One of the best events on the calendar in Lubbock is the annual Red Raider Club Kickoff Luncheon as it signals the start of another year for not only the Texas Tech football program but the entire athletic department. Wednesday, that tradition continued in an event defined by overwhelming confidence and big talk from various speakers, including the man in charge of the Big 12, Brett Yormark.
Visiting Lubbock for the first time in about a year, Yormark spoke about the strides the conference has made in his first year on the job including a new media rights deal, the addition of the Big 12 Mexico series for football and basketball, the creation of a Big 12 Football Pro Day Scouting Combine next spring, and of course, the addition of four new schools for the 2024-25 academic year.
What was most interesting, though, was Yormark’s admission that it was the conference’s goal to get Texas and Oklahoma out of the conference a year earlier than originally planned.
"“Candidly, we were able to get Texas and Oklahoma out a year early,” he said. “That was a big deal for us and, I think, all of you.”"
The Commissioner then spoke to Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire about the Red Raiders’ regular-season finale in Austin on Thanksgiving weekend.
"“And coach, I’m not gonna put any pressure on you but I’m gonna be in Austin for Thanksgiving,” he said, “and you better take care of business like you did right here in Lubbock last year.”"
Yormark’s comments were a huge hit with the Red Raider faithful and underscored an overall theme of not only optimism about Texas Tech football but also a brash confidence that this program and this athletic department have not exuded in ages.
McGuire, Hocutt, and Texas Tech players convey a new level of bravado
There’s no denying that the Texas Tech football program is riding a new wave of boldness in year two of the McGuire era. However, it isn’t a manufactured or concocted attitude the likes of which we have seen previous Red Raider football head coaches try to present to the public in seasons when everyone knew that the roster was not good enough to compete for a conference title.
Rather, the belief permeating through the program in 2023 is genuine, just like the man who has led this rebuild.
"Speaking about the week-one game with Wyoming, McGuire said, “…the nation is going to get to see what we are all about. We’re going to put the brand on display. We’re going to be the toughest, hardest working, most competitive team and I can’t wait to play Wyoming because I want the rest of the nation to understand [that] they are on notice because the Red Raiders are ready to take control of this conference…”"
Words of that weight and significance have rarely been uttered by Texas Tech football coaches, perhaps never. They are proof that McGuire believes in what he has built in Lubbock and he doubled down on that sentiment later in the event.
"When asked about his slogan for this year, “60 minutes of us”, McGuire said as he recounted a conversation he had with senior defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings, “I’ve had [the slogan]…you weren’t ready for it. We weren’t good enough to play 60 minutes of us, of exactly who we want to [be]…we’re there now. We’re going to play 60 minutes of the brand.”"
Those remarks came just moments after QB Tyler Shough, defensive tackle Tony Bradford, and safety Dadrion Taylor-Demerson spoke in a Q-and-A format. Interestingly, Shough did not hold back when talking about the week-two matchup against his former school, Oregon.
"“I think, for me, we’re going to treat it like any other game,” he said. “I know my family is excited but for me, I’m ready to go beat their ass, honestly.”"
Though the coaching staff that Shough played for in Eugene is no longer at Oregon nor are most of the players he teamed with, that game will undoubtedly be ultra-meaningful for the super-senior. Apparently, he isn’t afraid of giving the Ducks some bulletin board material, either.
The tone of the event was set by AD Kirby Hocutt, though. Never one to shy away from bold claims or sharing grandiose plans, he fired up the fan base by claiming that this is the time for Texas Tech athletics to make a huge move.
"“Red Raider nation, it is our time,” he said. “It is our time to step forward and to elevate in a way that it just feels different this year.”"
Certainly, with season tickets sold out for football, baseball, and basketball, there is proof that the Texas Tech fan base is fully invested in the athletic department in a way that rivals anything we’ve ever seen in the university’s century of existence. The old attitude of Texas Tech being a plucky underdog and a feisty little startup school from out in the badlands of West Texas is giving way to the conviction that this athletic department can be a major force across the NCAA landscape.
The money that is being poured into Texas Tech athletics, the passion of the fan base, and the quality of the people leading the programs have all combined to birth a level of expectation that I’ve never seen in a quarter century of being a part of the Red Raider family and soon, we will get to see those expectations become reality.
The 2023-24 Texas Tech athletic season is upon us. Let’s ride, and Wreck ‘Em!