Kliff Kingsbury is over it but Tech fans will always hate Baker Mayfield

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns prepares to take the field during the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 38-24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Cleveland Browns prepares to take the field during the first half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 38-24. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Though it appears that former Texas Tech football head coach Kliff Kingsbury and former Red Raider QB Baker Mayfield have put their grudge to bed, Red Raider fans will always hate Mayfield.

What fun are sports without hate?  That emotion is perhaps as synonymous with sports fandom as any emotion in human existence.  That’s why Texas Tech football fans will forever hold onto their hatred for former Red Raider and Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield despite the fact that he and Kliff Kingsbury appear to have buried the hatchet.

Sunday, Kingsbury and Mayfield met for the first time in the NFL as Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals took down Mayfield’s Cleveland Browns 38-24 in Arizona.  For most fans, the game was notable because it provided a showdown between the last two No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft, Mayfield and this year’s top pick, Kyler Murray.

Mayfield went 30-43 for 247 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while Murray was 19-25 for 219 yards and a TD to go along with his own interception.

But Tech fans were far more interested in the second edition of the Kingsbury vs. Mayfield grudge match.  No one could forget round one when Mayfield and OU beat Tech and Pat Mahomes 66-59 in Lubbock back in 2016 when both teams put up 854 total yards of offense apiece.  But while the first meeting between Kingsbury and Mayfield since the QB left Tech in 2013 was full of animosity (at least on the part of the fans), Sunday’s first NFL meeting proved to be more acrimonious.

That’s because the two former enemies seem to have moved on.  Prior to the game, both expressed regret over the way Mayfield left Lubbock in what was a shift from the way the relationship had at least been portrayed in the media in recent years.

In 2013, the walk-on from Austin started the Red Raiders’ first five games on his way to a 5-0 record.  But when he was supplanted by David Webb, who stepped in after Mayfield suffered an injury in the sixth game of the year, the now Cleveland QB left Lubbock for Oklahoma before the Red Raiders’ bowl game.

Claiming that he was angry that Tech had not put him on scholarship, he continued to grind an ax against Kingsbury and Tech for the remainder of his college career despite winning the 2017 Heisman Trophy.  That was only worsened when Kingsbury initially tried to enforce the Big 12 rule that said that a player that transfers between two Big 12 schools has to sit out a year, even if he is not on scholarship. Kingsbury’s insistence on seeing that rule enforced led to some harsh feelings between the Mayfield camp and Kingsbury to the point that Mayfield’s father James even publically called Kingsbury a “scoundrel”.

Eventually, Tech and Kingsbury caved to public pressure and agreed to support Mayfield’s request to be immediately eligible and the rest is college football history.  But in college football, there is no such thing as water under the bridge.  This is the sport of decades-old grudges.  So why should Tech fans stop hating Mayfield?

"“I think we’re in a good place,” Kingsbury said to Steve Doerschuk of The Canton Repository this week. “What happened happened. It was unfortunate.“I could have handled things differently. I’ve been proud of his success. What he’s accomplished has been phenomenal to watch.”"

To his credit, the normally abrasive and outspoken Mayfield also took the high road.

"“We’ve both acknowledged that an 18-year-old Baker wasn’t the ‘all-knowing’ that he thought he was,” Mayfield said. “I mean, guys, that’s back in 2013, six years ago. I’m not going to re-dig issues back then.”"

Good for both parties involved.  Acting like gentlemen and letting bygones be bygones is what they should do.  But don’t expect Red Raider fans to follow suit.

The reason is that Mayfield spent the better part of three years bashing Kingsbury to any open mic that was put in front of his face.  Meanwhile, Tech and Kingsbury simply stayed silent and did not issue any rebuttals thus allowing the narrative to be controlled by Mayfield, who became the nation’s most sympathetic figure while Tech took on the role of the clueless villain.  That situation helped to tarnish the reputation of the former Red Raider head coach at a time when the program was starting to wobble under his guidance.

But no one ever talked about the fact that Mayfield left the program before the end of the season, thus essentially quitting on his teammates.  The timing is the crux of the situation because scholarships are issued on a semester-by-semester basis.  Thus, when Mayfield was claiming that he didn’t have a scholarship, it was because Tech couldn’t award him one until the next semester when the scholarships were renewed and the roster numbers were known.

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To believe that any Power 5 program would not put a player who showed what Mayfield did in 2013 on scholarship the following year is simply giving into a desire to buy into the salacious narrative.  Logic would suggest that if players who had accomplished far less such as Taylor Nunez or who did not play nearly as important of a position as a QB, as was the case with safety Justus Parker, then Kingsbury would have found a place for Mayfield.

That’s especially true given that backup Michael Brewer also transferred that year but unlike Mayfield, he waited until after the 2013 Holiday Bowl.  So had Mayfield remained, he would have almost certainly taken Brewer’s scholarship.

But because Mayfield couldn’t wait to play the victim at every opportunity, Tech fans had to sit around and listen to those who didn’t know the nuts and bolts of the situation bash our program and our coach.  We do that well enough on our own these days.  We don’t need others from a national perspective pouring gasoline on that fire as they have done every time the Tech/Mayfield situation came up since 2013.

Can you believe this program didn’t put Baker Mayfield on scholarship?   That was the common question posed by generic broadcasters over the past few years as they mocked Kingbury and Tech.

Were mistakes made on both sides?  No doubt.  But throughout the entire drama, Kingsbury took the high road while Mayfield acted like a petulant brat, which is on-brand for him.

So even though the coach and his former protegee have made nice, don’t expect Tech fans to sit through all of the Mayfield t.v. commercials and not make snide remarks.  And make no mistake, Cleveland will be the most hated team in West Texas for as long as Bayfield is the QB.  In the end, Pat Mahomes took over and proved to be just as good of a college QB and we’d rather have the NFL MVP representing our program than a QB that is just 12-14 in two years.

But this is sports and once we learn to hate someone, especially a guy who built a huge part of his image by bashing Texas Tech, we aren’t going to be as quick to forgive as Kingsbury is.  Besides, if we don’t keep hating Mayfield, why would we ever have a reason to watch a Cleveland Browns game?