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Seems like Baylor and TTech are trending in opposite directions...
Tech's major sports had worst collective year in a quarter century: How did that happen?
Each of the flagship sports has had success in the last decade, but the four have been trending the wrong way in recent years.
Posted: June 16, 2012 - 11:18pm | Updated: June 17, 2012 - 1:03am
By DAVID JUST, NICK KOSMIDER AND DON WILLIAMS
Kirby Hocutt can’t hide from the fact his flagship sports programs had disastrous results last season.
He doesn’t want to, either.
Tech’s athletic director, fresh off his first full year on the job, is using the 2011-12 performance as a call to arms for West Texans.
“We’ve seen the highest levels that we can achieve when we’re all together as one, when we’re riding together as a team,” Hocutt said. “We have got to continue to make strides in reigniting that swagger that comes with being a Red Raider. And reigniting the importance of us all being together as one.”
Tech’s fan base, parts of which Hocutt acknowledged are still embittered by Mike Leach’s firing in 2009, just suffered through the worst collective conference seasons in nearly a quarter century for Texas Tech football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball, according to Avalanche-Journal analysis. Those four sports failed to reach the NCAA playoffs or a bowl game in the same year for the first time since the 1988-89 school year.
Tech owns a .499 conference winning percentage (537-539) in those four sports since the Big 12 formed in 1996. That figure ranks fourth in the league, but the Red Raiders rank 11th (.365) out of the 12 original Big 12 teams during the last five years.
“It’s kind of to the point of being ridiculous,” said Jimmy Carmichael, a Tech quarterback from 1970-73 under Jim Carlen. “We went downhill.”
Last season, the Red Raiders won only 16 of their 69 conference games (23.2 percent) in the four sports, by far the fewest in the Big 12. Missouri and Kansas were next to last with 31 wins.
How did the bottom fall out?
“We’ve had change, right?” Hocutt said.
Two first-time major-college head coaches, Pat Knight in basketball and Dan Spencer in baseball, fizzled out and were fired in the last 15 months.
The football program dipped from 29 wins in Leach’s last three years to 8-5, then 5-7 under Tommy Tuberville.
Kristy Curry brought the Lady Raiders to their first NCAA tournament in five years in 2011, then watched her team collapse after a 16-0 start last season.
Hocutt threw himself into the equation, too, noting the change at athletic director — he succeeded Gerald Myers in 2011.
The current landscape is a far cry from the late 1990s, when Spike Dykes, Marsha Sharp, James Dickey and Larry Hays had Tech teams riding high in all four major sports.
Not to mention Tech’s rise to No. 2 in the national rankings late in the 2008 football season and a Bob Knight-led run to the NCAA tournament round of 16 in 2005.
“We were there not too long ago, and we’ve got to get back to that level,” Hocutt said.
Spencer’s dismissal on May 21 was Hocutt’s first firing since he arrived at Tech from Miami.
If he lacks confidence in coaches of the other major sports, he hasn’t tipped his hand.
He called them “some of the best head coaches in the country.”
“I think each program is at a different phase,” Hocutt said. “You learn from each year, and you make sure you’ve got the plan in place and the leadership in place within that program to get to the point that you’re working toward each and every day. I believe that to be the case with where we are today, and I’m confident that next year is going to be a successful one for us.”
Pat Knight, Spencer and Curry, who has made the NCAA tournament once in six seasons, all were Myers’ hires. Carmichael criticized Myers for letting those sports deteriorate.
“I like Gerald Myers as a friend, and I like him as a man, and I think he’s an honest man,” said Carmichael, an Austin banker. “But I think he was a poor athletic director. He didn’t hold coaches accountable. It frustrated me to see we’re letting things slide or not holding them accountable.”
Myers strongly disagreed, saying the coaches he hired all had good credentials.
“I couldn’t agree with him on that at all,” said Myers, who was AD from 1995 through mid-2011. “We held coaches accountable. We made changes when we needed to. We made some tough decisions. It’s never easy to make changes with coaches, but we made quite a few changes over the 15 years that I was (AD).
“I think this past year, it was kind of hard to explain, because if you look at all those years, all of them had successful records coming in. They had programs that were solid, and it was really the first time that we’d had that kind of year with all our (flagship) programs having hard luck. But I think you’ll see a rebound this year. I really do.”
The Tech baseball team finished fifth in the Big 12 in 2010, seventh in 2011 and ninth in 2012. During the news conference to announce Spencer’s firing, Hocutt said the regression was unacceptable.
He reiterated it last week, noting a team with nine pro draft picks — tied for second-most in the nation — “shouldn’t have finished dead last in the conference.”
Should that be a signal to coaches of the other struggling programs?
“Winning’s important and it always will be,” Hocutt said last week, “but I don’t think you can compare one program to the next. ... It’s hard to compare sport to sport, other than to say winning is important and we’ve got to provide that continuous improvement each and every year, providing that we as an athletic department and we as a university are providing them with the tools and resources to be successful.”
In the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2011, Tech had total revenue of about $51.2 million and expenses of about $48.1 million, according to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis report. Tech ranked 11th among the original Big 12 schools in dollars spent on athletics, but was within $12 million of six other schools.
That being the case, Hocutt and Senior Associate Athletic Director Bobby Gleason both say the Red Raiders have enough resources to compete.
“I think it's always a challenge,” Gleason said, “but I also think we have the resources to be competitive at the very highest level.”
During the current fiscal year that ends Aug. 31, Tech expects to finish with $62 million in revenue and $56 million in expenses, Gleason said. The athletic department initially submitted a balanced, $54 million budget, and the numbers swelled after conference realignment and a signing bonus from the Big 12-Fox Sports television agreement, Gleason said.
Texas ($126 million in 2010-11), Oklahoma ($96.3 million), since-departed Nebraska ($78.5 million), exiting Texas A&M ($71.7 million) and Kansas ($70 million) outstripped the others in spending.
“Are there bigger budgets? Yes,” Hocutt said. “Do we have what we need to compete? Yes.”
The challenge for schools with smaller operating budgets is maximizing those resources, Hocutt said, adding his department places an emphasis on recruiting. There is data to support his claim.
According to a recent ESPN.com report, Tech spent $611,910 on football recruiting last year, more than any team in the Big 12. Texas ranked second, spending $577,976. The year before, Tech led by an even wider margin, spending $812,217 to second-place Oklahoma's outlay of $452,601.
At a crossroads
Tech administrators know a resurgence will rely on more than money.
The school's financial standing has not negatively impacted its other programs, a handful of which had banner seasons in 2011-12.
“It's a neat deal to be the underdog,” said Judi Henry, Tech's senior associate athletics director and senior women's administrator. “Maybe it’s the West Texas grit that, by golly, we don't have the most money, and money is not always what it’s about. ... At some point there are other parts, like character and work ethic, that overtake the money part.”
Underdog or not, Tech fans are expecting better results next season.
Carmichael was a blue-chip recruit who was part of the early 1970s’ golden era of Tech football. So for him, seeing Tech lose 66-6 to Oklahoma State and 66-42 to Baylor was especially appalling.
“It has been very frustrating,” he said. “It’s always on our minds. It’s always on our thoughts. I think this year when we experienced those two record-setting losses, that hurt a lot of people pretty deeply.
“I don’t mind losing to a better team — well, I do, but I get over it quicker — but when you’re getting embarrassed at home multiple times ... I’ve been real disappointed. I know there were a lot of injuries and a lot of factors led up to that, but I sure hope we do a whole lot better this year.”
That sentiment isn't lost on Hocutt, who knows next season will be a critical one for the Red Raiders.
“It’s an important year coming up, no question,” Hocutt said. "I believe it will be a successful one and a step forward for all our programs. There are magical seasons in the life of an athletic program and a university. I don't think you ever quite know when those are coming, but you have hope each and every year that there will be one right around the corner.”
I'd say Tuberville is on a short lease, or he may not be on the payroll in December. (Actually, he'll be on the payroll, but he won't have an office.)
Pro Ecclesia, Pro Mundus
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