I still remember Spring days as an undergrad and hearing reports of coaches from other schools traveling to Lubbock to see Texas Tech's spring practices and to learn the air-raid system. It always seemed a little odd to me that other coaches would come from various schools from around the country and even more so that Coach Leach would let them. That's the great thing most people missed about Mike Leach. He didn't care. He was in it to change college football and he didn't care how many people knew his system. He was so confident in it and his players executing it that he probably wouldn't have minded telling the opposing team what play he was going to run. He'd just say.. "try to stop us".
Now back then, most programs, media and pro teams shrugged off the spread as a gimmick that occasionally works, but can't stack up against a fundamentally sound defense. The lack of a running game would produce high rates of turnovers and quick three and outs. Little did anyone know that this idea and offense would spread like wild fire. Not just by other coaches learning about the spread directly from Tech, but by the coaches hired away from Tech who would implement the system in programs from coast to coast as I've covered in the first two installments. Now, because incoming Freshman this year were 11 years old in 2008, let's take a look at the Man and the Legend that put Texas Tech on the map.
Kliff Kingsbury (1999-2002), Currently: Texas Tech Head Coach
Kingsbury himself would tell you that he owes everything to Texas Tech. An unknown talent from New Braunsfels didn't have many offers out of high school as a QB. Spike Dykes ended up offering Kingsbury just before signing day and the rest is Texas Tech mythos. Kingsbury is still regarded by some to be the greatest Tech QB of all-time considering he was the original QB during the rise of the Red Raiders in the 2000's. Though by comparison, his numbers are slightly lower than many of his counterparts today, he was at the beginning of a movement still going to this day. After his playing career ended, he was offered a job by Dana Holgorsen at Houston. Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator there and Kingsbury fell in love with teaching and mentoring players. As soon as Holgorsen left for OSU in 2010, Kingsbury was named offensive coordinator by then head coach Kevin Sumlin. The jump from quality control to offensive coordinator in just two years would give you all the indication you would need on his career path.
When Sumlin took the head job in College Station, he brought Kingsbury with him and with a better stock of players and guidance to one Johnny Manziel, he helped transform Texas A&M from a 6-6 team in 2011 to an 11-2 team, ranked #5 in the nation and helped a freshman win the Heisman trophy. Kingsbury's stock was off the chart and when Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati, the match was too perfect to pass up. The King had returned. So pumped was the student body that on a chilly December night, students stormed Memorial Circle. Chants of Raider Power echoed through campus and it had seemed the nightmare of the previous 3 years had finally ended.
After jumping out to a 7-0 record during his first season, the extent of damage that Tuberville had done to the program started to become evident. Since his 7-0 start, Kingsbury has gone just 6-13, but it seems that brighter days are just on the horizon. With the deepest defense since 2010, stability at QB, and a program hungry for the success that once came so easily, Kingsbury's epic tail of savior might be fulfilled after all.
Mike Leach (2000-2009), Currently: Washington State Head Coach
Love him or hate him, there is no denying what Mike Leach meant to Texas Tech. For some, he was the reason why Texas Tech was on the map. For others, he was what was keeping Tech from taking the next step. Lost on most people was the 10 years of winning records, the prolific offenses, the upsets and the comebacks, but most of all... the fear instilled in the rest of the Big 12. Mike Leach is the all-time leader in wins at Texas Tech with 84 wins. (For those bad at math that is 8.4 wins a season over the 10 years he was at Tech.) The culture he developed in Lubbock is undeniable as well. Even today there is still a pirate feeling in the air of the Jones as if it's in the brick and will remain their forever just waiting to be reawakened. That same culture helped Tech overcome huge deficits (Something teams since haven't been able to do) and always had Tech fans believing that no matter what the score, the game was still within reach. That was no more evident than in 2006 bowl game against Minnesota where down 38-7 half way through the 3rd quarter and ended up winning 44-41. It was a sign of things to come with Harrell at the helm and a certain WR named Crabtree waiting in the wings.
Beyond his off-beat humor, speaking style and thought process was someone that brought to Texas Tech everything that we love today. It's hard to believe that there are students now at Tech that have expectations for the football team, but don't know why those expectations exist. Surely they realize that three, 8 win seasons over 5 years don't translate into the high expectations, increased budgets, renovations and sell-out crowds that Tech has year in and year out. It pains me to think of how the Jones was left quite empty on more than one big game during Leach's time because it was such a forgone conclusion of how it would turn out.
We won't get into his dismissal, but today he is at Washington State trying to instill the same culture. The talent pool in Pullman is even more sparse than it is in Lubbock. But even still, he still has the team believing and a culture that they are never out of a game.
The more time distances itself from Leach's dismissal and especially with the previous administration gone, it is my hope that eventually Mike Leach will be brought back to Lubbock to be honored for all that he did to get Tech to where it is today and for all he has done in helping influence college football.
In case you missed it here was CBS bringing the nation's attention to Texas Tech and Mike Leach:
Tech Grads Running Programs: Kliff Kingsbury (Tech), Art Briles (Baylor), Sonny Dykes (Cal)
Tech Grads Running Offenses: Eric Morris (Tech), Sonny Cumbie (TCU), Lincoln Riley (OU), Dave Nichol (East Carolina)
Other Tech Grads Coaching: Joel Filani (WSU), Graham Harrell (WSU), Mike Smith (Tech), Kevin Curtis (Tech), Trey Haverty (Tech), Garrett Riley (East Carolina), Clay McGuire (WSU),
People may not like it and some may deny it, but nevertheless Texas Tech has shaped and is still shaping the landscape of college football, both directly and indirectly.