I used to joke with my friends that Texas Tech was a basketball school. Now, three years later, those words that were a joke are now a legitimate statement. At that point in 2015, everyone was still excited about Kliff Kingsbury and the dumpster fire he would lead. It was still a football school even though the program was in a slump. Little did I or anyone else know, someone would come along and shift the paradigm of Texas Tech sports.
BREAKING: Texas Tech has hired UNLV's Chris Beard, sources told @CBSSports.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 15, 2016
Tubby Smith left. Going to Memphis, a job he proclaimed as a Top-25 job. I honestly thought a tournament loss in the first round would be the best performance that I would see in my years at Texas Tech.
I was wrong.
At that point, the basketball team was looking for a new coach and losing a couple of their key contributors from a tournament team. This team was still young and they needed the right coach. At the same time, this football program seemed to be on the way up. We had a legitimate quarterback (and future NFL MVP), still had a charismatic coach and a defensive coordinator that looked to make an impact.
It looked like these two programs were going to be going in different directions. But I was wrong, we were wrong. Hiring Chris Beard shifted the power struggle. In 2016 and even after the team didn’t make a tournament in his first year I was skeptical, I’m not gonna lie. But Beard made me and everyone else in this school and in this fan base believers.
Going into 2017-2018, I was excited. I had just gotten a new gig that would allow me to talk about the things I already tell everyone I know about. I thought this team could be special and people were baffled. I won’t go into names or specifics but most people outside of the program thought I was a kid just reaching for attention in his first week writing.
Why this year’s basketball team could be the best in Tech history https://t.co/Ipd1xL1weK— SB Nation College (@sbncollege) November 7, 2017
I hate to brag on myself but I was right (editor’s note: he was right). This team went on to be special and as the team got better, I realized that there might be something here that could dethrone the so called “king sport” in Texas, football. We beat Kansas, then we beat West Virginia, then we won a game in the Big 12 Tournament, we got a three seed in the NCAA Tournament and made the Elite 8.
Oh my. Isn’t this the type of performance we were promised from the football program?
At this point, I thought this was a special team and that they might be able to make some noise in the tournament. They did and it was a great run that made the fan base and the nation aware of this team, this program.
The off-season was great. A first round NBA draft pick, a solid recruiting class, what looked like a ton of improvement. But this program didn’t get the respect it deserved. At least on a national or even a conference scale. This team was picked to finish 7th again.
I started out this school year as a football fan. I thought positively thinking, “Kingsbury will turn this around.”
Once again, I was wrong.
An okay September turned into a great start to October. Once again it looked like football was going to outshine basketball. October 19th was when the Big 12 Preseason Poll was released. Texas Tech was picked to finish 7th, again. On October 20th, Texas Tech won it’s final game of the season and the final game under Kliff Kingsbury.
These dates are significant. It shows that even 5 months ago, this school had a football first mindset. The football team was 5-2 and it looked like the basketball team was due for a slight if not significant decline. Oh how things have changed. We all know what happened next, the football team loses five in a row and Matt Wells is introduced as the new Head Football Coach not a week after the season ends.
While all of this is going on, it appears as though the basketball team is actually performing quite well. Winning their first 7 games and none of them have been close, including a big win over ranked Nebraska and a USC team experts thought would be in the tournament over Texas Tech (LOL).
The moment came. The time for football to be put at the wayside and for basketball to rise to the top. Ironically, it came during a loss. A top-10 match-up against Duke made headlines. Yes, the Red Raiders lost, but the team showed they could compete with the best of the best. When the teams originally scheduled the game in July, most people thought that Duke would run over us that it was nice we were finally getting some recognition but that was it.
Jimmy Butler and Trae Young pulled up to MSG to watch Duke-Texas Tech tonight pic.twitter.com/mMWOjCbNvY— FanDuel (@FanDuel) December 21, 2018
This energized the fan base. It made them realize that one program in this school (besides baseball) that could win against anyone. Big 12 attendance was huge. It was really incredible to watch from literally across the street as people poured into the United Supermarkets Arena and fans were waiting outside, cheering on the Red Raiders. That’s something I hadn’t seen at a football game in a long while. Fans were actually staying too, not just through the first half, not just through the third quarter, but through the entire game not matter if we were up by 3 or 30.
It is really a beautiful sight to see that arena filled to capacity, especially after no one wanted to come see this football team at the end of the season. Basketball is the sport now. It passed football because of one glorious man and his emphasis on fans and culture in the LBK: Coach Chris Beard.
Build the bronze statue.