Charisma is something that is impossible to measure. It’s also something that has been missing from the Texas Tech football program for far too long as the last three head coaches to lead the Red Raiders have sucked the passion and bravado out of the program. Fortunately, charisma and passion are qualities that new head coach Joey McGuire has in spades. In fact, his infectious personality and his ability to win over the fan base are reminiscent of a legendary Texas Tech figure.
Because of his infectious persona and the way he’s already made folks in Raiderland fall in love with him before he’s ever coached a game for the program, it is fair to wonder whether McGuire can become this generation’s Spike Dykes. If so, his time in Lubbock will be a wild success.
There are quite a few similarities between McGuire and Dykes. The most obvious is disarming and genuine gregariousness.
Many of today’s younger Red Raider fans may not know how much of a character the late Dykes was but make no mistake, he was one of a kind.
A true west Texan who was born in Lubbock and raised in tiny Bollinger (located in between San Angelo and Abilene), he was famous for his country witticisms; sayings that became known as “Spike-isms”. Some of the most memorable include:
- “A lot of people want to be around when you’re having the parade, but not many want to serve as pallbearer.”
- “They whipped us like a tied-up goat.”
- “Oh, we played about like three tons of buzzard puke this afternoon.”
Yet, Dykes was more than just an old-school quote machine. He was actually a very good football coach, who, like McGuire, cut his teeth in the high school football ranks before earning his first (and only) college head coaching job at Texas Tech in 1986.
"“You go back and study what he did in football, I never thought he got the credit for being the innovator that he was,” former Texas and current North Carolina head coach Mack Brown said in 2017 following Dyke’s passing. “They ran so many plays so quickly and would huddle close to the line of scrimmage and sprint up and get down (into stances) right quick. He was doing things like that before anybody even talked about tempo offenses.”"
In all, Dykes led Tech to an 82-67-1 record and seven bowls in 13 seasons. He was a 3-time Southwest Conference Coach of the Year and the 1996 Big 12 Coach of the Year and he is enshrined in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Dyke’s greatest legacy though is that he helped Texas Tech football rebound from one of the program’s darkest periods. From 1979-1985, the Red Raiders endured seven consecutive losing seasons under Rex Dockery and Jerry Moore. Though Dykes was Moore’s defensive coordinator for Moore’s final two years, his emergence as a Red Raider legend began in 1986 when, as DC under David McWilliams, he would help Tech rebound to go 7-4 in the regular season before falling to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl (a game for which he served as interim head coach after McWilliams bolted for Texas).
Then, Dykes was named permanent head coach at Tech for the 1987 season. All he would do from there was guide the program to seven winning seasons which made him a Lubbock icon given how dreadful the program had been in the seven years before his arrival.
In short, Dykes took Tech from the depths of the college football world to a place where the program was respected again on the national scene. And his success helped Tech secure a place in the Big 12, something that changed the trajectory of the football program and the university for good. What’s more, along the way, by pulling off several upsets of Texas and Texas A&M, he also made it fun to be a Red Raider fan again. See where I’m going with this?
A former highly-successful high school head coach taking over a program coming off of a nearly decade-long decline? A gregarious personality charged with making Tech football enjoyable and nationally relevant again? Someone who considered Tech to be his destination job? A coach who is going to guide the program through a round of college football realignment? All of the above applied to Spike Dykes. And now, all apply to Joey McGuire as well.
Tech fans certainly hope that McGuire can do what Dykes did three decades ago and take this program from being a conference doormat to a title winner. Along the way, we hope he can also bring the fun back to Jones Stadium.
Fortunately, he’s off to a strong start. Because he’s been so well-received by the fans and (more importantly) the influential boosters, he’s seen nearly a quarter of a billion dollars pledged to the program for facility upgrades during his brief tenure. That’s a huge step towards taking Tech football to a new level of competitiveness. Additionally, he’s working on a top-25 recruiting class, something that Tech hasn’t had in over a decade.
Now, the success on the field must come. Without that, McGuire can’t become a Texas Tech icon regardless of how beloved he is as a person.
What’s more, most Tech fans would say that they are expecting McGuire to take Tech to greater heights that Dykes did. After all, Tech finished the year in the Associated Press Top 25 only twice in Dykes’ tenure.
We are just a week away from starting to find out just how McGuire’s legacy will play out. It’s the dawn of a new era in the program, one that is filled with unbridled optimism all because of the charisma of the new man in charge. And if all goes according to plan, a new generation of Texas Tech football fans will have a legendary coach to point to as their favorite personality in program history. And perhaps, if we are lucky, McGuire will have some memorable “Mcguire-isms” to share with us along the way as well.