Texas Tech football: An unsettling look at Matt Wells’ recent body of work

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Head coach Matt Wells of Texas Tech walks onto the field during a timeout in the second half of the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Head coach Matt Wells of Texas Tech walks onto the field during a timeout in the second half of the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /
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The Texas Tech football team will finish the 2019 season below .500 which means this will be the fourth losing season in the last five years for Matt Wells.

They say you are what your record is.  That’s what makes sports so much more tolerable than something like politics.  There’s a definitive measure of who wins and who loses.  So what do the last five years tell us about Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells?

The answer might be a bit concerning.  That’s because 2019 is already guaranteed to be his fourth losing season since 2015.

Overall, Tech’s head coach is 48-41 with a record of 44-34 in six seasons at Utah State and 4-7 thus far at Tech.  But let’s dig a little deeper into his recent history.

First some context.  Wells was part of a coaching staff at Utah State that revitalized one of the most downtrodden programs in the nation.  When he arrived in 2011 to coach QBs and running backs for Gary Andersen, the Aggies had not had a winning season since 1997.

But in 2011, USU went 7-6 and a year later they rattled off an 11-2 season, the latter of which came with Wells serving as OC.  Thus, Wells was elevated to the role of head coach at his alma mater where he went 9-5 and 10-4 in his first two years.

However, since then, times have been less than ideal for the Oklahoma native.  Starting in 2015, his Utah State program suffered three-straight losing seasons, something that alarmed many Red Raider fans when his name surfaced in last fall’s coaching search.

Now, it must be pointed out that 2015 and 2017 were 6-6 regular seasons that ended with losses in a bowl game for a sub-.500 mark.  Meanwhile, 2016 was an unmitigated disaster as Wells’ team went just 3-9.

Of course, last season the Aggies rebounded to win 11 games, 10 in the regular season and Wells parlayed that success into the Texas Tech job.  But he’d better be glad that the 2017 Red Raiders beat Texas on Thanksgiving night because that game prolonged the Kliff Kinsbury era by one year, thus allowing Wells an opportunity to come to Lubbock.

It’s hard to imagine that AD Kirby Hocutt would have hired Wells after the 6-7 effort his team put forth in 2017 given that it was his third-straight losing season.  That would be a tough sell for any AD.

But Tech fans are wary of Wells’ run of four losing seasons in five years as well.  Not that Hocutt likely cares too much about that at this point.

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Still, it is worth noting that in the two years after he took over a program that his mentor built in Logan, he went 19-9.  Since then, he’s gone a mere 30-34.

Now, there is one factor to keep in mind when looking at USU results.  Every year, the Aggies play up in competition to take on at least one, and sometimes two Power 5 programs as well as facing BYU, an independent program that is of the caliber of a PAC-12 or Big 12 program.

Aside from playing BYU every year of his tenure in Logan, from 2015-18, Wells took on seven Power 5 teams: Washington, Utah, USC, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, and Michigan State.   Thus, had he scheduled only teams at the level of hos program, he likely would not have had losing records in 2015 or 2017.  In 2015, he lost at Utah and Washington and in 2017 he lost at Wisconsin and Wake.

Instead, a better measure of his tenure would be to look at how his programs have fared in conference play.  In the last five years, Wells’ teams have gone 19-21.  Yikes.  That span includes only two years (2015, 2018) with winning league records.  Take out this year’s disappointment and he’s just 17-15, which is not impressive given that he was playing in the Mountain West the previous four years.

If Tech doesn’t beat Texas on Friday, this will be the second 2-win or less conference record of Wells’ career to go along with the 1-7 record his team had in Mountain West play in 2016.  A 46.3% winning percentage (as he mustered from 2015-18 at Utah State) is not what Red Raider fans want to see in conference play.

The point here is not to kick Wells while he is down.  Any reasonable fan (yes, I know, that’s an oxymoron) will understand that the first year taking over at a program scuffing the way Tech has this decade is likely to be rough.

But even those such as myself, who are willing to give Wells at least two years before we make any judgments, are justified in being concerned by the fact that he has been a below-.500 coach both overall and in conference play since his second year as a head coach.

It’s the conference record that is most alarming because that’s where Tech has been awful this decade.  With a 30-59 Big 12 mark over the last ten seasons, Tech has not had a winning conference year since 2009.

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If this program is ever going to return to respectability, it has to begin being a factor against its conference rivals.  That’s why Matt Wells’ recent track record does little to inspire any confidence, even in those of us willing to give him a fair shake.