Texas Tech Athletics Director Kirby Hocutt held a press conference today in the aftermath of Matt Wells’ firing.
It’s a tumultuous time for Red Raider football, and that sentiment was echoed in the press conference. Here are a few takeaways from what Hocutt said:
No. 1: Hocutt’s demeanor
Anyone with eyes could see that Hocutt wasn’t pleased during the press conference. His tone was one of a defeated man as he realized that another head coach he hired had failed.
Throughout, he urged the fanbase to continue its support, for the students to keep showing up, and for everyone to just hang in there. His frustration showed, and so did his anger.
Overall, it’s similar to the way every single Tech fan feels right now. They’ve become numb to it. They’ve seen other sports like basketball and baseball thrive and wonder why football can’t do the same in a football state. It’s another thing Hocutt stressed, that football needed to be on a similar level to those two sports. It needs to be on par with the entire athletic program as a whole.
That frustration from him might be because Hocutt knows his job could be on the line with this next hire. He’s rightly worried, and due to the unknown, Tech fans are worried as well.
No. 2: Hocutt Won’t Go Searching Alone
After Kliff Kingsbury was fired in 2018, Hocutt was the main one searching for Tech’s next head coach.
To say that didn’t work is an understatement, and it’s why Hocutt is getting serious help this time.
A four-person search committee will join Hocutt in the mission to hire the next coach. On this committee are Tech donors/regents Dusty Womble and Cody Campbell, the former of which just donated $20 million to a new football training center that will bear his name. The other two are Sammy Morris, who serves as Tech’s assistant director of player development, and deputy athletic director Tony Hernandez.
It’s encouraging Hocutt has the awareness to recognize he needs some help on this. Hopefully, the five men can come together and thoroughly process every candidate before coming to a decision. After all, they have a lot of time to do it.
No. 3: Football Remains a Priority for Hocutt
It would be easy to look at the success of both basketball and baseball and develop apathy towards football. It’s the same mindset schools like Kansas and Duke take towards their football programs.
Hocutt refuses to adopt that mindset, though. As we’ve mentioned, a new multi-million dollar football facility is going to be built. Now, he’s fired his head coach when Tech still has a shot at a bowl game. Hocutt means business, and it’s shown in his actions and words alike.
He didn’t mince words either when discussing future goals for Texas Tech football. He used the word “elite” when describing those goals. That’s a word we use when thinking about Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, etc. Not only does Hocutt want to see the Red Raiders there, he expects them to be there.
There’s not a better time to become elite in the Big 12 either. Oklahoma, the winners of the past six conference championships, is about to take the money and bolt to the SEC. If there’s a time to stake a claim at the top of the Big 12, it’s now.
Hocutt thinks of Tech as a program that should be in the Top 25 every year. Now, it’s up to him to bring in the guy that will get them there.
No. 4: It Was Time for Matt Wells To Go
Hocutt used the term “inevitable” when describing the decision to fire Wells. I can’t help but agree with him on that one. Coming into last Saturday, Kansas State was the easiest opponent on Tech’s remaining schedule. It was the Red Raiders’ best shot at becoming bowl eligible, and Wells blew it spectacularly.
Tech’s next four opponents are all ranked, including the No. 4 Sooners this Saturday. Given what the team has shown, there’s little reason for any Tech fan to have faith in grabbing that elusive sixth win. Bowl eligibility seems so close, but yet so far at the same time.
Wells isn’t a great coach, and neither were most of his assistants. It was clear from the beginning he was holding back the talent on his team. After last Saturday, he needed to go. Sometimes, the boldest decision is the right one.
“There’s really no ideal time to make a decision like this,” Hocutt said today. “As we looked at the 30 games that Matt Wells led us… we felt it was inevitable, and today was the day we wanted to move forward.”
No. 5: Everything Is On the Line Now
Another word you can use to describe Hocutt’s tone is one of desperation. Kingsbury didn’t work, and Wells was even worse. It’s paramount that Hocutt gets this hire right.
“We just want someone that can get us over the hump.” Does that not sound like desperation to you?
I watched his press conference, and I lost count of how many times he said something like, “we have to get this right.” He repeated it over and over again. He knows he messed up, and he now knows what’s on the line.
What’s on the line is more than just the future of Texas Tech football; it’s the prestige of the whole athletics program. The Red Raiders are in a football state. The money the football program makes dwarfs the money basketball and baseball make combined. The success of football is key to the future of Texas Tech athletics. That’s what’s on the line.
What’s on the line is Hocutt’s job, and what’s on the line is Tech’s future. This is a pivotal moment in Texas Tech football history. It’s a chance to turn the tide and reverse course. It’s a time where Texas Tech can excite the fans with a fascinating hire and rejuvenate everyone associated with Texas Tech. I’m not even a Tech fan anymore, and I want this new hire to excite me. I want this new hire to revive a football program I grew up watching as a kid in Lubbock.
Right now, the program is dead, and it’s been that way for far too long. The situation Tech is in reads like the opening lines of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
If you had one shot or one opportunity…
To seize everything you ever wanted…
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
Tech has one opportunity to seize everything it’s ever wanted. Hocutt cannot let it slip. There’s too much at stake for that to happen. He must capture it. Texas Tech is a program that’s experienced success in the past. It needs to experience that again, for the sake of everyone involved.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a coordinator from an SEC school like Jeff Lebby or Kendall Briles or a head coach with Texas ties like Sonny Dykes or Jeff Traylor. This hire just needs to be the right guy. The guy to make Texas Tech elite, just like Hocutt says he wants.
“We’ve got to get this right,” Hocutt said.
Now is the time.