Texas Tech football: It’s time for Kirby Hocutt to let UT go

Dec 4, 2016; Grapevine, TX, USA; College football playoff selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt speaks to the media during selection Sunday at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; Grapevine, TX, USA; College football playoff selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt speaks to the media during selection Sunday at the Gaylord Texan Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Since the moment that Texas and Oklahoma announced their intentions to join the SEC, Texas Tech football fans have been lamenting the inevitable loss of the annual series with the Longhorns, the oldest series the Red Raiders have, one that began in 1928.  Now, there is only one year remaining until the two most prominent Big 12 programs jump ship to a new conference making the 2023 regular-season finale in Austin the last time Tech and UT will square off for the foreseeable future, if ever.

However, the leader of the Texas Tech athletic department, AD Kirby Hocutt, is not letting go of the hope that this series will someday resume.  However, it’s time for him to let that dream die and move on because history has already shown that in-state rivalries mean little in the world of billion-dollar conference realignment chess moves.

"On Sunday, Chris Hummer (a national college football reporter for 247 Sports) tweeted a quote from Hocutt who said of Texas AD Chris Del Conte in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, “He’s still scared.  Nothing has changed over the course of the year.  Ball’s in their court.  We welcome a chance to play them.”"

While many Texas Tech fans love the hubris Hocutt displays in this quote, it’s an unnecessary jab at a program that doesn’t give a damn about Texas Tech (and never has) and it comes across as a move of desperation similar to a kid on the playground pulling the hair of a girl just to try to get her to notice him.  Texas has moved on and set its sights elsewhere.  Tech and Hocutt should do the same.

After all, we already know from the actions of Texas A&M that a program with an overinflated sense of self-worth that considers itself above Texas Tech is not going to have any motivation to keep alive a series that can do nothing but (in their minds) bring them negative results.

In fact, since Tech and A&M have resided in different conferences, the Aggies have actively angled to avoid playing the Red Raiders in football or basketball, cowardice that has been facilitated by the powers that be in the S.E.C. administration office who have kept the two in-state rivals from meeting in a bowl game or the now-defunct men’s basketball Big 12/S.E.C. challenge.

So why would Hocutt expect the relationship with Texas to take a different path?  Why angle to try to keep it alive when there is obviously no desire on the part of the other party?

I’m not one of those people who is going to act like the series with UT means nothing.  Some in Raiderland have an attitude of “forget them” or “I don’t care if we ever play Texas again”.

For the rest of us, it is sad to see such an important part of the Texas Tech football program’s history come to an end.  Even if the series has yielded only 18 wins in the 72 times it has been played, it is a special week for Texas Tech fans and the game that produces the most passion and intensity among the folks in scarlet and black.

Indeed, this series has given us some of the most memorable moments in Tech history such as the Michael Crabtree catch in 2008, the double-pass from Kliff Kingsbury to Mickey Peters to Wes Welker to seal the 2002 win, the “Little People Big World” trick play featuring Jakeem Grant in 2015, or even the famous 1976 Billy Taylor fourth-quarter dive into the endzone in Lubbock.  Had any of those plays happened against BYU or Central Florida, they would have been noteworthy but not iconic in the lore of Texas Tech football.  But because they took down the Longhorns, those plays are going to be talked about forever by Tech fans.

It is disappointing to lose opportunities for more unforgettable moments against Texas but that’s the reality that everyone in Lubbock, especially Hocutt, must accept.  He’s already laid all of his cards on the table.  As he said to Hummer, he’s put the ball in Texas’ court.  Now, it’s time for him to stop expecting or trying to get the Horns to return it.  It isn’t going to happen.

In one sense, Hocutt is correct.  Texas is scared.  Not necessarily scared of Texas Tech though.  Del Conte knows that his program is taking a huge competitive risk by joining the toughest conference in the nation and the possibility of Texas following the paths of irrelevance that Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri have traveled after leaving the Big 12 is real as they replace Kansas, Iowa State, and West Virginia with Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Florida, Auburn, and Tennessee (among others) as conference opponents.

Thus, why would Texas be motivated to play a losable non-conference game every year, especially one against a team in their own state that will play its heart out to beat them?  Also, why give a program that Texas perceives as a little brother a chance to rise up and gain a greater status by knocking the Horns off of their pedestal?  For Texas, it truly is a no-win proposition.  Any Texas Tech fan willing to look logically at the situation must realize that.  The same goes for Hocutt.

What Hocutt can’t do is keep taking shots at Del Conte and the Horns, even when he’s asked about it by media members looking for a soundbite or noteworthy fodder for a Tweet.  Everyone involved in the situation knows how Tech feels about this situation and that the desire to tangle with the Horns will never die in Lubbock.

Even if Hocutt feels that Texas backed out of a verbal agreement to keep this series alive (as has been reported) it’s time for him to let it go.  Move on.  Don’t play the role of the jilted lover anymore.

Rather, focus on the immediate future of the Texas Tech football program.  That’s a future that is as bright as it’s been in over a decade and one that could see the Red Raiders become one of the dominant programs of the new Big 12.  That’s a future that everyone in the 806 can be excited about.  So why focus on fruitlessly trying to keep the past alive?

All good things end and that’s obviously going to be the case with Tech’s series against the Longhorns.  However, that doesn’t mean that the good times are over for the Red Raiders.  In fact, with Joey McGuire at the helm, we might be on the precipice of the best times most Tech fans have ever seen.  Even if that future doesn’t include any more wins over Texas.