patterson hasn’t said that, but who’s to say what could catch his eye at age 57? A house in the islands, where he could scuba all day? A better job?

When reached this week, Patterson didn’t want to talk about retirements or tenures or snorkeling off into the sunset. He has recruits coming in this weekend, and he said he’s eager to greet them.

But when a Bob Stoops walks away suddenly, who could blame a head coach for wondering if it’s time to change seasons?

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops greets TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson the Sooners defeated TCU 52-46 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. Rodger Mallison rmallison@star-telegram.com
TCU head football coach Gary Patterson, left, gets ready to start the TCU spring football game Saturday April 8, 2017 at Amon G Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. Bob Haynes Special to the Star-Telegram
TCU coach Gary Patterson, right, visits with Kansas State coach Bill Snyder before last year’s game. With Bob Stoops’ retirement, Patterson is the second-longest tenured coach in FBS college football. Snyder, in his second stint at Kansas State after coming out of retirement, is 77 years old. Paul Moseley pmoseley@star-telegram.com
TCU coach Gary Patterson during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Austin, Texas. The Horned Frogs scored a decisive victory over the Longhorns, who will have a new head coach, Tom Herman, this season. Eric Gay AP
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