I’m sitting here trying to remember what crazy thing happened around the end of Texas Tech’s 2007 football season. I know there must be something, and I can’t come up with a thing. Sure, Dana Holgorsen left for the University of Houston, but in hindsight that seemed so simple and devoid of drama.
The last five Decembers and Januarys on the other hand? Madness.
2008: The Mike Leach flirtation with Washington, followed by the Leach contract crisis. 2009: The firing of Leach, and the hiring of Tommy Tuberville. 2010: James Willis’ uncomfortable departure. 2011: That whole wacky deal with Chad Glasgow. 2012: Mr. Tuberville goes to Cincinnati (No kidding).
At times, each winter’s storyline seemed to outdo the one before, like Madlibs on steroids. Coach (fill in the blank) does (inexplicable thing) and winds up in (preposterous location/situation).
So the Red Raiders are overdue for calm and continuity.
This is Kirby Hocutt’s big chance. A few hours after the Tech athletic director had been jolted by Tommy Tuberville’s abrupt resignation, Hocutt sounded like the hard-nosed linebacker he once was, ready to jump into the coaching-search trench with a clear purpose. He came across as confident, determined, authoritative — and maybe a little indignant to be put in this situation.
Geez, doesn’t a guy deserve a year of tranquility after the Billy Gillispie chaos?
Instead, Hocutt found his next maelstrom and looked ready to meet it head-on. He sounded the right notes Saturday, selling West Texas as a great place to live, raise a family and build a football program.
He just needs to find a guy who agrees, with a gift for coaching football. That shouldn’t be too difficult.
When I asked Hocutt if the days to come represent an opportunity to reunite Red Raiders fans, he said, “It’s an opportunity to find the next great head coach in Texas Tech history. I know the passion and support that our fan base has for the Red Raiders, and it’s an opportunity for us to take a step forward, and that’s what we’ll do.”
I don’t think it diminished Texas Tech’s football stature for the Red Raiders of the Big 12 to lose a head coach to a program in the shaky Big East, but it certainly didn’t help. A coach from the outside, thinking of throwing his hat into the ring, might wonder why Tuberville would make such a move.
Here’s why: Tuberville found a warm bed in Cincinnati next to an old friend who’s his new AD, he moved his wife back home and he avoided a potentially tense 2013 at Tech. All in one fell swoop.
When Tuberville lifted his fist and yelled how he was “proud to be a Bearcat!”, he raised a mix of emotions back in these parts.
For some, maybe it conjured images of Jim Carlen, Steve Sloan, David McWilliams. Not embarrassment necessarily that Tech had lost another coach after a winning season or seasons, but a sense of, “Why is it the Red Raiders’ lot to go through this again?”
For the ones who never warmed up to Tuberville or were turned off in the last three years, the emotions taking hold are relief and renewed hope for something better.
That promise might lie in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris or Baylor coach Art Briles. Each one understands the Texas football culture and is a potential target.
Whoever takes the job need not stick around for life, nor should you get caught up in worrying whether he will. First, he needs to calm the waters. Then he needs to make the program better during his tenure. That’ll do for now.
Heck, look at Cincinnati. Did the program crater when Mark Dantonio left after three years for Michigan State? Did it fall off a cliff when Brian Kelly moved on to Notre Dame? And when Butch Jones flipped Cincinnati for Tennessee after three years, the program still was solid enough to appeal to Tuberville.
A thumbs-up to Hocutt for saying he wants someone who appreciates West Texas and looks forward to being here. But the first priority is getting the best candidate football-wise.
Then be happy if he makes the next five winters as smooth and uneventful as the last five have been tumultuous.
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