If Kliff Kingsbury needs any further reminder about exactly why the shouts for his removal became so loud last year, he need look no further than his bank statement. “We know what we signed up for, and we get paid a lot of money to do it,” Kingsbury says.
That may not make Texas Tech fans too happy, especially those still rubbing aloe on the wounds from last year’s 5–7 meltdown. It was a season that included three 60-plus point outbursts by grateful opponents, the most egregious a 66–10 catastrophe in Ames against Iowa State, after which Kingsbury admitted that his team “did not show up at all.” But at least Kingsbury hasn’t retreated into a bunker and become defensive about his team’s performance and inability to stop anybody.
Nope, he has become defensive right out in the open, and that decision could well have convinced AD Kirby Hocutt to keep him on for another year — that and the fact that buying Kingsbury out at this point would have cost the school $9.4 million. After four years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24–26 with two losing seasons, one bowl win and no Big 12 finish higher than fifth. The 37-year-old offensive savant and former record-setting Red Raider quarterback has gone from college football’s coolest young boss to one of its most endangered species.
Kingsbury is keenly aware that he hasn’t won enough games and is happy that Hocutt has stuck by him.
“We’re all still employed,” Kingsbury says with a small laugh. “That’s year to year in the profession. [Hocutt] has supported us since Day 1. We know last year wasn’t good enough. If we improve enough, that will be all right.”
Kingsbury has relinquished some of his day-to-day offensive duties in order to devote more attention to the defense. He’ll still call plays, but offensive coordinator Eric Morris and new running backs coach/associate head coach Jabbar Juluke will take on responsibilities at practices and on game days to give Kingsbury more time to monitor the other side of the ball.
Hocutt is behind Kingsbury and cites the program’s process and “focus on doing things the right way” as reasons for his faith. He lauds Kingsbury’s willingness to adapt and isn’t worried about the eight junior college players the staff brought in for a quick 2017 fix. He is willing to take short-term heat in return for rewards later on.
“We were all very disappointed in the performance of the football team last season,” Hocutt says. “I’m always careful never to say, ‘We have to achieve this number of wins,’ because you never know how the ball is going to bounce. We all understand that we have to see the program make progress in 2017.”
Written by Michael Bradley (@JonSolomonAspen) for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2017 Big 12 Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2017 season.