By many accounts, the 2008 season was the most successful in recent memory. The Red Raiders started the season 10-0 behind the brilliant efforts of Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree, producing the most memorable game in school history, beating the then number one ranked Texas Longhorns after ESPN’s College Gameday visited campus. Ranked second in the country at one point, Tech finished 11-1 with a Cotton Bowl bid.
Seasons like this open the booster’s wallets, and Tech saw an influx of donations after this season. Then AD Gerald Myers and chancellor Kent Hance took that money and unintentionally set the Texas Tech program back in terms of recruiting for many years to come. Myers and Hance put that money towards expanding the east side of Jones AT&T Stadium.
"We are obviously very excited about the plans to expand the east side of the stadium," Hance said at the time. "With our football program in the national spotlight this season, now is the perfect opportunity to get all our friends and supporters behind this project."
That decision was great for the fans, but really hurt recruiting.
Players spend about 24 hours a year in the stadium (average of four-hour games times six homes games). But they spend as much as 60 hours a week in the practice facilities, including the off-season and spring practice. Recruits now more than ever want nice facilities. They want to be pampered like they’re pro athletes, and schools are constantly trying to “keep up with the Jones” in building bigger and better facilities.
Many say that Lubbock is in the middle of nowhere, and they’re right. But as I’ve said before, Lubbock may be isolated, but it isn’t desolate. But there are college towns around the country that are isolated and desolate, and they can recruit incredibly well. Why? Because they have incredible facilities.
A former college athlete I know once told me, “college athletes only care about two things, the locker rooms and the free clothes they get.” The school that figured this out and does it the best is Oregon. Have you seen Oregon’s facilities? If you haven’t, you need to check them out right now, because there isn’t a school in the country that competes. And while their facilities are incredible, Autzen leaves something to be desired, with few suites and many outdated aspects. Oregon and Phil Knight take care of the players, not the fans. Because if the players produce, the fans will show up no matter what.
Texas Tech currently is the only school in the Big 12 without an indoor football facility. Yes, Kansas has one. And while Kirby Hocutt is currently making that situation right, recruiting would have looked a lot different over the last 10 years had Hance and Myers built one, as well as upgrading the practice facility lockers rooms which will also soon get a makeover, instead of adding more suites.
A couple schools that have written the blueprint are TCU and Baylor. And while I hesitate to compare Texas Tech in any way to Baylor, and even say I commend the way they did something in football, when it comes to the order they built their facilities, they did it correctly. Baylor had one of the worst stadiums in the country. An outdated, off-campus stadium that they had to use tarps to cover up seats they couldn’t sell out, Baylor raised money for better on-campus football facilities instead of a new stadium. They upgraded their locker rooms and student athlete lounges and built a state-of-the-art indoor facility. Because of this they got commitments from Robert Griffin III and a couple other program changers that helped produce on-field results. Once the results on the field were up to the boosters standards, the money poured in for a new stadium.
TCU did the same thing, building an incredible practice facility and new locker rooms which helped bring talent to Fort Worth. That talent turned into multiple 10 win seasons, and when they wanted to upgrade their stadium, they raised $164 million in just a couple months.
The blueprint is simple. Give talent a reason to come to your school with great facilities, that talent will produce wins on the field, and then money will flow in to upgrade the stadium. Take care of the student athletes and those student athletes will take care of everyone else. Like it or not, big money likes a winning team more than a nice stadium. I haven’t heard too many arguments settled with a, “well we have a nicer stadium,” rather than a, “well we beat you on the field.”
I believe Kliff Kingsbury and Kirby Hocutt know how important these new facilities are. I also believe the new facilities are selling themselves. Don’t believe me? Check out where Texas Tech ranks in the 2018 recruiting rankings -- the first class that will be able to take advantage of the new facilities from the time they step foot on campus.
Don’t get me wrong -- facilities aren’t everything. Players need to buy into the coaches, the scheme and the school. But upgrading the places that these student-athletes spend most of their time doesn’t hurt.
I am in the camp of 100 percent believing in Kliff Kingsbury and his vision, and I think the facilities will only help make that vision become a reality. Too bad Hance and Myers didn’t have that same vision, and cared more about their donors’ comfort than their student athletes.