It seems that us Texas Tech fans will never catch a break. The wounds we have endured for countless number of heartbreaks just can't fully heal. This reoccurring notion was renewed this morning when it was announced Head Basketball Coach Chris Beard was leaving the 806 for his alma mater in Austin. After the gut-wrenching loss to Arkansas in the Round of 32, it was speculated that Beard would pack up in hopes of joining the Longhorns. The speculation widened when former University of Texas head basketball coach Shaka Smart was hired by Marquette. This led to Lubbock businesses and Lubbockites rallying to do whatever it took to keep Beard at Tech with countless incentives. No matter what desperate attempts were made to keep the beloved king of West Texas in Lubbock, nothing was enough to keep Beard from heading to Texas.
Now, this move may have came as a shock to the Tech fan base. In the back of my mind, I knew that this would eventually happen, but I will admit the timing threw me off guard. But Texas played their cards right. The stars aligned to what seems as a match made in heaven for the Longhorn faithful. With Smart leaving for Marquette (more than likely, he was pushed out of Austin in order to make a move for Beard) and Beard's buyout dropping to four million dollars on this day, there was no better time to bring Beard on board than now. It was circulated online that Texas was even willing to offer Beard more than Texas' new head football coach Steve Sarkisian. I firmly believe even if that won't be the case, it wouldn't have mattered to Chris Beard. I feel that Beard wanted out, and what matters to him now is that he's truly home.
With Texas doing everything right, it makes the Tech faithful wonder: "Where did we go wrong?" The truth is there wasn't much Tech could have done to prevent this. What happened today was inevitable. If it wasn't going to happen soon, it was definitely going to happen later. We can spend time stewing at Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt for allowing this mess to happen, but I don't know what else he could have done. If you the reader have a logical and beneficial solution, let me know. But when Kirby earlier offered Beard a lifetime contract, Beard showed no interest in such things and when Beard left, Kirby noted that Beard left no room for a counteroffer from Tech. Let's not kid ourselves. As much as it appeared Chris Beard loved Tech and the people of West Texas, Tech was always going to be a step ladder for greater opportunities like a blue blood or Texas. As I saw Roy Williams retire from North Carolina today, I could help but think that the Tar Heels would make a move for Beard. Why not? He's been one of the hottest names in college basketball the past four years. Obviously, Texas made their move before UNC could make an offer, but the fact of the matter is if it wasn't Texas, it was eventually going to be a traditional powerhouse like UNC. Roy Williams' retirement could just be the beginning of what we could expect from the likes of Kansas' Bill Self, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and Kentucky's John Calipari.
Before today, I thought Beard going to Texas made no sense. Even though Texas is his alma mater, I thought that he wouldn't fit in such place. Austin in my eyes will always be a burning dumpster fire, and it seems Beard embodies the spirit of West Texas more than he does the spirit of Austin. On top of that, it seemed that Texas would always prioritize its mediocre football program over everything else. The notion that football is king in the state of Texas is true and will remain true for quite some time. But after reflecting on this today, this hire makes a lot more sense. Texas has way more money that Texas Tech could ever dream of acquiring. Texas wasn't going to stop at the fact that Beard was already one of the most highest paid coaches in the nation under Tech. Money is the one thing that Texas will never run out of. Also, the name "University of Texas" is a lot more appealing to recruits than "Texas Tech University." This name will always be a factor when it boils down to young recruits picking their future school. It is a lot easier convincing young men to play at Texas than it is Texas Tech. Texas all of the sudden is now trying to slingshot itself to relevancy in the basketball world. A smart move, especially with the fact that Texas football is starting to slowly dwindle from its spot on top of the college football world.
A lot of fans have felt a flurry of mixed emotions regarding Beard's departure. Whatever Tech fans feel, it is rightfully so. It's rightful to feel betrayed. After all, Texas is our most hated foe (It's a bit hard to say rivalry especially in regards to football) and the fact that Texas is more successful than us at almost everything (Kiss our meat judging natties, Texas) infuriates Tech fans. We can always count on the bandwagoners and Wal-Mart t-shirt fans of Texas to flaunt all of their history and success in our faces, and the feeling of jealously slaps even the most righteous of Tech fans in the face. It's also right to feel mad, whether directed at Beard or Hocutt. As much as I want to level with Hocutt, he does deserve a lot of frustration from Tech fans for how poor this debacle has been handled. It's even right to be happy that Beard left. Since the 2019 National Championship run, we haven't seen a whole lot come out of Beard and Co. despite picking up big time names like Jahmi'us Ramsey and Mac McClung (although to be fair, we have no idea what would have happened in 2020 because of the pandemic). We haven't seen anything come close to that 2019 team that put Beard on the heights of fame, glory, and a big-time paycheck. But the departure leaves to the imagination what could have been if Beard was to stay another or even two more seasons.
Whatever we feel, the fact of the matter is Texas Tech athletics is on the verge of once again becoming irrelevant. To make matters worse, Tech is still to remain the red-headed step-child to the hated University of Texas, as today's hire obviously added insult to injury. I think no matter how passionate of a fan you are, we can all agree Tech will never ever be a football powerhouse, especially under Matt Wells. That ship sailed long ago after the firing of Mike Leach. And as much as we love Tim Tadlock and the baseball program, I think the unspoken truth is the leniency is slowly wearing out for Tech fans with four College World Series appearances and no national championships (although this current season is still young). And I think Tech fans do not want to settle for being known as a "baseball school." So what can we do? We can only wait. We must wait on the one man who is in the hottest seat in Texas. The decision on who should succeed Chris Beard solely lies in the hands of Kirby Hocutt, who has already been criticized for his ill-advised hires of Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Wells. As I have already mentioned, some fans have already pointed the fingers at Hocutt for his failure to keep the most important man to the university in Lubbock. I honestly don't know who will be the next head coach for Texas Tech. I don't even have a preference at this point. Right now, I can only hope and pray that whatever happens, we'll see Texas Tech hang on to some sort of relevancy in this dark time. But if we find relevancy, it needs to be found very quickly. The wounds that Tech fans endure every season regardless of the sport seem to never heal. If this fresh wound left by Chris Beard's departure doesn't heal soon, I fear this will be a very dark decade for the Red Raider faithful and could leave a permanent impact on Tech athletics for years to come. Faith in Texas Tech sports is dying in Lubbock. It is dying to where even the most loyal fans, alumni, and donors are turning away. I am confident when I say the next head coaching hire for the Red Raider basketball program will arguably be the most important hire in the history of Texas Tech athletics. The implications are staggering, and the fate of hope for Texas Tech now hang in the balance.