Gary Patterson showing support for the Frogs at a football game on Oct. 20, 2018. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.
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To truly fill the shoes of Gary Patterson is an impossible feat. What he did for not only TCU but the city of Fort Worth as a whole can not be put into words. Coach Patterson is a legend who will be remembered for putting Fort Worth on the map and bringing TCU athletics to relevancy.

The winningest coach in the school’s history decided to “mutually part ways” with TCU last Sunday, leaving a huge hole at one of the most important positions at TCU. Interim head coach Jerry Kill will coach out the remaining four games while TCU searches for Coach Patterson’s replacement. Many names have been thrown out in the media, with some seeming likely and others being dark horse candidates for the coveted Big 12 coaching opportunity.

Whisperings of the decision being made official as soon as Dec. 15 of this year have made the matter more urgent to find a suitable replacement. From experienced head coaches to coordinators looking to make their head coaching debut, TCU has options on how to fill the role of head football coach.

Sonny Dykes: SMU

Sonny Dykes has been the number one name circulating in the media as the most likely to replace Coach P and become the new head coach of TCU. Dykes makes sense for a lot of reasons. He’s got head coaching experience for Louisiana Tech, Cal and SMU, an overall record of 70-60 (29-15 at SMU) and is only a stone’s throw away from TCU at 40 miles east of campus. SMU is currently 7-1 and ranked No. 23 in the polls and No. 8 in total offense this season.

His winning nature at SMU and experience make him the most experienced candidate rumored for the job, and Dykes would be able to attract recruits and transfer to the program as he did at SMU. A few moving parts make this not a complete lock, as he is also rumored to be in line for the Texas Tech head coaching job where his father Spike Dykes was the head coach from 1986-1999. Even with all this, he is the most likely candidate for the job.

Jeff Traylor: UTSA

Yet another Texas head coach on the shortlist, Traylor has taken the San Antonio Road Runners to an undefeated season and the highest ranking in the school’s history at No. 16. Before Traylor’s arrival at UTSA, the program was never in the national conversation and had only been to one bowl game in 2016. Under Traylor, the Road Runners have been 15-5 and brought to national relevancy, as this is the first time in the school’s history they have been ranked.

The major issue with hiring Traylor comes with his recent contract extension with UTSA that locks him in all the way until 2031 for $28 million. A buyout could take place, but with the uncertainty of the contract situation with Coach Patterson, it is unlikely the program would add additional money to pull Traylor away from San Antonio. Even with all these hoops that TCU would need to jump through, Traylor has emerged as a candidate according to some sources.

Bill Napier: Louisana

Napier has a lot of qualities that would make him a good fit at TCU. He’s young, he has a head coaching record of 35-12 at the collegiate level and he has taken an otherwise middling Louisiana team to national relevance. Napier and the Ragin Cajuns are 7-1 and were previously ranked as high as No. 23 and the previous season was ranked at No. 15. His ability to bring a team otherwise out of the rankings and into them has been impressive, and TCU needs a jolt of youth into the program to bring them back to the glory days of national respect.

However, just like the other candidates, he is locked into a new contract until 2025. This isn’t as long or lucrative as other contracts and could be a potential buyout for TCU. TCU doesn’t lack the ability to do so and Napier seems like a good long-term option that can bring TCU back to bowl games. Napier has also recruited talented players to the smaller program, meaning his ability to recruit in a power five school is that much stronger. Overall, Napier is an interesting option that could be a solid transition from era to era.

Kellen Moore: Dallas Cowboys

This is the most long-shot option for TCU, as the star offensive coordinator is already in talks for head coaching jobs in the NFL. The former college football legend has made waves in the NFL already at the young age of 33. The Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator has made the Cowboys the No. 1 offense in the NFL this season, averaging a whopping 455 yards a game on offense. He has managed to balance high-value players in his offense and distributes the ball well. He is seen as a coaching prodigy, and potentially has the makings of a star head coach.

TCU has stated publicly that they are very interested in the coordinator in neighboring Dallas, and rumors of the program holding interviews with Moore have already circulated. The major reason Moore is an unlikely candidate is due to his high interest in the NFL and potentially being the new head coach of the Cowboys in the future. If TCU is able to secure Moore, they can expect high offensive performances and tons of media coverage due to both Moore’s quick rise in the coaching world and his immense talent in offensive football.

Deion Sanders: Jackson State

Yes, you read that correctly. Coach Prime Time of the Jackson State Tigers is a candidate for the TCU head football position. The Hall of Fame cornerback who spent a solid chunk of his career with the Cowboys could potentially return to the DFW area. Prime made some big strides in the world of college football, taking the Tigers to a 10-4 record in his two years coaching the program. TCU is currently seeking an interview with Prime Time, and see’s him as a suitable candidate to replace Coach Patterson. In terms of having a big name who can attract recruits and put TCU in the media frequently, Sanders makes sense.

His only downside is his inexperience as a head coach at the collegiate level, as prior to 2020 he coached high school football (mainly schools in the DFW area). Jackson State is not a big-time program, but Coach Prime has made Jackson State a name you see in ESPN highlights for the simple reason that Coach Prime is there coaching. He’s a coach who can bring recruits, bring big-time TV attention and based on his current record with the Tigers could be a prime-time coach for TCU. TCU would not be hurting if Prime brought his star power to the program, and unlike other coaches on the list he is not locked down on a super lucrative deal. TCU could make a big play for him long term. All in all, Coach Prime is an interesting candidate with some major upside.

So who’s it gonna be?

This early in talks and only a few days after Coach Patterson’s departure, it is hard to say at this time who will secure the coveted job. Other candidates like Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliot, Nevada head coach Jay Norvell and Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell have all been mentioned in the carousel of coaches TCU is examining to fill the spot. With only a few months to make the big decision, anytime before Dec. 15th can be the day it gets announced. It could be a few weeks from now or exactly on Dec. 15 – it is truly hard to say. Whoever ends up replacing the legendary coach will have massive shoes to fill, and will have to take a program that has struggled in the past few years to the high-ranked glory days of Coach Patterson’s prime years.

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