Utah coach Kyle Whittingham opened his weekly news conference Monday morning by paying tribute to a friend that he used to coach against on a regular basis.

TCU announced Sunday night that Gary Patterson has been let go after 20 years at the helm of the Horned Frogs. TCU and Utah built up quite a rivalry when the two were members of the Mountain West Conference from 2005-10. 

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Utah (5-3, 4-1)

at Stanford (3-5, 2-4)

Friday, 8:30 p.m. MDT

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“The first thing I want to say is, congratulations to my good friend Gary Patterson on a great career at Texas Christian University. All-time winningest coach (at TCU),” Whittingham said. “He did a tremendous job during his time there. It just won’t be the same without him on the sidelines there. My best to Gary and I’m very confident that if he wants to keep coaching, there will be plenty of opportunities. I just want to wish him the best and let him know that I have the utmost respect for what he’s done in his career.”

TCU is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 this season. School officials asked Patterson to finish the season but he declined. He will be replaced by assistant Jerry Kill on an interim basis. 

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With Patterson’s departure from TCU, Whittingham is now the second-longest tenured coach in FBS, behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, who’s been at the helm of the Hawkeyes since 1998. 

Whittingham was hired in December 2004. 

News of Patterson’s exit has caused Whittingham to ponder his longevity in the coaching profession. 

“It lets you know that nobody’s safe no matter what the circumstances in college football. It’s a ruthless business but it should be, I guess,” he said. “You get paid well and I’m not complaining about it. It was an eye-opener and it came to me as a big surprise. (Patterson’s) one heck of a coach and if he wants to keep coaching, he’ll have plenty of suitors to choose from, in my opinion.”

What comes to Whittingham’s mind when he thinks about being No. 2 on the list of longest-tenured coaches? 

“Blessed. Fortunate. Very blessed to have the talent-level of player we’ve had come through here and the character and the assistant coaches that have come through here. I’m fortunate to be a part of the whole thing and surrounded by really good players and coaches,” he said. “At its core, coaching is about relationships and relationships with your players and assistant coaches. I can’t say how thankful I am for the opportunity and longevity that I’ve had. It’s been a great 17 years as the head coach and 10 years on top of that as a defensive coach.”

Not that Whittingham had any inkling when he was hired in 2004 that he would remain in this same position for this long. 

“Not even close. I figured that I’d do it for three or four years and maybe try the NFL or something like that,” he said. “But it’s been a great run. No regrets. If I had to do it over, I’d do it just the way it’s played out. It’s been a terrific ride.”