Texas Tech Football Or Basketball More Disappointing In 2016-17?

Oct 22, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders flags fly outside Jones AT&T Stadium before the game with the Oklahoma Sooners. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders flags fly outside Jones AT&T Stadium before the game with the Oklahoma Sooners. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Texas Tech football and basketball teams both failed to meet expectations this season but which has been the bigger disappointment?

The 2016-17 season held plenty of optimism for Texas Tech fans.  After postseason appearances last year, there was good reason to believe that this year would be a huge step forward for the football and basketball programs.

The 2015-16 athletic season was strong for Texas Tech.  Kliff Kingsbury’s football team returned to a bowl game after missing out on postseason play in 2014.  Likewise, the Texas Tech basketball team made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007.

However, as the calendar nears the beginning of March, the excitement that electrified the Lubbock air in September has dissipated as quickly as a West Texas thunderstorm.

The Texas Tech football team limped to a 5-7 record and failed to reach a bowl game for the second time in three seasons.  Meanwhile, the Red Raider basketball team has struggled to a 5-11 Big 12 mark, good for just eighth place in the league.

Obviously, fans are bitterly disappointed with both programs.  But there is far more vitriol being spewed towards Kingsbury and his football team.

Perhaps this is because for Texas Tech fans and alumni, football is the most important endeavor the school embarks upon.  It is true that football is a religion in Texas.  On the other hand, basketball is more of a distraction that helps pass the dark days of winter.

Still, there is more to the story than the hierarchy of the programs.

Then there is the fact that the football team wasted the career of the most talented player to don the scarlet and black since Michael Crabtree.

In August, the USA Today listed quarterback Pat Mahomes as a Heisman Trophy Candidate.

Not since Crabtree and his teammate Graham Harrell entered the 2008 season as Heisman candidates had a Red Raider received as much preseason publicity as Mahomes did.  Given what Mahomes had done in his first two years, the hype was justified.

As a sophomore in 2015, Mahomes led the NCAA in total offense with 393 yards per game.  He also led all players from “Power 5” conferences in points responsible for with 278.

The expectation was that second-year defensive coordinator David Gibbs would be able to field a defense good enough to allow Mahomes and the offense to outscore most opponents.  So much was thought of Mahomes that some considered Texas Tech to be a sleeper pick for the conference title.

But that did not happen.  The 2016 Texas Tech defense finished last in the NCAA with 554 yards allowed per game.  That was 13 yards per game worse than the 2015 defense which finished the season ranked No. 127 out of 128 in the nation.

To his credit, Mahomes did not disappoint.  Despite playing through a sprained shoulder for most of the season, the junior was fantastic.

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He set career highs in passing yards (5,052), touchdown passes (41) and completion percentage (65.7%).  So the fact that Texas Tech could not make a bowl game despite benefiting from one of the greatest seasons any quarterback in program history has produced left fans disenchanted.  Now Mahomes is preparing for the NFL Draft leaving the football program shrouded in uncertainty.

Meanwhile, here has been far less hand-wringing over the disappointing 2016-17 Texas Tech basketball season.

Like the football team, the Texas Tech basketball team returned its best players from last season’s surprising NCAA Tournament team.  Juniors Zach Smith, Justin Gray, Keenan Evan and Norense Odiase (who had to sit out this season due to a lingering back injury) were expected to lead the most experience team in the NCAA back to the Big Dance.

Unfortunately, that will not happen (unless the team pulls off a miracle run through the Big 12 Tournament).  However, the Red Raider fandom is far more forgiving of the hoops team.

One reason is because the basketball team has not wasted a transcendent talent like the football team did with Mahomes.  While Smith, Gray and Evans are all solid players, none of them are likely to be remembered as greats in program history.

Furthermore, all three will return next year for one last run.  Unlike the football program, the basketball program’s immediate future is more certain which gives fans more hope.

Then there is the difference in coaches. This season was the first for basketball coach Chris Beard.  Fans are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now as he begins to put his stamp on the program.

Meanwhile, Kingsbury has had four seasons on the job.  Like Beard, Kingsbury was given time to shape the program and grow into the job before fans began to grumble.

But visible progress has been scant during Kingsbury’s tenure.  The defense continues to be an embarrassment and the team continues to struggle with penalties and mental mistakes.

Kliff Kingsbury has had time to build a winning program and thus far he has not done so.

Beard should not be judged on just one season.  However, his team faces a huge rebuild after next season meaning that he must capitalize on next year’s group of senior leaders if he wants to earn some equity from the fan base.

Alas, this is a conversation that Texas Tech fans wish wasn’t relevant.  Both of the highest profile teams in the athletic department have fallen short of expectations this season.

Next: Why Texas Tech Football Fans Have Right To Be Upset

It is imperative for the health of the entire athletic department that Kingsbury and Beard succeed next year.  If either (or both) do not right the ship, the fans will be calling for drastic changes for both programs.