Texas Tech Football: Kirby Hocutt must hold Kliff Kingsbury to higher standard

TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts on the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders reacts on the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Entering the sixth year of the Kliff Kingsbury run as Texas Tech football head coach, it is time for athletic director Kirby Hocutt to hold Kingsbury to a higher standard than he has thus far.

Conventional wisdom usually suggests that any collegiate head coach deserves at least four years on the job before he can be properly evaluated.  We are now well past that point for Texas Tech football head coach Kliff Kingsbury who is set to begin his sixth season tomorrow in Houston.

And it is far past time for Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt to put an end to the excuses, take off the kid gloves and hold Kingsbury to a higher standard.

By now, everyone is aware of the disappointing numbers Kingsbury has put up.  Thus far, he has a 30-33 overall record (47.6% ) and an even worse 16-29 Big 12 record (35.5%).

Tech is 2-19 against ranked opponents under Kingsbury and has lost 15-consecutive games to top-25 teams since the 2013 Holiday Bowl.  That is the fourth-longest losing streak against ranked opponents by any Power 5 team.

Tech has mustered just two wins in 28 games when trailing at the half with Kingsbury in charge and has averaged just 3.2 conference wins per season in that span.  In other words, Kingsbury has failed to meet expectations in almost every way.

But while fan expectations can be skewed by emotion and nostalgia (as was the case upon Kingsbury’s hiring in 2013), statistics are not subjective.  And when looking at his record, it is painfully obvious that the job he has done has not been up to par with what other Texas Tech football head coaches have accomplished.

Of the 15 men that have held the position of Texas Tech football head coach, only two have had worse winning percentages than Kliff Kingsbury.  In 1929, Grady Higginbotham went 1-7-2  (.200) in his lone season as head coach.  And from 1981-1985, Jerry Moore compiled a 16-37-1 record (.309).

What’s more, only three other men (DeWitt Weaver 1961-1960, J.T. King 1961-1969 and Rex Dockery 1977-1980) have managed to win fewer than half of their games as head coach.  In other words, Texas Tech has had better and should continue to expect better than what it has received from its current head coach, regardless of the fact that he is an alum.

Simply being a graduate of Texas Tech and a highly-beloved former player should not be enough for a coach with a .476 winning percentage to continue keep a multi-million dollar per year job. And after five years, it is time for all of the excuses to be put to bed.

Every remnant of the Tommy Tuberville era has been washed out of the program and the only man whose fingerprints are on every aspect of Texas Tech football is Kliff Kingsbury.   Additionally, pointing to his youth and relative inexperience can no longer be a crutch upon which we lean.

For instance, consider the job that 38-year-old Neal Brown has done at Troy where in just three seasons (his first three as a head coach at any level) he has amassed a 25-13 record and taken one of the country’s most under-funded and downtrodden programs to a top-25 ranking.

And other coaches of a similar age and with similar experience have figured out how to be successful.  North Texas’ Seth Littrell (age 40), Memphis’ Mike Norvell (age 36) and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell (age 38) have all had more success than Kingsbury despite having similar ages and experience levels.  And every coach mentioned above coaches at a school that faces numerous challenges as a football program, arguably more challenges than Texas Tech.

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This is not a call for Kingsbury to be fired before the season even begins.  The best possible outcome for the university is for Kingsbury to finally figure out how to win at his alma mater.

Kingsbury’s conduct and professionalism has been impeccable and every Texas Tech fan appreciates the way he represents our university.  In an age where college football coaching scandals are becoming commonplace, we must not overlook the fact that Texas Tech’s reputation under Kingsbury has been untarnished.

However, that simply is not enough.  There is a scoreboard at every football stadium for a reason and far too often during the past five years, that apparatus has not looked kindly upon the Red Raiders.

Kirby Hocutt has invested heavily in Kingsbury and that goes beyond just the lucrative contract extension he gave his head coach following the 2013 season.  Kingsbury is Hocutt’s marquee hire meaning that Hocutt’s professional reputation is heavily tied to the success of his boldest move as Texas Tech AD; the hiring of a then 33-year old coach with no head coaching experience.

But Hocutt’s pride and reputation be damned, if Kingsbury once against stumbles to another 6-6 or worse season, he must be held to a higher standard.  After all, that is the standard Hocutt set for Kingsbury’s predecessor.

In the days following Tommy Tuberville’s departure for Cincinnati, Hocutt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he had recently met with his head coach to relay the message that improvements were expected.  This came after Tuberville completed a 7-win regular season, something that Kingsbury has not accomplished since 2015.

We can all agree that our disdain for Tuberville was warranted because he clearly did not want to be at Texas Tech.  And the love for our university is what ultimately landed Kingsbury the job and what has kept the fan base from being as vocal in its displeasure as it would have been had he been a graduate of any other school in the nation.

But at some point, Kingsbury’s teams must do better than merely grasping for bowl eligibility in late November.  The results Texas Tech has received in the past five years do not match the financial commitment the university has made in the football program and if that does not change in 2018, Hocutt must make the tough but correct call and find a coach who can win in Lubbock.

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We all want Kingsbury to succeed and most of us (myself included) believe that he is capable of being successful in Lubbock.  However, continually retaining a head coach with a .476 winning percentage just because he is a decent person who graduated from your school is the collegiate athletics version of nepotism.  This program should expect more.  Hopefully that is exactly what we get in 2018.