Texas Tech football: Worst coach in program history makes all-time 150 list

GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: Head coach Jerry Moore of the Appalachian State Mountaineers watches on against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: Head coach Jerry Moore of the Appalachian State Mountaineers watches on against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Greenville, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

In what has to be a surprise to Red Raider fans, the worst coach in the history of the Texas Tech football program has made the ESPN list of the 150 greatest all-time head coaches, and he’s the only Tech coach on the list.

The putrid current state of the Texas Tech football has dredged up unpleasant reminders of the program’s only other era of similar futility in the last fifty years.  Missing out on a bowl game for the third time in four years and stumbling through four-straight losing seasons, Red Raider football is at its lowest place since 1979-1984 when people in West Texas had to endure seven-straight losing seasons.

The man in charge for the final five of those seasons was Jerry Moore, who is widely regarded as the worst coach in program history.  With an overall record of just 16-37-2 in five seasons, he has the worst winning percentage of any coach to ever lead the Red Raiders for more than one season and he’s one of only five men to ever have a losing record during his time as head coach in Lubbock.

That’s why it might shock some fans to find out that he is the only Red Raider coach to appear on the recently published ESPN list of the 150 greatest coaches in college football history.  But he isn’t on that list because of what he did at Tech but rather what he accomplished at an FCS school.

Checking in at No. 57, Moore is ranked higher than such legendary names as Mack Brown (59), Don Coryell (63), Gary Patterson (74), and Barry Alvarez (119).

According to ESPN pannel of voters, Moore’s work at Appalachian State warranted not only his inclusion on the list but was enough to have him sit in the top half.

"“When Texas Tech fired Moore in 1985,” the article says, “he feared his coaching career might be over. He spent three years working for a real estate developer until Arkansas hired him as an assistant in 1988. The Mountaineers hired him in 1989, and he won 215 games and three consecutive FCS national titles from 2005-07. Moore won 10 conference titles and made 18 playoff appearances with the Mountaineers. Of course, he might be best known for Appalachian State’s stunning 34-32 upset of No. 5 Michigan at the Big House in 2007.”"

With a career record of 242-135-2, Moore coached 22 games at North Texas where he went 11-11 from 1979-80 which means his career record at the Division I level was just 27-48-2.  But the so-called experts feel that his run of national titles with the Mountaineers in the 2000s was more significant than any other contributions from a Texas Tech head coach.

Most notably left of this list is Mike Leach.  At Tech and then Washington State, he has amassed a 139-89 career record with 14 bowl appearances.  But he has not won a title of any type and has not even played for a conference title, factors that likely hurt his chances of being included in ESPN’s fodder.  Still, that should not be held against him because he has taken on two of the most challenging jobs in the game and turned both programs into consistent winners.

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But even more important is the fact that he was the catalyst for the current spread offense revolution, which has changed the game like few other innovations in the past 150 years.  Though Leach didn’t invent the “Air Raid” system, he was the first coach to use it at a major conference program and when he started to beat the powerhouses of the Big 12 with regularity, people around the nation began to copy his scheme thus making the spread offense as popular in the modern game as any offensive system in the history of the sport.

In fact, perhaps no coach in the game today has a greater coaching tree than Leach.  His former disciples include OU’s Lincoln Riley, the Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury, Houston’s Dana Holgorsen, former Baylor head coach Art Briles, North Texas’ Seth Littrell, Central Florida’s Josh Heupel, and a slew of offensive coordinators and fast-rising assistants.

Other innovators of the passing game revolution were on ESPN’s list.  Coryell made the vertical passing game the foundation of his offense at San Diego State from 1961-72 before he took it to the NFL making him one of the first coaches to fully buy into the downfield pass as a weapon and not a necessary evil.

At No. 22 you will find LaVell Edwards, who went 257-101-3 at Brigham Young from 1972-2000.  He was the first coach to utilize the passing game to carry his team to a national title as his passing attack helped offset the talent deficit his teams faced when taking on traditional powers.

In his legendary career, former Heisman Trophy winner Steve Spurrier brought the passing game to the SEC where power football had been the only way of life ever known.  His 228-89-2 record and 1996 national title have him at No. 27 on this list.

It’s tough to say whether Texas Tech fans find it more unfathomable that Leach was left off this list or that Moore ranks so high.  While his three national titles and the iconic upset of Michigan are noteworthy, his failures as a coach at the top level of the game should also be considered.

While Leach put together ten-straight winning seasons in Lubbock and has taken Washington State to at least nine wins on four separate occasions, all while changing the way the game will forever be played, Moore never won more than four games with the Red Raiders and had only one winning season at a Division I program.  Thus, it seems as if ESPN put the wrong former Texas Tech coach on its list.