- David Ubben, College Football
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Gary Patterson fashions himself as a man who built his program on a foundation of doing things "the right way." After TCU quarterback Casey Pachall's failed drug test in February led to no missed game time, plenty outside the program started wondering if that foundation had a few cracks.
When Pachall committed what Patterson called "strike two" last week when he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, that foundation naturally faced yet another examination.
Patterson met with Pachall and his parents, talked to people in his profession and met with his bosses, athletic director Chris Del Conte and chancellor Victor Boschini, Jr. Patterson mentioned a barrage of emails as well from plenty of concerned people from a number of perspectives.
How long should he suspend the best player on his team? Patterson decided: "Who cares about a suspension?"
"I don't think one game, three games would have made a difference," he said. "You try to change people's lives. That's what this is all about."
Patterson suggested Pachall enter a treatment facility, and Pachall elected to take that option. Patterson, though, insisted on two stipulations.
First, it had to be up to Casey.
"I know enough about this to know he has to make this decision," Patterson said.
Second, he had to make sure Casey knew the door was open to return.
"You have to have hope," Patterson said. "He can come back here in January if he gets clean. Those people have to tell me that he's changed."
As for Patterson? More than a few people unfamiliar with the man rolled their eyes when he said in a release on Thursday that his job was to "win games, educate our kids and help them with their lives."
Who's rolling their eyes now? Is there any doubt that Patterson's doing for Pachall what he'd do for any of his own three sons?
Patterson knows his job is to win games, but that's not his only job. Not as a college coach.
"All you who think it’s all about wins and losses? Wrong," he said.
Make no mistake: Pachall was TCU's best player this season. He looked the part last year and proved it in the first four games of this season. Pachall leaves the team and took with him whatever chance TCU had to win a Big 12 title in the school's first year in the league.
He might have taken even more. Patterson was asked if the move could cost TCU a bowl bid.
"Maybe," Patterson said. "But I didn't think about that."
For now, his next concern is moving forward with redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin and sophomore Matt Brown. Without Pachall, his job of winning games got a lot tougher in a season that was already among the toughest he'd ever faced in more than a decade in Fort Worth.
Tuesday, though, Patterson proved he takes his job of helping his players with their lives seriously. The easy thing, Patterson said, would have been dropping the hammer and cutting him out of the program entirely. It would have appeased skeptics and sent a message to his team.
But would it have helped Pachall? Maybe, maybe not. The decision Patterson made, though? It’s clear to Pachall and the people around him that sending him to a place he can get professional help is what's best. It's up to Pachall to make it happen.
Patterson did his part, even if bringing a QB back into the fold with a past as troubled as Pachall's hurts the perception of his program next year.
The fact is, Pachall needs it. Getting help won't be easy, but if imagining what it'll be like to get back on the field this time next year pushes Pachall through a difficult day and gets him closer to being a better, healthier man, Patterson will have done his job.
That's what it's all about.
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