Texas Tech football: How 10 men contributed to decline of Red Raider football

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during play against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during play against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

Kirby Hocutt

Right now, no athletic director in the nation is on a bigger roll than Texas Tech’s Kirby Hocutt.  Coming off a national title game appearance in basketball, a national title in men’s track and field and a College World Series appearance in baseball, Hocutt’s athletic program is the envy of most in the nation.  But there is an unavoidable scar on Hocutt’s otherwise sparkling resume while in Lubbock…the football program.

Hocutt took over as athletic director in 2011 and since that time, Tech football has a record of 48-52.  That includes five losing seasons for a program that went 18 seasons from 1993-2010 with a sub .500 record.

While we can’t fault Hocutt for the Tuberville years, we can fault him for the failed Kliff Kingsbury experiment.  Thus far, that hiring has been the defining move of Hocutt’s tenure at Texas Tech and despite how much credit he is due for the hirings of Chris Beard and Tim Tadlock, he must also shoulder a huge part of the blame for the current state of the football program.

In fairness, the Kingsbury decision wasn’t all on Hocutt.  In fact, Hance and many others behind the scenes were pushing hard for it.  And perhaps that’s why Hocutt was so hell-bent on hiring his guy, Matt Wells, to replace Kingsbury last fall despite serious support for other candidates from the athletic department’s largest and most powerful donors.

At the time he hired the 33-year-old Kingsbury, the entire Texas Tech fan base celebrated in unison.  People flocked to campus that night as the Victory Bells rang out over Lubbock signaling an end to the program’s Tuberville inspired civil war.

But we now know Kingsbury wasn’t ready for that job.  He failed to become the type of head coach that most expected him to be in Lubbock.  A brilliant offensive mind, he proved incapable of building a program.

Where Hocutt erred most was in giving Kingsbury a lucrative six-year contract extension with a massive buyout after just one season as a head coach at any level of football.  What we saw from Kingsbury in 2013, when his team went 8-5, was merely a mirage as the foundation of that team was comprised of holdovers from the previous regime.

Hocutt should have known better.  There was no reason to give an unproven coach such a massive contract extension, especially after that coach ended his first regular season on a five-game losing streak.  If not for that huge buyout, Kingsbury likely would not have survived for six years and we would be further into the current rebuild.

To be honest, Kingsbury should have never been hired as head coach to begin with.  Not in 2013 anyway.  Hocutt should have let Kingsbury mature more as a coordinator, where he could have learned the nuances of building a program from experienced head coaches, before hiring him to do one of the toughest jobs at any Power 5 school in the nation.

But Hocutt got swept up in the sentimentality of Kingsbury as a uniting figure.  He made a knee-jerk reaction to hire the fan-favorite in an attempt to reunite and appease a fracture constituency. Six years later, it became apparent that he learned his lesson when he fired Kingsbury and hired Wells, whos’ hiring brought about furrowed brows and shrugged shoulders rather than midnight celebrations in Memorial Circle.

Though Hocutt’s hiring of Wells was widely panned by Red Raider fans the Red Raider AD hired the man he felt was best qualified for the job.  Had he taken the same approach in 2013, perhaps Texas Tech football would already be much farther down the road back to relevance than it is right now.

Back in late 2012, Hocutt did not have the type of equity with his superiors, the donors and the fans to make an independent decision as he did in 2018.  What’s more, he was rather hamstrung by the fallout from the Tuberville knowing that he had to not only hire a coach but reunite a fractured fandom.

Gerald Myers’ poor decision to hire Tuberville, an outside who never bought in to the West Texas way of life, eventually led Hocutt and the other top brass at the university to make an equally poor decision and hire a coach that was far from ready to run a program.  But in giving Kingsbury a lucrative contract after just one year on the job, Hocutt has certainly played a role in the decline of Red Raider football.