Opinion: Kirby Hocutt’s ego more important than Texas Tech football

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Texas Tech Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt on the field at a time out during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears on November 24, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Baylor defeated Texas Tech 35-24. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 24: Texas Tech Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt on the field at a time out during the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears on November 24, 2018 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Baylor defeated Texas Tech 35-24. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images) /

By retaining head coach Matt Wells, AD Kirby Hocutt has made it clear that his ego is more important than the well being of the Texas Tech football program.

Monday, we learned two important things about the Texas Tech football program.  One: embattled head coach Matt Wells will indeed return for his third season on the job in Lubbock.  And two: AD Kirby Hocutt’s ego is the most important component of the Texas Tech football program, nay, the entire Texas Tech athletic department.

Make no mistake.  Retaining Wells is not about football.  It is about Hocutt saving face.

After all, there is no football reason to bring Wells back in 2021.  He will enter the season in coaching purgatory meaning that recruiting will be next to impossible.  What’s more, the vast majority of the fan base has already come to the conclusion that the man leading this program is in over his head and has no business coaching at the Power 5 level.  Thus, the stands at Jones Stadium next year are likely to be as empty as the Depot District on Easter Sunday, especially given that next year’s slate of home games could arguably be the worst in the history of Tech football.

Of course, we saw nothing on the field this year to suggest that next season is going to be an improvement.  That’s because the greatest impediment to victory for the Red Raiders this year was the head-scratchingly atrocious in-game decision making of Matt Wells.  Why would we be so certain that he will all of a sudden stop putting his team behind the 8-ball next season when that’s what he’s done almost since the moment he coaches his first game with the Red Raiders?  Firing OC David Yost and bringing in a new play-caller won’t fix that.

So we have a program that has won eight total games in the last two years, a head coach that the fan base doesn’t believe in, a future that is as bleak as it has been in the last 40 years of Texas Tech football, and a level of fan apathy that is alarmingly high.  So against we ask, why was Matt Well’s retained on Monday?   Three words…Kirby Hocutt’s ego.

There is no doubt that Hocutt is planning his eventual exit strategy from Texas Tech and that he’s been doing so since the moment he took over the athletic department in 2011.  He’s not a Red Raider.  Lubbock was never a destination to him but rather a safe harbor in which he could escape the controversy that was sweeping his University of Miami athletic department when he jumped ship amidst an NCAA investigation brought on by out-of-control booster Nevin Shapiro.

Kirby Hocutt has never had Texas Tech’s best interests in mind.  He’s only had his own.  It does him no good for Tech to succeed except for the fact that it makes him more attractive of a candidate for a more high-profile AD position or a leadership position with a major conference or the NCAA itself.  The latter two of those possibilities have long been understood by many Red Raiders in the know as deeply held desires of Hocutt.  And with each passing controversy, they likely become even more urgent ambitions for an athletic director who has lost much of the once seemingly endless job security he held just 18 months ago.

Don’t think Hocutt is only in this for himself?  Then why did he tie himself to Chris Beard by putting a clause in Beard’s latest contract extension that significantly lessens the buyout another school would have to pay Tech for hiring the basketball coach away if Hocutt is not the athletic director at the time?  That clause only serves Hocutt’s interests, not Texas Tech’s.

So too does keeping Matt Wells as head coach.  Hocutt desperately needs to prove that he can build a winning football program as he’s yet to hire a successful football coach in three tries at the Power 5 level.  In fact, the combined conference record of the three men he has hired at Miami and Texas Tech (Al Golden, Kliff Kingsbury, and Matt Wells) is just 41-66.

Firing Wells, a coach Hocutt hired in 2018 with absolutely no input from a search firm, the board of regents, the school administration, or big-money donors, after just two years would be admitting to a third swing and miss and that’s something Hocutt’s massive ego couldn’t stomach.  After all, it would have done major damage to his dreams of upward mobility and increased influence on the national scale.

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That’s also why he didn’t fire Kliff Kingsbury in 2016 or 2017 when he should have.  As a result, he let that head coach languish on the hot seat for two years.  And the fallout did damage to the Texas Tech football program that is to this day still causing issues on the roster as no recruit with any sort of legitimate options wants to commit to a coach in limbo.

But Hocutt is willing to let Texas Tech football remain in that same state of limbo for at least another year.  Think kids didn’t want to commit to Tech in 2021 (as there are only 10 recruits set to sign with the Red Raiders when the early signing window opens later this week)?

Ask yourself how many are going to want to do so in the 2022 class as we enter next fall knowing that Wells is a dead man walking.  As a result, we can prepare ourselves for another offseason influx of graduate transfers who will come in and contribute for two years at the most and then depart thus leaving the program in a constant state of chasing its tail.  All because Wells knows he has to win now.  And all because Hocutt’s ego needs him to do just that.

Kirby Hocutt is bad for Texas Tech.  That’s because he has no interest in what is best for the university.  He turned a blind eye towards player mistreatment in the women’s basketball and the softball programs, he has hired two failed football head coaches, and he has selfishly tied himself to the Chris Beard money train.  Now, he’s willing to continue to let the football program die on the vine all because he is not man enough to admit that he made another coaching hire mistake.

In 2020, the Texas Tech football team got new uniforms but in 2021, the logo on the side of the helmets should be changed from the Double T to a picture of Hocutt because that’s all this football program is now about…serving Hocutt’s desires for more success than little ole’ Texas Tech can provide.  By giving his hand-picked puppet, Matt Wells, a stay of execution, Hocutt has once again shown us that his interests are fully self-serving.

Though he may pay lip service to it, Hocutt cares not about winning for the sake of Texas Tech, he cares about winning only for the sake of himself.  And it’s a shame that many Red Raider fans now have to feel like we need to choose whether we can stand the thought of both of those outcomes coming to fruition in 2021.

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