As Texas Tech waits for Billy Gillispie’s health to miraculously return once he’s found suitable legal advice so he can be fired, the athletic department in Lubbock continues to intrigue. When the Red Raiders nabbed Billy Clyde off the Kentucky scrap heap, it was generally regarded as a coup. He’d failed in Lexington due to innumerable factors but mostly he didn’t own the personality or the win-loss record to satiate Big Blue. Exiled to his native state and finished drinking, Gillispie was in the mix for the job at the University of Houston before landing a 5-year, $800,000 deal with Texas Tech.
His boss, athletic director Kirby Hocutt arrived in Lubbock in February 2011. Gillispie followed in March. Presumably backed by high-profile Tech boosters because of his success at UTEP and Texas A&M, it’s hard to gauge based on their respective hiring timelines how involved Hocutt was in the process. Did Gillispie simply sell himself to both the new athletic director and wealthy Red Raider supporters? Did Hocutt survey his finest boosters on his own or rely solely on their suggestions and if so, why would he do that?
A theory I’ve had and it’s steeped in speculation, not fact connects to Hocutt’s speedy exit from Miami. A rising star in collegiate administration, the former Hurricanes athletic director departed South Beach right before Yahoo! Sports dropped an illegal benefits warhead on the campus. The NCAA is still investigating but bowl bans, scholarship losses and mediocre records in ACC play figure to follow. Was Hocutt aware of the looming disaster, offered an asylum of sorts in his native state and willing to rubber-stamp a basketball hire in gracious thanks to his new employers?
There’s really no way to know outside of asking Hocutt and no reason to expect an answer either.
Pushing the interest further is Mike Leach’s history and Tommy Tuberville’s job security. Famously, Leach bickered with his superiors and was fired as a result of the Adam James fiasco. More led to the Pirate’s climactic exit but his relationship soured with certain executives in Lubbock. Tuberville, a name known around the SEC, took his place and entered 2012 needing to avoid a meltdown to keep his job. Would another 5-7 season earn him a pink slip? Perhaps, though the Red Raiders currently sit 2-0 and have played demonstrably better with Eric Stephens back on the field. Still, coaching searches fascinate me and the opportunity for Texas Tech to pursue Bobby Petrino is almost too perfect.
Should Tuberville post a 6-6 or 7-5 year and the disgraced former Arkansas head coach isn’t snapped up by Kentucky, do the Red Raider boosters get involved? They wouldn’t have to listen to his lies, assuming he hasn’t changed, like Hocutt. They wouldn’t face a dust storm of criticism for giving him another chance. The men with the money just see wins, a productive offense and a chance at capturing the nation’s attention like the Red Raiders did in 2008.
Does Hocutt follow protocol, ask for booster input, choose his own candidate and seal his mark on his tenure on the South Plains? Or is he still happy to concede to a group that desired Gillispie’s success because he’s not dealing with the issues at Miami?
The football team is undefeated and it may not matter in 2012 but Hocutt will select another head coach. I’m less enthused on who it might be and more interested in how they get him.