Kirby Hocutt says he told former Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville in no uncertain terms after the regular season ended that more was expected from the program, a conversation that might have set the wheels in motion for Tuberville’s exit.
The Tech athletic director said he met with Tuberville two days after the regular season ended and told him changes had to be made.
Asked if those changes involved staff or merely better results, Hocutt said, “There are a lot of spokes to the wheel when it comes to a football program. Tommy had assembled a very good staff, very experienced and talented men who were doing the best that we all could to be successful.
“The details are going to stay within the walls of that conversation, but we have to be better. We have to be better. We can’t accept ending the seasons the way the last two years have ended. I understand that. I embrace the expectations that we have as a program.”
Tuberville resigned to become head coach at Cincinnati on Dec. 8, 12 days after Hocutt said the meeting took place.
Tech was 6-1 after an Oct. 20 victory at TCU before losing four of its last five games. In 2011, Tech started 4-0 and lost seven of its last eight for the Red Raiders’ first losing season since 1992.
While discussing on Wednesday the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach, Hocutt spelled out what he expects of the program:
■ to be the best college football program in Texas
■ one that is “competing and winning at the highest levels”
■ one about which fans are excited
■ one recruits from Texas and surrounding states want to be part of
Hocutt said similar goals also were communicated to Tuberville before this season, though Hocutt says he never sets a specific win total as a requirement.
“Tommy and I had talked about making sure we shared the same expectations for Texas Tech football that we just mentioned, that we were moving in that direction,” Hocutt said. “Were we disappointed with the way this season ended? You bet we were disappointed. Were we frustrated? Yes, we were very frustrated. Were there going to have to be changes made to certain aspects of the program? Yes, there were.
“Tommy and I had talked about those things. I don’t want to get into the details, but we’d said, ‘Hey, we have higher expectations. We can’t expect to continue doing the same things and expect different results, and these are the areas that there are going to have to be changes made to.’”
Hocutt spoke with passion in his voice as he discussed the subject.
When asked what he thought were the team’s biggest failings the last two years, Hocutt pointed to facets of the game that Tuberville often harped on.
“I believe you have to have a balanced attack,” Hocutt said. “Obviously, you throw the football, but you’ve got to be able to run the football as well. At times, we were not able to do both. And you have to.
“Defensively, you have to be able to not only defend against the pass, but you have to stop the run. Toward the end of the last two seasons, we were not able to do both of those things.”
Tech rushed for 179, 186 and 325 yards in the first three games of the season, then was held to fewer than 115 rushing yards in seven of the first eight Big 12 Conference games. The Red Raiders are 86th in rushing offense and No. 2 in passing offense as they get ready to play Minnesota (6-6) next week in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
Though Tech has improved in total defense from No. 115 last year to No. 39 currently, the Red Raiders gave up 50 or more points in four of their last six games. In the win at TCU and a 52-45 loss to Baylor, the opponent hit the 50-point barrier in overtime.
Hocutt made an unsolicited reference to Kansas State and Wildcats coach Bill Snyder — the program and coach for which he played — as a model.
“It’s not complicated,” Hocutt said. “People ask all the time, ‘How’s Bill Snyder been able to do what he’s done at Kansas State?’ It’s a simple formula. It’s a formula of fundamentals, of discipline, of accountability, of hard work and effort. People think there has to be more to it, but when it breaks down, it gets back to doing the fundamental things correctly every day and playing the game with great passion and enthusiasm and effort.”
Hocutt seemed to largely absolve Red Raiders players, saying the current team “has established a great foundation.”
“This football team never stopped competing this year,” he said. “They never stopped competing. They kept fighting. We’ve just got to stay consistent with the process and couldn’t be more excited that we’ve got Kliff Kingsbury in here to take us to that next step.”
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