It was supposed to a celebratory weekend in New York for Kliff Kingsbury.
And to be sure, in the City That Never Sleeps, the 33-year-old — who watched his protege quarterback at Texas A&M, Johnny Manziel, collect the Heisman Trophy on Saturday — likely got very little shut eye.
But not for reasons he thought when he boarded a flight to the East Coast.
“I thought it would be a fun, New York weekend,” said Kingsbury, who was hired on Wednesday to be the football coach at his alma mater, Texas Tech. “You know, you get up there, and (Manziel) won the trophy, and about mid-Saturday, things started happening and it just went from there. So it was a lot of stress, but this is where I want to be.”
Less than 24 hours after Kingsbury saw the news that former coach Tommy Tuberville had bolted for Cincinnati, his phone lit up with a call from Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt. By Tuesday, the two met in person to discuss the job, and a day later they shook hands on a four-year deal that will average $2 million per year in guaranteed income, according to Tech spokesman Blayne Beal.
So when Kingsbury landed in Lubbock on Wednesday night and stepped off a private jet, at the tail end of four roller-coaster days, it was of little surprise that his major life change had yet to sink in.
“I’m kind of on cloud nine right now, just rolling with it,” he said. “I just can’t put into words how excited I am to be back.”
That has seemingly been the prevailing emotion among Lubbockites in the hours since Kingsbury’s hiring. Whether it has been posts on social media, conversations at the airport, or chatter inside restaurants and bars, the town has been buzzing.
The splash has already reverberated at the ticket offices and in donation boxes. The Red Raider Club, the scholarship fundraising arm for Tech athletics, collected $29,585 in donations as of 5 p.m. Thursday. In the 24 hours following the Kingsbury hiring, 533 season tickets were reserved for the 2013 season and Tech sold nearly 2,500 additional tickets to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, moving its total sold up to 7,400. (Tech’s ticket allotment for the Dec. 28 bowl is 12,000.)
The fanfare will increase at 11:30 a.m. today, when Kingsbury is formally introduced as Tech’s coach during an open-to-the-public press conference inside United Spirit Arena.
Any Tech fans who may have left on a trip off the grid last Friday have returned to a football program that has done a lightning-quick, 180-degree turn.
The shock of Tuberville’s departure soon turned into anxiousness, as fans eagerly awaited Hocutt’s decision as to who would be the school’s next head coach. By Wednesday, the widespread emotion seemed to be joy.
“Kliff’s going to be a great head coach for the Red Raiders,” Hocutt said. “We’re excited to have him back.”
Kingsbury didn’t waste any time getting to work on Thursday. He spoke on the phone with Davis Webb, Tech’s 2013 quarterback commit out of Prosper, who tweeted that he was “FIRED up!!!” after the conversation.
The new coach also added the first assistant to his staff in Eric Morris, the former Tech inside receiver who coached with Kingsbury at Houston for two seasons. Morris, who last season was the inside receivers coach at Washington State under former Tech coach Mike Leach, plans to meet with Kingsbury today to discuss his role on the staff.
Kingsbury won’t coach the Red Raiders during their bowl game, so his first chance to put his system to work will be during spring practice. That didn’t stop him from receiving a number of questions on Wednesday night during an impromptu media gathering at Chaparral Jet Center about what the football is going to look like when he straps on a head coach’s headset for the first time.
But he wasn’t ready to give too much away just yet.
“You’ll have to tune in,” Kingsbury said, “but it should be fun. It should be fun.”
(Staff writer Don Williams contributed to this report.)
To comment on this story:
firstname.lastname@example.org • 766-8735
email@example.com • 766-2166