“This is not a setback, this is a change in direction.”
Kirby Hocutt’s hybrid of anger and optimism in today’s press conference was admirable as a Texas Tech fan, but I have an issue with the mantra he repeated throughout his speech.
Tech doesn’t need a change in direction. The direction we were going under Chris Beard was up. A change in direction would mean a change for the worse.
In fact, Tech basketball became so prominent in the Big 12, so beloved by the Red Raider community, that we all started to grow indifferent about the miseries of our football program. We were this close to becoming North Carolina, Duke and Kansas in terms of how we prioritized and valued our sports. Once we saw ourselves as equals to the sport’s blue bloods, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the nation agreed.
Now, Tech may be in a bit of an identity crisis once again.
If we aren’t good at football, and we return to the Big 12 basement in basketball, then what are we as an athletic department? I’m a huge baseball fan. I’ve pushed for Tech to embrace the identity as a baseball school for years and I’ve always been met with significant resistance. Tech fans love their baseball program, but they don’t appear to have any interest in becoming a baseball school in the same way a Cal State Fullerton or Vanderbilt would.
But heaven forbid Tech puts together a dismal basketball season next year after hiring an underwhelming head coach and the exodus of its top players. We can’t be certain Red Raider fans and students will continue to pack the United Supermarkets Arena. They’ve already abandoned Jones AT&T Stadium.
The pressure on Hocutt is immense. This will be the hire that determines his future as athletic director and the future of Tech athletics as a whole. Matt Wells isn’t looking like the savior of the football program, though we’ll give him more time to prove otherwise. If this next basketball coach doesn’t pick up where Beard left off, the fan base is going to be livid and even worse, without a major money-making program to support.
We were happy during the Mike Leach era, even though the basketball team was abysmal. We were happy during the Chris Beard era, even though the football team was a joke.
If neither program is giving cause for Red Raider fans to be happy, then we’ve lost all momentum as an athletic department.
The next basketball hire is important because if it’s the wrong one, we lose our identity as a basketball school. And in the spirit of realism, we’ve tried the “football school” thing. It doesn’t work. Not in today’s college football landscape. We just can’t compete. Not at the level Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State can. But basketball, that’s our only refuge. That is the only place we’ve proven we can rise to the top of the game. We were seconds away from a national title. We are lightyears away from a College Football Playoff berth.
It’s paramount we retain our identity as a basketball school. Otherwise, we’re just a school.
That happens to play sports.