December 12, 2012 – Kirby Hocutt hires Kliff Kingsbury as head football coach
Following the 2012 Texas Tech football season, Hocutt met with then head coach Tommy Tuberville who had just finished his third season with the Red Raiders. The message from Kirby Hocutt was clear, he expected to see improvement from the football team, which had gone just 20-17 under Tuberville including a dismal 9-17 in conference play.
Rumors had been swirling that Tuberbille was unhappy in Lubbock and there was a large faction of Texas Tech fans displeased with the former Auburn Tigers head coach as well. On December 8th, Tuberville resigned Tuberville resigned as Texas Tech head coach to take the same position at Cincinnati.
For the third time in his first 21 months on the job at Texas Tech, Kirby Hocutt had to make a major hire. This time, he would have to fill the most important coaching position at the school.
It took Hocutt only four days to find his next football coach, former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. Though the hiring was so popular among Red Raiders that an impromptu celebration, that included the ringing of the famed university Victory Bells, erupted on campus following the unofficial announcement of Kingsbury hiring late in the evening, this move was also risky.
At only age 33, Kingsbury was the youngest head coach at the NCAA FBS level. Furthermore, he had never been a head coach and had only three years of being an offensive coordinator in his brief five-year coaching career.
But Kingsbury was a rising star after guiding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel during his 2012 Heisman Trophy winning season. Hocutt knew that if he waited, Kinsbury might not be available the next time Texas Tech needed a new head football coach so he pulled the trigger and brought the Red Raider legend back to Lubbock.
Kingsbury’s hiring has to be viewed as a mild success thus far. The results on the field have been mediocre with Kingsbury posting a 20-20 head coaching record.
However, what makes this hiring a success is what it has done off the field. Following the firing of Mike Leach in 2009 and the hiring of Tuberville (both moves made by Hocutt’s predecessor Gerald Myers) there was a gaping division among the Texas Tech fan base between those supporting Tuberville and those that had grown either angry or worse apathetic towards the program.
Kingsbury has not yet broken through with a huge winning season but he has healed the wound among the fans. Plus, Red Raider fans know that Kingsbury is committed to building a winner in Lubbock and not skipping town for greener pastures.
In 2014, for the first time in school history Texas Tech football sold out every home game on the schedule including selling every season ticket available. In 2013, the Texas Tech students set a school record for student attendance at a football game with over 16,000. Kingsbury has brought the excitement and hope that Tuberville let die back to the program.
As he said at his introductory press conference, this job is personal to Kliff Kingsbury and he has repeatedly said he has no plans to leave Lubbock. The jury is still out on Kirby Hocutt’s most substantial hire at Texas Tech but he should be applauded for taking a chance on a young coach that has the highest ceiling of any coach at Texas Tech.
Next: Hocutt hires yet another Tech alum