Time to take a break away from “business” and to more important topics - college sports!
As a proud Texas Tech alum, I am used to years, even decades, of the perpetual pain and anguish associated with being a Tech fan. There have been bouts of teasing greatness, with some real bragging rights when the women’s basketball team won the national championship in 1993. In the 26 years since, Tech, with teams in all major sports, has had many close calls towards achieving national recognition. Tech fans can be proud of the many conference championships, a great achievement in itself, over the years. However, winning a national championship in the more hyped football and basketball sports has remained elusive.
In the ‘football is everything’ state of Texas (yes, it’s a real thing here), Tech has remained middle of the pack, never really a perennial loser or winner. During the Mike Leach era, Tech football won 56 games, which was only bested by Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska during that same period. This included an 11-2 record in 2008, capped off with a Cotton Bowl loss during a stretch of 11 straight bowl appearances. Many schools would love to have such a history, but in the state of Texas it is never enough. With the new BCS playoff system and perennial powerhouses of Texas and Oklahoma, Texas Tech is on the outside looking in. With yet a new football coach in 2019 we begin another round.
Reason for hope: basketball
What has been very interesting during this same time period is how Texas Tech basketball has held its own. Unlike the middle-of-the-road football program, basketball has experienced higher highs and lower lows. The team posted a 30-2 season in 1995-96 and an 8-23 record just 8 years ago. The first taste of progress in tournament play came in 1996 with the first sweet 16 appearance. Since that time, the team made the tournament only to exit early, each time leaving fans wondering what if.
Enter Chris Beard
Much has been made of Chris Beard’s rise to basketball prominence in the last few weeks and the unusual circumstances related to his hiring and arrival in the Hub City. In three short years, Beard has taken the team to new heights with the first elite eight appearance last year to this years magical run to the Final Four.
What makes the Final Four appearance more interesting is the way Beard built the team, not from Top 100 recruits, but from transfers, international players, and homegrown talent. Like football, Tech basketball can’t compete with larger schools to bring in top national recruiting classes, so creativity and unorthodox methods are used to build a team.
Many of the players point to a pre-season retreat Beard organized as the glue that brought the team together and encouraged them to fight for each other instead of the temptation to achieve individual stats to boost their own prospects. You can read an excellent article published by the Dallas Morning News here https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/collegesports/2019/04/04/preseasonteam-building-retreat-became-launch-pad-texas-techs-rise-final-four
Landing in Lubbock
As the Final Four contests quickly approach, we fans are busy buying everything Tech to show our support (many websites are already sold out of team fan gear), as we anxiously await 7:49 p.m. CST tomorrow to have the courage to make it through what is sure to be a nail biter. I thank Chris Beard for landing in Lubbock and making it fun to be a Tech fan. He certainly deserves the Big 12 and AP National Coach of the Year honors. But now the secret is out and the world has noticed. We can only hope he doesn’t fall prey to another Tech fan fear – the coaching curse. It’s a given having a successful coach will garner attention from many blue-chip programs looking for a proven winner. Add winning in Lubbock and the microscope becomes stronger.
In the meantime, I will enjoy the rarefied air of the moment along with thousands of Tech fans. Could it be after 30 plus years of waiting we will witness a Tech men’s national champion? Only time will tell.