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ACU selects veteran FBS defensive coordinator as new head football coach


Keith Patterson

Keith Patterson, currently the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech University, will be the next head football coach at Abilene Christian University.                 

Patterson’s experience includes 13 years leading some of the nation’s top defenses at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level. The FBS teams he coached qualified for bowl games in 13 of his 19 seasons.

“We are excited to have someone with Keith’s experience to lead Wildcat football,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president. “From high schools to FBS programs, he has a strong knowledge of and familiarity with coaches in this part of the nation, a reputation for coaching high-level defenses and tremendous postseason experience. We believe he will be a great fit for ACU and our talented student-athletes.”

Patterson said it is “an extreme honor” to be the Wildcats’ head coach. “I am excited and thankful for this opportunity and confident we can build a program that will make ACU and the community proud, and whose philosophy and foundation will align with the Christian mission of the university,” he said. “And we will put together a quality coaching staff that will build a championship-level football program.”

He begins work at ACU immediately and will be formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Brown Family Club in Wildcat Stadium. The event will be available via livestream at

“Keith Patterson has a proven track record at the Division I level of developing young men on and off the field,” said Zack Lassiter, ACU’s vice president for athletics. “We have high aspirations for our football program to compete for WAC championships and qualify for the playoffs. Not only will Keith take our football program to the next level, he will be a great addition to the Abilene community.”

He will honor a commitment to Red Raider players to coach them Dec. 28 against Mississippi State University in the Liberty Bowl.

“I’m excited for Keith to get this opportunity,” said Chris Thomsen, deputy head coach at Florida State University and head coach at ACU from 2005-11. “He is an excellent football coach whose coaching philosophy aligns with the mission of Abilene Christian. He will have a tremendous impact on the players, coaches and everyone in the ACU community.”

In 2019, Patterson was hired at Texas Tech by then-head coach Matt Wells. The two worked together at Utah State University in 2018. Prior to Utah State, Patterson spent four seasons at Arizona State University, following two years at West Virginia University. His move to Texas Tech with Wells marked their third time to work together; both were also on staff at the University of Tulsa from 2003-06.

From 2018-20, Patterson’s defenders created 61 takeaways, a mark tied for eighth best in the nation and tops in the Big 12 during that span. During his first season in Lubbock, the Red Raiders created 19 takeaways, ranking third in the Big 12 and 17th in the nation for interceptions with 14. 

In 2018, Patterson helped Utah State lead the nation in interceptions and share the FBS lead with 32 forced turnovers while finishing 11-2 to match the most wins in program history. Utah State also led the nation in interceptions (22) and three-and-outs forced (5.7 per game), and ranked third in defensive touchdowns (six). The success launched the Aggies into a No. 22 final ranking in the Associated Press poll.

At Arizona State, Patterson served three seasons as defensive coordinator and one as linebackers coach and defensive special teams coordinator. He quickly transformed ASU into one of the most opportunistic units in the nation. The Sun Devils ended his first year on staff ranked sixth in the FBS for turnover margin at plus-14 and also led the Pac-12 with 14 interceptions. Arizona State was 29th in the nation for interceptions that year and among the top-25 units for sacks (13th), fumbles recovered (18th) and red-zone defense (23rd). ASU won 28 games and played in three bowl games during Patterson’s tenure in Tempe, highlighted by a 10-win campaign and victory in the Sun Bowl in 2014.  

Prior to Arizona State, Patterson spent two seasons at West Virginia where he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2013 and the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2012. 

Patterson moved to West Virginia from its former Big East Conference rival Pittsburgh, where he served as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2011. The Panthers averaged 3.31 sacks per game (third best nationally) and totaled 98.0 tackles for a loss (12th best). Patterson was named Pittsburgh’s interim head coach following the regular season, leading the Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl. He is 1-1 in his FBS career as an interim head coach after helping the Red Raiders close the 2020 season with a 16-13 victory over Kansas.

From 2003-10, Patterson served at the University of Tulsa as linebackers coach (2003-05) and co-defensive coordinator (2006-10). Tulsa played in six bowl games during Patterson’s tenure, which was capped by three 10-win campaigns in his final four seasons. The Golden Hurricanes were 10-3 in 2010, when his defense led the nation with 24 interceptions and ranked third in forced turnovers.

Prior to joining the staff at Tulsa, Patterson had 16 years coaching experience at Allen (Texas) High School, along with Oklahoma high schools in Ardmore, Edmond (Santa Fe and Memorial) and Altus. As the head coach at Ardmore High School, Patterson led his team to the District 5A-1 championship in 1999 and earned District Coach of the Year honors. 

A native of Marlow, Oklahoma, Patterson earned his bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from East Central (Oklahoma) University in 1986. He was a four-year letterman at defensive back for ECU and later served his alma mater as a graduate assistant coach. He earned his master’s degree in kinesiology and sport studies in 2003 from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Patterson and his wife, Melissa, have three daughters and one son.

Patterson’s Coaching Career

2019-21 – Texas Tech University, defensive coordinator
2018 – Utah State University, defensive coordinator
2017 – Arizona State University, assistant coach – linebackers, defensive special teams
2014-16 – Arizona State University, defensive coordinator
2012-13 – West Virginia University, defensive coordinator
2011 – Pittsburgh, defensive coordinator and interim head coach
2006-10 – University of Tulsa, co-defensive coordinator
2003-05 – University of Tulsa, assistant coach – linebackers
2000-02 – Allen (Texas) High School, assistant coach
1997-99 – Ardmore (Oklahoma) High School, head coach
1995-96 – Allen (Texas) High School, assistant coach
1994 – Edmond (Oklahoma) Santa Fe High School, head coach
1992-93 – Edmond (Oklahoma) Santa Fe High School, assistant coach
1988-91 – Altus (Oklahoma) High School, assistant coach
1986 – East Central (Oklahoma) University, graduate assistant

Patterson’s FBS Bowl Experience as a Coach

2021 – Liberty Bowl
2018 – New Mexico Bowl
2017 – Sun Bowl
2015 – Cactus Bowl
2014 – Sun Bowl
2012 – Pinstripe Bowl
2011 – BBVA Compass Bowl
2010 – Hawai’i Bowl
2008 – GMAC Bowl
2007 – GMAC Bowl
2006 – Armed Forces Bowl
2005 – Liberty Bowl
2003 – Humanitarian Bowl

Learn more about ACU sports.

— Wendy Kilmer

Dec. 6, 2022

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