‘We will be elite in football again’: What’s next for Texas Tech after firing Kliff Kingsbury?

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Six years after returning to his alma mater in what appeared to be a perfect fit, Kliff Kingsbury is out as football coach at Texas Tech.

Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt has to find someone who could do what Kingsbury could not. The Red Raiders have experienced three straight losing seasons under Kingsbury — including 5-7 this season after Saturday’s loss to Baylor — and struggled in his tenure against Big 12 opponents, going 19-35.

Hocutt sent a strong message at a Sunday afternoon news conference after Kingsbury’s firing.

“We will be elite in football again,” Hocutt said. “I guarantee you, we will be elite in football again. This program has been there before and will get there again.”

Tech has posted double-figure wins six times. Mike Leach had a decade long run from 2000-09 and got Tech to second in the rankings in 2008.

In reality, Tech is a good if not great coaching situation but hasn’t been the same since Leach’s controversial dismissal.

Immediately after Kingsbury’s firing, the rumor mill went into overdrive. Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables each would bring a culture change. Leavitt and Venables have ties to Hocutt from his playing days at Kansas State.

More traditional Tech names would be UNT coach Seth Littrell and Troy coach Neal Brown, offensive minds and former Red Raider assistants.

The most intriguing rumor has Tech gauging the interest of West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, coming off an 8-3 regular season. The former Leach assistant would be viewed as a home-run hire in Lubbock — if he’s interested.

While acknowledging the importance of the early signing period beginning Dec. 20, Hocutt said he wouldn’t rush the process.

Hocutt noted that Tech has been a top offensive team under Kingsbury with little to show for it.

“We cannot be one-dimensional and have success in this league,” Hocutt said.

Kingsbury’s firing was fully expected after a 35-24 loss to Baylor on Saturday at AT&T Stadium with both teams vying for bowl eligibility. Hocutt said he recommended the dismissal to school president Lawrence Schovanec late Saturday night, then met with Kingsbury on Sunday morning followed by a session with Tech players.

“It’s not based on one game,” said Hocutt, who had been critical of the football program last week on Lubbock radio. “This type of decision is not based on one season. This decision was made based on a three-year pattern, a three-year pattern of inconsistency.”

Both former and current players have strongly backed Kingsbury, including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Kingsbury, 39, exits Tech with a 35-40 overall record. Signed through 2020, Kingsbury is due a buyout of slightly more than $4 million. He immediately becomes one of the most in-demand offensive coordinator candidates in college football or the NFL, which has begun to embrace college offenses.

After starting 5-2 as one of the surprise teams in the Big 12 before freshman quarterback Alan Bowman suffered a collapsed lung for a second time, Tech finished with five straight losses.

Tweeted Bowman: “I’ll say it again … the best coach I ever had. Even a better human being. Y’all do not understand the work he puts in behind closed doors. The things we could have accomplished together for the years to come would have been very very scary. Thank you for everything @TTUKingsbury.”

If there is any lesson to be learned from the Kingsbury era, it’s that nothing is certain.

Kingsbury was a no-brainer hire for Tech in December 2012. He was young (33), made for the social media age and bore a striking resemblance to actor Ryan Gosling.

He also was one of the hottest offensive coordinators in the nation, calling the plays as Johnny Manziel won the Heisman at Texas A&M in 2012.

Unlike Tech predecessor Tommy Tuberville, Kingsbury embraced Tech as a record-setting quarterback under Leach.

He went 8-5 in his first season, but the decision of freshman quarterback Baker Mayfield — a future Heisman winner at Oklahoma — to transfer set off years of hard feelings. From 2014-16, Tech allowed more than 500 yards and more than 40 points per game each season to rank among the worst FBS defenses.

Even the presence of Mahomes, a first-round pick and now an NFL star, was not enough to get Tech to bowl eligibility in 2016.

“He is a good man who worked very hard and has represented us in a first-class manner over the past six years,” Hocutt said of Kingsbury. “He epitomizes class and is a Red Raider.”

Twitter: @ChuckCarltonDMN

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Source : https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/collegesports/2018/11/25/will-elite-football-again-next-texas-tech-after-firing-kliff-kingsbury