With the sudden departure of Coach Steve Sloan, once again, JT King and Texas Tech was faced with replacing the Head Football Coach. I’d like to call this the beginning of the dark years for the Red Raiders….
King promised to act quickly to replace the successful Sloan and vowed to have a name in nomination with 24 to 48 hours. The rumors spread quickly with the front runner being former Tech quarterback and current assistant coach at TAM, Tom Wilson. Wilson, a highly regarded member of Emery Bellard’s staff at Texas A&M, was well known, had a keen football mind, and was all but given the job by the press all over the state. He was actually in Lubbock the day that Sloan resigned.
A week later, it was announced that 36 year old Rex Dockery was the new Head Football Coach at Texas Tech. This announcement embarrassed a host of journalists and pundits. Dockery, a native of Tennessee, had graduated in 1965 from the University of Tennessee and had played tackle for the Vols. After three years of coaching in the high school ranks in his home state, Dockery joined the staff of Tennessee for a year under Bill Battle before spending similar time at Georgia Tech with Sloan and finally going to Vanderbilt with Sloan. He had joined Sloan’s staff at Tech as offensive coordinator for all three years. He was given much of the credit for the offensive success the Raiders enjoyed from 1975 thru 1977.
In Dockery’s first year as Head of the program at Tech, the Raiders set a school record in total offense and led the Southwest Conference averaging more than 400 yards per game. The following year, Dockery’s Raiders averaged 379 yards per game and in his final year, they averaged only 310 yards. After the 1978 season, he was named SWC Coach of the Year.
In his three seasons, Dockery compiled a 15-16-2 record with the likes of former Lubbock Monterey quarterback Ron Reeves and a little known tight end turned running back, James Hadnot. The 1980 season saw Dockery and the Raiders defeat then number 12 Texas 24-20 on November 1.
Hadnot had been recruited as a tight end to replace All-American Andre Tillman. However, due to a shortage of running backs, Dockery tried Hadnot in that position. The results were remarkable in that Hadnot ran for 1369 yards as a junior in 1978 and 1371 yards as a senior in 1979 – leading the SWC in both years.
John "Rex" Dockery left Tech at the end of the 1908 season for Memphis State (now University of Memphis) where he garnered a 8-24-1 record over three years. He was killed in a plane crash on December 12, 1983 in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee en route to a speaking engagement. Along with him in the plane were Memphis State freshman, Charles Greenhill, offensive coordinator, Chris Faros and booster Glenn Jones. In December of 1982, the playing surface of the Liberty Bowl in Memphis was renamed Rex Dockery Field.