Texas Tech football: 2010s defined by coaching turmoil

LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders talks with Davis Webb #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 13, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Arkansas defeated Texas Tech 49-28. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: Head coach Kliff Kingsbury of the Texas Tech Red Raiders talks with Davis Webb #7 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders during game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks on September 13, 2014 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Arkansas defeated Texas Tech 49-28. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

To understand why the Texas Tech football program is in such a bad place, all we have to do is look at the coaching turmoil within the program over the past decade.

My favorite professor from my days at Tech, Dr. Carl Anderson, used to always teach us that “inconsistency is a crazy-maker” in any aspect of life.  Certainly, that pearl of wisdom applies to the current state of the Texas Tech football program, which continues to suffer the after-effects of three head coaching changes in the last decade.

More than anything that happened on the Jones Stadium turf in the last 10 years, the carousel in the head coach’s office has defined Red Raider football in the 2010s.  With three vastly different characters in charge, this is just the third decade that Tech has had a trio of men to lead the program and that’s no way to build success, especially given that each was so vastly different in personality and football philosophy.

Tommy Tuberville began the decade by taking over for Mike Leach.  Two men nor two coaches could be more opposite than those two.  While Leach was a spread-offense innovator whose wild ways on the field were only topped by his off the cuff remarks and quirky personality, Tuberville was an old-school adherent to defense and running the ball who only tried to run the spread in Lubbock because the fan base and his superiors simply demanded he did so.

Of course, he was also as different from Leach as possible in terms of personality.  An aspiring politician, he rarely gave any glimpses into his real persona and that was as much of a reason for his inability to connect with the people of West Texas as anything.  Meanwhile, Leach was as comfortable in his own shoes as anyone could have been and if anyone didn’t like it, he didn’t give a rip.

When Tuberville shimmied out the window of the men’s room at the 50 Yard Line steakhouse during a recruiting dinner in December of 2012 to take the job at Cincinnatti, the program again went in the complete opposite direction when bringing in his successor, Kliff Kingsbury.

Replacing a coach in his late 50s who had no ties to Texas Tech with a beloved legend of the program in his early 30s was a bold stroke.  To say that just about everything in the program took a 180-degree turn when Kingsbury was handed the keys to the castle might be an understatement.

Six years later, Tech split the difference between Kingsbury and Tuberville by asking Matt Wells to save us from our decade of decline.  A family man in his mid-40s with a career record of 10 games over .500, he was a shift from the GQ meets Animal House  feel of the Kingsbury era as he preached togetherness, self-sacrifice, and discipline with phrases that all of us who grew up in church in the West Texas and Eastern New Mexico area have heard for our entire lives.

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So in just ten years, this program has gone from the guidance of a pirate-obsessed genius who did card tricks in his office for recruits but who didn’t know the names of all of his defensive players on the roster to the watch of a man who wanted nothing more than to leave after just a few months on the job and who was a phony as a Monopoly hundred dollar bill to a coach known more for his Hollywood good looks and designer suits than for his coaching record to a centered family man who is about as interesting as an associate pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Snyder.

Along the way, we’ve seen seven defensive coordinators in 10 years, including a different one each year from 2009-2015.  And to try to calculate all the other assistant coaching moves would require a nuclear-powered abacus.

Consider how different this decade has been from others in program history.  For instance, the Red Raiders had just one head coach from 2000-09, Leach.  Is it any wonder that the program took on a clear identity during that time and rose to the top of the Big 12 hierarchy?

Likewise, Tech has just one head coach in the 1990s, Spike Dykes.  And predictably, the former defensive coordinator built a program known for its “Swarm” defense and a smashmouth ground attack.

In fact, it’s been more common for this program to have the same man in charge for an entire decade than to play head coach roulette as it did in the 2010s.  In the 1930s Pete Cawthorn led the program to 8 winning seasons.

Though he wasn’t the only head coach of the Red Raiders in the 1940s as Cawthorn’s last year kicked off the decade, Dell Morgan was at the helm for ten seasons from 1941-1950 leading Tech to three bowl games at a time when it was tough to earn a postseason bid.  From 1951-1960, DeWitt Weaver had four winning seasons, three bowl games, and an 11-1 season in 1953, which is still one of the three best years in program history.

For nine of the ten years of the 1960s, it was J.T. King in charge.  He had four winning seasons and two bowl bids.

In fact, the 1970s and the 1980s are the only other decades in the history of the program besides the 2010s in which Tech has had three head coaches.  And while the 70s were one of the best decades ever for Tech football, the 80s, much like this decade, were abysmal.  In fact, with seven losing seasons, the 80s was the low point of the program.

The 2010s missed equalling that total by just one season and that should come as no surprise given that the screws on the nameplate in the head coach’s door are loose from being changed so frequently.  Including Matt Wells, there have been 16 head coaches in program history and half didn’t make it past six years on the job.

The only two in the last 30 years and two of the only three since 1980 to do so, Kingsbury and Tuberville, coached in the 2010s.  And with all the uncertainty at that spot, a combative and spiteful countenance has taken root in the fan base as bitter discord has become the norm among Red Raiders when talking about the football program.

All those years ago, sitting in Dr. Anderson’s class every Wednesday night, I never imagined that his lesson on family dynamics would apply to Red Raider football, especially as we lived through the exciting early years of the Leach era.  But never has inconsistency proven to be more of a crazy-maker than it has in the last decade of Texas Tech football,  a program that itself has driven its fans to the verge of lunacy in recent years.