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Texas Tech football: Five years into the future

Kingsbury likely won’t be here in 2022, but let’s not pretend the program will significantly decline - or improve - in the near future.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a story about a man from a small town who wore the same pair of shoes every day for 10 years. They were the only shoes he ever purchased and he loved them with everything he had. Although they were torn, beaten, and effectively useless, the man never replaced them.

Everyone in the town figured he couldn’t afford a nice pair of shoes, so one day, members of the community pooled their money together and bought the nicest kicks on the market. They were name-brand, super comfortable and stylish, and would make the man run faster and jump higher.

The people eagerly approached the man and told him, “We wanted to surprise you with these amazing new shoes! Your feet will no longer ache with each step, and you will be able to run like the wind!” The man looked at the shoes, paused, and proceeded to yell at the group, “What the hell is wrong with you people?! I would NEVER take my shoes off, not for anything in the world!” He grabbed the shoes and tossed them into a garbage can, and ran away as best he could.

I’m not trying to say the man in the story is a direct representation of Texas Tech fans, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Red Raider faithful, it’s that they don’t like change.

They want the same coach, the same playing style, the same stadium in the same location. They would rather be 7-6 every season for the next century than abandon their identity. Ask a Tech fan if they would rather win a game 14-6 running out of the I-formation or lose a game 76-68 using their beloved Air Raid offense. More often than not, they’ll choose the latter.

I think there’s something to admire in that intense level of pride, and I can say without fear of contradiction there aren’t many universities in the world that rival the school spirit among the Texas Tech fan and alumni base.

But even with the relentless desire from the fan base to stay the same, there are people in positions of power in the athletic department who aren’t as content as everyone else is with slightly above average records every year. Lately, it’s been below average records. The Red Raiders haven’t had a winning record in Big 12 conference play since 2009.

Tech’s year-by-year record under Kingsbury

2013 Kliff Kingsbury 8–5 4–5 6th
2013 Kliff Kingsbury 8–5 4–5 6th
2014 Kliff Kingsbury 4–8 2–7 8th
2015 Kliff Kingsbury 7–6 4–5 T-5th
2016 Kliff Kingsbury 5–7 3–6 T-6th

Since the Pride of Lubbock, Kliff Kingsbury, took over, the Red Raiders have compiled a pedestrian 24-26 overall record, 13-23 in the Big 12. So almost half of Tech’s wins during this stretch came from nonconference, softball opponents.

Kingsbury apologists will turn to his history with great quarterbacks as a testament to his value. This is a fallacy. Let’s look at that history:

“The Quarterback Whisperer”

Season Quarterback Result
Season Quarterback Result
2013 Mayfield Transferred
2013 Brewer Transferred
2013-2014 Webb Transferred
2015-2016 Mahomes Left for NFL Draft
2017 Duffey Suspended
2017 Shimonek ???

Everyone likes to point out the amazing talent of quarterbacks Kingsbury has coached, but they all neglect to mention he drove them all away one way or another. I’ll give a pass on Mahomes, but the rest of those quarterbacks? Come on. What is Kingsbury doing to make them all want to leave?

I say all this because this article is about where the Tech football program will be in five years, and I had to give an explanation on why I think the Red Raiders will be under new leadership in 2022. Yep. It would take a miracle season in 2017 for Tech to retain Kingsbury, and behind the arm of the unproven Nic Shimonek, I just don’t see a winning season coming to fruition.

The difficult prediction isn’t deciding whether Kingsbury will be here in five years, but rather who will replace him. Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has shown an eagerness to hire alumni, but there aren’t a whole lot of football geniuses out there ready for a head coaching role in Lubbock.

It would benefit Tech significantly if it tried hired a defensive-minded coach, and you likely won’t find one qualified from the alumni base. Tech would have to - gasp - look outside the program for someone (and in doing so, accept the fact that there’s a reasonable chance he would look for a better job after five successful years in Lubbock).

But let’s be realistic, Tech is much more liable to hire someone exactly like Kingsbury. A young, up-and-coming offensive guru to carry on the Air Raid tradition and give up 55 points per game in the process. The person who best fits that description is TCU co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who, to his credit, has done a remarkable job during his tenure in Fort Worth.

Under the new leadership of Cumbie or a similar coach, Tech will again enter a rebuilding mode as the new administration recruits its type of athletes. When Kingsbury took over, things got better before they got worse. He led the program to an 8-5 record in year one and landed a juicy contract before he proved he could maintain longevity in his success.

That’s a mistake Tech may be doomed to repeat, simply because it fears the blue-chip programs stealing away its coaches. I think Tech should embrace being a stepping stone school for talented coaches. It’s worked out well for Houston. Briles, Sumlin, Levine, Herman. It seems like every two or three years Houston has a new coach, and the Cougars just keep winning.

Since Kingsbury took over at Tech in 2013, the Houston Cougars have gone 8-5, 8-5, 13-1, and 9-4. They’re on their third head coach now. See? What’s wrong with being a stepping stone school?

In any case, I don’t expect Tech to flourish under new leadership simply because I don’t think they’ll make the right hire. In 2022, I see Tech stumbling to a 6-7 record as schools like Houston and TCU continue to strengthen their recruiting in the state, and as Texas returns to prominence under Tom Herman.

This shouldn’t sound like negative news for Tech fans, though. Remember, you hate change. You want your Tech alumni coaching the team, without making any changes to offensive styles or your recruiting methods. You want to be slightly above average with a win over Texas or Oklahoma every other year. This is what you’ve told me. ‘

Tech fans are the only Power-Five school followers I know that eagerly applaud their team after losing a close game. I know Red Raiders claim to be Wide Receiver U, but really, we should call it Moral Victory U. Did you know the successful schools in college football don’t cheer their players after losses? They demand excellence, they don’t say things like “good effort, boys,” or “I’m so proud.”

The New England Patriots have a culture of winning. Alabama football has a culture of winning. Oklahoma demands excellence in everything their players do. Texas Tech’s culture is a culture of complacency. If we win, we’re going to be elated. If we lose, oh well, we’re still proud of our boys. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t get mad at me when Tech is in the middle of its conference, five years from now, 10 years from now and indefinitely.