An Idiot’s Guide to Winning Big 12 Games at Texas Tech
Texas Tech Football is in a bad spot. I think that's an obvious statement. But it's time for some honest-to-goodness hard truths and introspection.
The national perception is that Lubbock sucks. You can Google "most boring town" or "town with worst weather" and get hits for the city. That, in turn, makes the national perception that Texas Tech is a very hard place to recruit at.
Before you get all over my case, this is just the national perception. The fact is that oftentimes, perception is reality. The Athletic had a piece earlier this year where Texas Tech got top-five votes for the toughest job in the Power 5. Why? One anonymous assistant coach said, "Impossible to recruit there so you have to be very unique offensively to make any noise."
Another national viewpoint on the job that's open at Texas Tech came from Pat Forde in a column where he discussed the worst jobs in the Power 5 a few weeks back. He said: "Texas Tech aspires to do better, but should it?"
If you watched the Texas Tech vs Oklahoma game on Saturday, you probably heard announcer Dusty Dvoracek say that Texas Tech should know their place in the Big 12 or something to that effect.
Immediately after the firing of head coach Matt Wells, the premier color analyst for most of the big games in the conference tweeted this:
Here's what the national media wants to tell Texas Tech fans when they tweet stuff like this: You are destined to be underwater in the Big 12. You are what your record says you are. You shouldn't try to improve. Just accept that the two men referenced by Joel Klatt were a combined 26-52 in Big 12 play and under .500 against P5 opponents outside of the conference, too.
The national perspective is that Texas Tech is at home finishing 9th in the Big 12. In fact, Dvoracek went as far as saying that Mike Leach caught lightning in a bottle during his time at Texas Tech and that the university will be hard-pressed to replicate that success.
Here's the hard truth part: Texas Tech has absolutely been trying to operate a ninth-place program expecting top half of the conference results. It hasn't worked. Texas Tech hired cheap when it went for the hotshot coordinator that was a former QB at the school. Then, it hired cheap when it transplanted an entire Mountain West coaching staff to the Big 12.
David Yost and Keith Patterson were paid 125 and 126 best (respectively) in the country out of assistants as reported by USA Today in 2020. They were 17th and 18th in the Big 12 among other assistants. Now if you doubled those two salaries, you wouldn't have doubled production, but if you had a coordinator that was in demand you'd be paying them to stay in Lubbock, not just to coach football games.
Matt Wells ranked 50th in the same publication, which ranks near the bottom of the P5 for head coaching salaries, but is in line with the bottom half of the Big 12.
It hasn't just been coaching salaries that have lagged behind the rest of the conference. Recruiting budgets, facilities, day-to-day staffing and more have all fallen behind the competitive schools in the P5. The good news for Texas Tech fans is that Kirby Hocutt and the Board of Regents have identified this as a problem and are committed to fixing it. Case in point: the facilities are already being upgraded with plans to demolish and rebuild the football facility after a generous donation from Dustin Womble got that ball rolling.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal sportswriter Don Williams outlined last week that it wasn't just the facilities that were getting the bump. Williams' column addressed many of Texas Tech's financial pitfalls in the program over the last decade, saying, "A source familiar with Tech's internal discussions said the investment in salaries and football staff will be 'top of the (Big 12) conference' after Oklahoma and Texas make their moves for the Southeastern Conference."
The same column said that the next coach would get whatever he wanted within reason. "We're going to have all that we need," Williams' source told him. "Whatever the coach wants that you can put to productive use, we're going to have it."
Why did it take a decade of losing to decide to put a big influx of money into the most important athletic program on campus? I don't know the answer to that, but I have some thoughts. Texas Tech waited for Men's Basketball to win before truly investing. Tim Tadlock was a proven winner, then he was rewarded in kind.
I think Texas Tech has been waiting to reward a coach in football, but nobody has stepped up to the plate. There are also two men who have stepped up in Dustin R. Womble and Cody Campbell and they are leading the charge financially in ways that Texas Tech just hasn't seen boosters do in the recent past.
That leads me to my three-step guide to winning Big 12 games at Texas Tech.
Step one: Invest in the program.
Check. At the very least, it's been promised.
Step two: Recruit better players.
Texas Tech has recruited poorly in the last decade, but it's gotten considerably worse in recent years. Including the current 2022 class, Texas Tech has one class inside the top 50. This year's class is currently rated 75th in the nation, with just nine commits just over a month away from signing day.
Programs that I would say Texas Tech should be competing with are destroying them in recruiting. Baylor currently has 19 kids committed to the program, with 11 of them listed inside the top 150 recruits in the state of Texas, according to 247sports.com. Oklahoma State has 14 recruits, but five are listed as 4-star prospects. West Virginia currently has the 23rd ranked class in the nation. Iowa State is listed as the 26th best class.
Yes, there have been coaching and scheme issues that have cost Texas Tech some wins, but the talent level is undeniably lacking when it comes to quantifiable numbers.
There are some who point to Mike Leach's recruiting numbers at Texas Tech, saying he did more with less, but I'd argue that recruiting services are more accurate now than they were in the mid-2000s. The numbers also say that Leach was consistently recruiting better talent. He and his recruiting staff also had a keen eye for underrecruited talent that he turned into superstars to pair with certifiable superstars like Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.
Step three: Hire a great staff.
I didn't say this list was going to break any ground. It's not just a head coach, though. If Texas Tech is serious about this thing, they will go and get hot coordinators who are in demand for other jobs.
If you'll allow me to go back to Mike Leach again. It's not just that he was a great head coach that gave Texas Tech so much success during his run. He had Art Briles, Sonny Dykes, Dave Aranda, Dana Holgorsen, Lincoln Riley, (current Texas Tech interim head coach) Sonny Cumbie, Seth Littrell, Ruffin McNeill, and more all on staff in various roles during the tenure. All of those names went on to become head coaches to varying degrees of success.
To move to another touchy subject: Chris Beard continually hired coaches who would move on to bigger or better things after a year or two in Lubbock.
Kliff Kingsbury had Eric Morris, who moved on to a head coaching role. Former DBs coach Karl Scott was hired as defensive coordinator by Billy Napier before being scooped up by Nick Saban at Alabama.
How many guys are in high demand right now on the current staff? I'm not trying to deride the staff in any way; it's just another hard truth we're having to deal with here in Raiderland.
As important as the staff is as a whole, the man in charge is obviously going to set the tone. Here's my list of coaching candidates. Fair warning: the list starts very serious and gets more absurd as it goes on.