At TCU, Gary Patterson's Frog Heaven Is Dennis Franchione's Rebel Hell

Greg ArchuletaContributor IDecember 30, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs raises the Mountain West Regular Season Championship trophy at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Gary Patterson has accomplished almost everything Dennis Franchione ever dreamed of.

Of course, the unbeaten TCU football team's inability to get into the BCS championship game is precisely the reason that Patterson—and not Franchione—currently is coaching the Horned Frogs.

This season, the Horned Frogs (12-0) had to settle for the Jan. 4 Fiesta Bowl against fellow non-BCS stalwart and undefeated Boise State (12-0).

Just like Patterson had to "settle" for The Associated Press National Coach of the Year award last week.

These days, Franchione can't even get a gig in Vegas.

How ironic the opposite directions the careers of the two coaches have ventured in just more than a decade.

Franchione left cozy little New Mexico in 1998 for Fort Worth, Texas - bringing along Patterson, his defensive lieutenant with the Lobos.

Together, the two helped transform a program that had won exactly one game in 1997 into a seven-win team in 1998 that included an unlikely 28-19 victory over USC in the Sun Bowl. USC was not yet USC, but the TCU upset was impressive nonetheless.

Franchione led the Horned Frogs to two Western Athletic Conference titles the next two seasons, but TCU wasn't the elite program with which he could win a national championship.

Wanderlust took Franchione to Alabama, where the coach had the marquee program he wanted - but not the situation. TCU promoted Patterson with the hopes that he could maintain the continuity the Frogs had achieved under Fran.

Within two years, the Tide went from 3-8 the season before Franchione arrived to a 10-3 mark in 2002. Alabama, however, was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions resulting from violations by previous coach Mike Dubose.

The NCAA would go on to put 'Bama on five years' probation, take away 21 scholarships over three years and ban the Crimson Tide from postseason play in 2003. As a result, Franchione infamously snuck out of Tuscaloosa, Ala., to accept a dream job at Texas A&M.

Fran's five-year tenure with the Aggies was forgettable—32-29 on the field and a regrettable insider newsletter off the field—and found himself out of a job after the 2007 season.

Franchione was a finalist for the UNLV job earlier this month but lost out to Bobby Hauck. He also was one of three finalists for the San Diego State job after 2008, but Ball State's Brady Hoke got the job.

Patterson? He struggled his first season with the Frogs, going 6-6 as the team moved to Conference USA in 2001. He's produced six 10-win seasons over the last eight years with only one losing season.

Patterson has three conference titles, two since moving to the Mountain West Conference in 2005. TCU has become such a force that its eight-win season in 2007 is considered a huge disappointment.

Patterson's name was tossed out about the Notre Dame vacancy and even surfaced at Florida for those five minutes in which Urban Meyer had quit. Instead, Patterson has signed a two-year extension to stay at TCU through 2016.

In hindsight, Texas' 13-12 escape from Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game on Dec. 5 was the best thing that happened to the Horned Frogs. They didn't suffer the indignity of being passed over by Cincinnati in the BCS standings for the right to play Alabama in the BCS title game on Jan. 7.

That TCU still is unable to play for a championship is of small consolation to Franchione, who admittedly doesn't lose that many as a radio analyst for ESPN. Patterson is much closer now to that elusive national title than Franchione ever was or will be.

And the Frogs lose only 13 seniors off this year's team and returns quarterback Andy Dalton in 2010.

The two coaches' tales confirm the theory that that grass isn't always greener on the other side.

But envy could be.