Reports started coming in early yesterday morning that Matt Wells was the strong favorite to replace Kliff Kingsbury as Texas Tech’s Head Coach. After those early reports, no other name gained any momentum, and in the afternoon it was announced. Matt Wells will be the next head football coach in Lubbock.
I would be lying if I told you Wells was my first choice, he wasn’t. He wasn’t even a name I would have thought of. If Tech had gone another direction and Wells not ever been rumored for the job, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I was heavily in favor of going after a bigger name. Someone to refill the juice into Jones AT&T Stadium and get those beautiful weirdos in Lubbock excited again. Early on in the process, some big names came up. Mike Leach was one of them, as usual. I think there will always be interest to some degree on both sides, at least until Leach is no longer coaching. It will always feel like Leach was gone too soon, I know for a fact that many in Lubbock (including some deep pocket donors) feel like theres some unfinished business. But for now, it wasn’t realistic. Another big name mentioned was Art Briles… No, always no! The next two big names were my top two choices, and I think one of them were very realistic. First, Bob Stoops. If you’re reading this and are not plugged into the local rumor mill in Lubbock than you’re thinking I’m crazy here. But there was some real buzz here. It is believed that at the very least Kirby Hocutt made Stoops turn him down. And if you think about it, there would have been a lot of parallels to the Bobby Knight hire years ago. Older guy, wants to coach again, wants a lower stress job, has a good relationship with the AD… It seemed possible, but it didn’t happen. The last big name was by far the most realistic, and thats Dana Holgerson. It’s no secret that the relationship between Holgerson and the WVU administration is awkward at best. The ties Dana has to Texas Tech, his quirky personality, and his success at the Big12 level make him a natural fit. There were even multiple reports that claimed Dana was not only interested in the Tech job, but would have accepted it had Kirby offered him the position… More on that when we get to Wells.
After that group, there were a number of lesser known candidates. Some exciting, some not. The two guys that I assumed all along would be the leading candidates, Neal Brown and Seth Littrell, were mentioned. Another one of my early favorites for the job, Brent Venables, was named early on as a candidate but he shot it down pretty quickly. And then there was a group of 3 guys that I didn’t take very seriously. There was Mike Norvell- head coach at Memphis, Jim Leavitt- DC at Oregon and BY FAR my least favorite option, and the guy that ended up with the job, Matt Wells- now former head coach at Utah State.
If you know anything about Tech fans, you know that we are a rare breed of college fans. We want to be mentioned with the big dogs of the Big12 and we want our respect as a major Texas program. BUT we also want to be nothing like anyone else. We want to stick out for our weirdness, our mysterical charm that you really only understand if you know Lubbock. We also have a chip on our shoulders because of how the past decade has played out. As I mentioned in previous game preview blogs, we feel like as soon as we were becoming consistent in national relevance, Craig and Adam James took everything away from us and paved a way for the likes of TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma State to take our place as top dog in the Big12 to everyone outside of Austin and Norman.
It’s so easy to forget that Tech only trails by 5 in the all time head-to-head against Texas A&M, and has actually gotten the best of the Aggies for most of my lifetime, winning 11 out of 19 from 1993 to 2011. It’s also easy to forget that in the Mike Leach era, we basically beat Oklahoma every other year. I could go on and on about why this program deserves more historical respect than they get, but I won’t. What I have mentioned, hopefully should make you understand why Texas Tech fans are so partial to anything that could bring back the days of Mike Leach… It’s why every time we lose a game my twitter timeline is filled with “bring back the Pirate!!” It’s why every offseason since that first Tommy Tuberville season in 2010 has been littered with “rumors” about Leach returning to Lubbock. Its why for 2 years in a row now there has been a group of boosters pushing for Kirby to bring Leach back. It’s why everyone, including yours truly, was SO excited about the Kliff Kingsbury hire back in 2012. And finally, its why fans are currently trying to cope with the fact that we just hired a relatively unknown coach with no ties to Texas Tech over Dana Holgerson (Leach’s right hand man for 7 years in Lubbock).
Like I said at the beginning of this blog, Wells was not my first choice. But I can admit something that, for whatever reason, most fans can’t. I can admit that the only reason I hadn’t considered him as a top candidate is because I knew absolutely nothing about him. After I started to realize this was the guy that would likely be hired, I started to do some research. What I found is that Matt Wells is absolutely qualified for this job no matter how you measure it. He has 6 years of HC experience, he runs an offense that fits our players and our history, he runs a defense that is very similar to the Iowa State scheme that gave Kliff so much trouble, and most importantly, he turned Utah State into a 10 win team! Obviously his record isn’t perfect, he’s had some losing seasons too. But Utah State is a low budget program even for a Mountain West team. In fact, they have the 2nd lowest budget in the Mountain West. It’s hard for BYU and Utah to recruit to that state, just imagine how tough it must be to recruit to Utah State… Despite that challenge, he’s built that into a winning program.
In addition to his own qualifications, he’ll be bringing two qualified coordinators with him as well. Offensive Coordinator David Yost, who looks like Sunshine from Remember the Titans all grown up, has extensive experience as an OC/QB coach at the power 5 level. He’s coached at Missouri, Washington State, and Oregon. He runs a spread system that will be sort of a hybrid of the old school Leach Air Raid and the Oregon spread. Its not ALL that different from what Kliff does, just much more emphasis on the run and heavy Tight End usage. It will look familiar to the average fan, but there are differences. Defensive Coordinator, Kieth Patterson, has a lot of power 5 experience as well. He’s been the DC at Pitt, West Virginia, and Arizona State. He’s also spent time as a High School coach in Texas, which is huge for recruiting. The rest of the staff will be filling out over the next few days. I would expect a lot of strong recruiters with heavy Texas ties.
Even with all of that undoubtably positive information, I know some fans won’t accept Wells until he wins, which is fair I guess. But I would encourage Tech fans to do three things… 1. Keep an open mind and give Coach Wells a chance to prove you wrong. 2. Do some research on the guy and try to see what Kirby saw in him that made him tell Dana Holgerson “no thanks…” 3. Consider what Kirby might have been going for when he started looking for a new HC. The past 2 HC’s at Texas Tech, you could argue, were not hired based on merit at all. Tuberville was hired strictly to be a company man and not piss the administration off the way Leach did and Kliff was hired because he was the Big Man on Campus that could bring us back to our air raid identity. As much as I loved (and still do love) Kliff, neither he nor Tuberville were qualified to be the HC of Texas Tech. So maybe consider the possibility that Kirby recognized that we will likely never be able to catch lightning in a bottle the way we did with Leach. We shouldn’t want Holgerson simply because he could bring us back to the Leach days, because chances are he couldn’t. He’s a great coach and I would have been thrilled with the hire had he been the guy, but I can understand why Kirby might want to remove this program from that era all together. Why? Because if it didn’t work we all know exactly what would happen… Two years of average seasons and everyone would start calling for Leach again. By hiring Wells, Kirby was able to remove all direct ties to Leach’s time in Lubbock, while also getting a quality coach that runs an exciting system, which Tech fans all love.
I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone. Lord knows I miss the days of Mike Leach as much as anyone. But what really are the chances of Tech striking gold twice with the same coach? There is no guarantee that Leach would be able to replicate his success here, it certainly didn’t work out for Louisville and Bobby Petrino.
So, soon we will begin a new era of football in Lubbock. In my opinion, Matt Wells won the press conference. He comes off as a guy that knows exactly what he wants to do. He has a plan, he’s clearly on the same page with his coordinators (which has been an issue in past regimes). So with all that said, I’m pumped! Firing a guy like Kliff Kingsbury sucked. He’s our guy and we all wanted it to work out better than it did. But Matt Wells is in charge now and he has my full support!
When does spring ball start???