Has Texas Tech Football Discovered Two New Mega-Boosters?

Sep 3, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; A general overview of Jones AT&T Stadium during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; A general overview of Jones AT&T Stadium during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Tech athletic department has long struggled to raise enough money to remain competitive in the college sports arms race.  But now two former Texas Tech football players could be poised to become the mega donors the program desperately lacks.

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Just like in every avenue of American society, the gap between college football’s upper and middle class continues to grow.  Texas Tech has always been an earnest hard-working member of that middle class.  But now it is far more difficult for the middle class to stay in the same neighborhood as the blue bloods of the sport.

What has kept Texas Tech from being able to keep pace with other programs is the lack of private donations.  While many programs have billionaire mega donors (Oregon has Phil Knight, Baylor has Drayton McLane, Oklahoma State has T. Boone Pickens and Texas has the state legislature) the Red Raiders have had to rely on the cobbling together of funds from numerous smaller donors.

This process often inhibits the program’s ability to act swiftly and decisively when needed.  Fortunately, two Texas Tech football alums have just come into a substantial windfall.  This leaves open the possibility that the program may just have hit the lottery.

New Billionaires

The “Amarillo Globe News”  is reporting that former Texas Tech football players John Sellers and Cody Campbell have “sold 71,000 acres of Permian Basin mineral rights for $2.8 billion, making them two of the richest Texans under 40.”

The article goes on to report that the sale will be completed in April.  It is reportedly the second-most valuable land purchase in the oil-rich Permian Basin this year.

For decades, the fortunes of the Texas Tech athletic department have risen and fallen with the price of oil.  As the flagship university for West Texas, much of the area’s oil interests are owned or heavily influenced by Red Raider alumni.

Though West Texas oil has seen a resurgence in the past decade, this deal dwarfs almost anything the area has seen.  Thankfully, two Red Raiders are the ones cashing in.

From Leach to Loaded

Campbell and Sellers were high school football in stars for Canyon High School outside of Amarillo.  The two friends then received the opportunity to continue their football careers together at Texas Tech.

While Sellers earned a walk-on position, Campbell was a three-year contributor along the offensive line.   He spent his college carrer protecting current Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Both Sellers and Campbell arrived on campus the same year as former head coach Mike Leach.  They were part of the class that laid the foundation for the most successful decade in Texas Tech football history.

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And while both are riding high these days, they know what it is like to have to scrape by.  A 2014 story by Don Williams of the “Lubbock Avalanche Journal” describes just how far Campbell, in particular, has come.

Of Campbell’s living arrangements while in Lubbock, Williams writes, “Six players rented a house with four bedrooms and a garage converted into two more.”

While Campbell had a brief stint in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, most knew that his ticket to wealth would rest between his ears.  The two-time All Big 12 Academic First-Team selection was known for his superior intellect.

"Paul Kite, Campbell’s former boss in the real estate business told the Globe News  “He was one of those guys who you can tell gets it and sees the big picture. His real strength is seeing two or three moves ahead of what’s going on right now…”"

Just What Texas Tech Needs

A Don Williams’ 2015 article in the “Lubbock Avalanche Journal” revealed that the Texas Tech athletic department faced an $111 million debt at the time.

This was a shocking reality check for Red Raiders.  The program faces an uphill battle to be able to complete needed upgrades to the facilities of almost every sport on campus.

Currently, Texas Tech is in the process of erecting a new indoor practice facility, football training facility and indoor track and field complex just south of Jones Stadium.  That privately-funded $48 million project is behind schedule because it took the university longer than expected to raise the necessary capital.

Eventually, the school plans to renovate the south end of Jones Stadium.  This project will likely cost over $100 million (though no official estimation of the cost is available right now).  Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt told the Globe News that “he will have ‘100 percent of the revenue identified’ before OK’ing work on the south end zone building.”

Furthermore, the cost of hiring the best coaching staff continues to rise, especially in football.  The “USA Today” lists 12 assistant football coaches that make over $1 million per season.  In fact, the top 25 highest-paid assistant coaches make at least $800,000 a year.

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs is the most well-compensated Texas Tech assistant.  He brought in $550,000 per year over the past two seasons.  His contract ended after last season and no word on terms of a new deal have been released at this time.

Texas Tech Needs Mega-Donors

To reach the ambitious heights envisioned by Texas Tech fans and the athletic department, the school must receive more from private donors. Until that happens, the Red Raiders will continually resemble a dog chasing its tail.

The news that two former Texas Tech football players are now both billionaires gives fans hope that a needed influx of cash is on the way.  Furthermore, Cody Campbell and John Sellers appeared poised to remain major players in the Texas oil industry for the foreseeable future which will only benefit Texas Tech.

Their fortune could help turn that of the Texas Tech football program.  Just don’t expect them to foot the bill for a buyout of their former teammate Kliff Kingsbury anytime soon.