Texas Tech basketball: Red Raider fans need to make every home game electric

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: The Texas Tech Red Raiders reveal new banners for their 2018-2019 Big 12 Championship and the 2019 Final Four before the college basketball game against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at United Supermarkets Arena on November 05, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 05: The Texas Tech Red Raiders reveal new banners for their 2018-2019 Big 12 Championship and the 2019 Final Four before the college basketball game against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at United Supermarkets Arena on November 05, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

For the Texas Tech basketball program to continue to rise to the most elite status in the game, Red Raider fans need to make every home game as electric as Tuesday’s season-opener was.

There’s no doubt that the 2019-20 Texas Tech basketball season-opener was a rousing success.  In front of 15,098 fans, banners were unfurled and the next chapter of Red Raider hoops began in dominant fashion with an 85-60 win over Eastern Illinois.

The next step for this program is to do it again.  That goes for every aspect of the program, especially the fans.

We already know that the Red Raiders under Chris Beard are going to treat every game on the schedule as if it were for the Big 12 title.  Now, the fan base needs to follow suit.

Since the moment he took over the program prior to the 2016-17 season, Beard has been nearly evangelical in his efforts to bring fans to the United Supermarkets Arena.  He’s even offered free tickets to those would couldn’t afford to purchase their own, that’s how serious he is about needing the arena full on a game-by-game basis.

Following Tuesday’s dismantling of Eastern Illinois, it was obvious that the atmosphere in the arena was noticed and appreciated by Beard and his team.  Both the head coach and his new grad transfer forward, T.J. Holyfield, commented on the electricity the home crowd supplied.

"“I just want to start by recognizing the crowd,” Beard said as he began his postgame remarks.  “I guess this is my 14th season at Texas Tech Basketball and that’s the best opening crowd I’ve seen. There won’t be a better crowd in all of college basketball tonight, no matter where the game is played, than we just had here in Lubbock, Texas. So just a sincere thank you.”"

The fact that the first aspect of the game that Beard commented on was not the play of his young team nor a respectful nod to his opponent but rather a tip of the hat to the home fans tells us all we need to know about how this coach prioritizes attendance.

Beard doesn’t just pay attention to how full the arena is or how much support the fans show his team, he is borderline obsessive about it.  It’s a constant nagging worry in the back of his mind to the point that he was fearful that his program’s fan base might be underrepresented at the Final Four last April.


Even after Tech fans showed up for Beard and his team in droves in Minneapolis, the never satisfied head coach again worried that his program would open this season in front of a half-empty arena as has been the case for the majority of this program’s home openers outside of the 1999 debut of the U.S.A. against Bob Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers.

For example, one year ago, only 10,198 fans showed up for the Red Raiders season-opener against Incarnate Word.  Thus, the arena was merely 68% full on a night when the program celebrated its first-ever trip to the Elite 8.

Beard won’t come out and admit that he’s still worried about attendance.  That’s not how he operates.  He’s not a complainer like former Red Raider football head coach Tommy Tuberville who openly grumbled about everything from the fans to the West Texas wind to the lack of an indoor practice facility.

No, Beard is much more subtle.  But those paying attention can figure out what his greatest concerns are.

Back in August, when Texas Tech fan Rylee Albracht Tweeted an invitation for Beard to officiate her wedding, Beard replied by saying that if the entire student section was full for the home opener, all 4,500 seats, he would not only be there but he’d buy Whataburger for everyone at the reception.

What stands out about Beard’s response is that he not only knew exactly how many seats are allotted to students, but he was also already scheming of ways to fill each one three months prior to tip-off.  Yes, Beard is concerned about attendance.

It’s easy to see why.  No other sport is more impacted by a raucous crowd than college basketball where the fans are right on top of the action.  Holyfield, who spent his first three years playing at Stephen F. Austin in what had to be a rather sleepy environment compared to what he will see in the Big 12 this year, was obviously aware of the fans in his Red Raider debut.

"“It was more than I expected and it was great to play in front of a crowd like that again,” Holyfield said. “I think the crowd is the reason why we started off with such a good start and I didn’t think our guys got too overwhelmed by it and it was a good crowd.”"

We all dream about this program getting to a place where it is consistently thought of in the same context as Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina.  While the coaches and the players have to do their part to make that happen, Tech hoops will not be in that prestigious class until every home game, regardless of the opponent, resembles what we saw on Tuesday night.

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Last season, the arena didn’t even have over 10,000 fans in it for the second game of the season.  It was as if the excitement for Tech hoops had already begun to wane. By the third home game, the U.S.A. was only at 57% capacity.

By contrast, in its third home game last year, North Carolina saw a crowd that was 94% of its arena’s capacity show up to see the Tar Heels take on the mighty St. Francis (PA) Red Flash. Kansas played their third home game of 2018-19 before a sellout crowd.  Kentucky?  Over 20,000 people showed up to watch them dismantle VMI in game-three in Lexington.

We have begun to talk about being an elite basketball program at Texas Tech and for good reason. Few teams have matched the Red Raiders’ success in the last two years and that is due in part of the fact that the U.S.A. has become one of the most daunting places for road teams to play as the Red Raiders are riding a 48-game home non-conference winning streak and have won 16 of their last 18 home Big 12 games.

But for this program to realize its full potential, every game needs to be played in the type of atmosphere that the home crowd has proven capable of delivering in big moments.  With each passing victory, more and more eyes are going to be on Texas Tech basketball, especially those of big-time recruits and their families.

When those eyes tune in to see what’s going on in Lubbock, they should see a community that is as rabid for Red Raider basketball as it is for its next breath of air.  We all want Beard to take this program to the highest levels of the sport.  But for that to happen, we have to do our part and ensure that the program that has become the envy of most programs around the nation plays every home game in an environment that is befitting of a true basketball school.

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Saturday night, Tech hosts Bethune Cookman at 7 pm at the U.S.A.  How amazing would it be, what type of a positive message would it send to the coaches and players if there was another capacity crowd on hand for game two?  It’s what happens regularly at places like Lawrence, Kansas, Durham, North Carolina, and Lexington, Kentucky and there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen in Lubbock, Texas.