The Horned Frogs won the Southwest Conference in 1959 and did not win it again until 1994. From 1974 to 1983, the program never won more than two games in a season.
John Denton, a kicker for Texas Christian in the 1980s, pinpoints the endgame to the 1960 graduation of All-American Bob Lilly. Denton says Texas Christian, a school with fewer than 10,000 students, was swallowed up by SWC powers Texas and Arkansas.
Texas Christian also got hammered by the NCAA in 1986 as part of the widespread sanctions crackdown that ultimately led to the conference's breakup.
Southern Methodist is the only school to receive the NCAA's death penalty, which required a temporary program shutdown.
Texas Christian, Denton said, received "the living death penalty."
After the SWC disbanded in the 1990s, Texas Christian was parceled to the 16-team Western Athletic Conference, described by Denton as "the land of misfit toys." The Horned Frogs left the WAC for Conference USA in 2001 and spent four years there before finding stability in the Mountain West.
The arrival of superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson in the late 1990s put Texas Christian back on the national radar. Tomlinson's brilliant career with the San Diego Chargers has also given Texas Christian a foothold into the California recruiting market.
Patterson isn't worried about being robbed by the BCS. He loves the bowl system and wonders whether a playoff might actually hurt Texas Christian's chances of competing for a national title.
Texas Christian is close enough as it is.
"We want to be the Miami and USC of Texas," he said.
Patterson posts his own "pyramid of success" in the Texas Christian team meeting room.
Every achieved goal is painted in purple pen, and there's only one unmarked quadrant, at the pyramid's top, to be filled in: