Gary Patterson knew his TCU football team needed to do things differently. After winning only four of 12 games in 2013, he made several major changes for 2014 — and nearly every move he made proved to be the right one.
His club — the Horned Frogs of the Big 12 conference — won 11 of 12 games in the regular season. Although they narrowly missed being among the four teams chosen to be part of the inaugural College Football Playoff, they let everyone know they would’ve been a worthy pick with a 42-3 victory in their bowl game.
The result was No. 3 finish in the final Associated Press poll and a bevy of Coach of the Year honors for Patterson, capped by the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award presented by the American Heart Association. His selection was announced Wednesday night at a fundraising ceremony in Houston sponsored by Marathon Oil Corporation.
“To be part of a great hope and a great legacy like the one Coach Bryant built with his program, and like every coach after him, is truly special,” Patterson said. “I can’t fully put into words what it means to me to be part of something so special.”
Bryant was among the legends of his profession when he died following a massive heart attack in 1983. This Coach of the Year award was established in his honor and has been given annually since 1986, with the twist of this being the only such prize that also factors in a bowl game.
Over its history, this award ceremony has raised more than $5 million to help fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 5 killers of Americans.
Patterson was chosen over Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss (whose team was on the losing end of Patterson’s bowl victory) and Bryan Harsin of Boise State. Nick Saban of Alabama and Jimbo Fisher of Florida State previously were announced as finalists, but were eliminated by virtue of being unable to attend the ceremony.
Jimmy Johnson — the first coach to win a national championship in college football (at Miami) and the Super Bowl (with the Dallas Cowboys) — received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Every coach wants to be identified with some of the best that’s been in the business, so it’s an honor,” Johnson said.