Whereas Kliff Kingsbury was one of their own, Matt Wells was the outsider who just never fit.
He is a nice, decent man and he didn’t win.
And even when he won, he lost.
When he was selected by Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt to replace Kingsbury after the 2018 season, an uncomfortable portion of Red Raider nation was not thrilled.
Wells was sacked long before he was officially sacked Monday afternoon.
Tech fans knew they had to move on from Kingsbury, but they were not crazy about Wells.
As the losses piled up, Wells didn’t have a chance.
He narrowly avoided being fired last December, after his second season.
According to people familiar with the situation, Hocutt was under pressure to fire Wells right after the 2020 season ended.
Hocutt convinced enough of the right people to give Wells more time.
When Texas Tech barely avoided losing to Stephen F. Austin in the second game of the season, that essentially did it.
Disregard the fact that Tech (5-3, 2-3 Big 12)// is one win away from bowl eligibility. A narrow win against an FCS team, plus blowout losses to Texas and TCU, finished the Matt Wells’ era on the plains.
Tommy Tuberville, who could not stand Texas Tech, actually lasted longer in Lubbock than Matt Wells.
Sources said Tech planned to fire Wells after its game against No. 4 Oklahoma this coming weekend to give interim coach Sonny Cumbie — who last season was TCU’s offensive coordinator — the bye to prepare for the remaining schedule. But after Tech blew a big lead at home last weekend and lost to Kansas State, Hocutt was not given a choice.
On Monday at approximately 2 p.m., about two hours after news leaked that Tech was firing Wells immediately and replacing him with Cumbie, the school made the news official.
What it did not say was that Hocutt has no choice but to nail this next hire, or he will be the next one forced out of Lubbock.
Hired in 2011, the last two Texas Tech football coaches were both his hires: Kingsbury and Wells.
And Hocutt fired both of them.
While there have been highs on Hocutt’s watch at Texas Tech — baseball reaching the College World Series, the men’s basketball team coming within seconds of winning a national title, an NCAA title in men’s track and field — a losing football has Wrecked Tech.
Expect that whomever he hires next will require the approval of several influential people at Texas Tech, from the board of regents to boosters who are suddenly flush with more cash from the spike in the price of oil.
That’s significant because it means the powerful people within the Texas Tech community have more money to play with, or buy people out.
That is likely why Tech was able to fire Wells now, and eat the remaining $7 million of his contract.
The last two years have been hard on Hocutt.
Earlier this year, their beloved men’s basketball coach Chris Beard left for Texas. There was nothing Hocutt, or anyone at Tech, could have done to stop that move.
Beard wanted to be in Austin.
In August of 2020, there was the high-profile fiasco of their women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings who was fired amid a report in USA Today of allegations by former players of abusive behavior.
Hocutt took the hits for that because he is the athletic director, but former Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Marsha Sharp had more influence on that hiring than Hocutt.
Now the football team needs a new head coach.
In May of 2019, Hocutt was given a two-year extension and made one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the nation. He is takes in around $1.5 million a year with a contract that runs through 2027.
While that deal gives him financial security, it does not necessarily give him job security.
The list of names he will be expected to review include UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, SMU’s Sonny Dykes, former Baylor coach Art Briles, Arkansas offensive coordinator Kendall Briles, and a few others.
There will be a rush of interested in parties for Traylor, and Tech is a logical fit for Dykes, whose father was a legendary Red Raiders coach.
(The last full-time Texas Tech head football coach who had tenure shorter than Wells was David McWilliams in 1986. He left Lubbock to become the head coach at Texas the following year, and the person who replaced him was Spike Dykes.)
This decision will not be made today. And, whomever he picks, you can bet Hocutt will not go it alone the way he did with the Matt Wells hire.
Hocutt must find the right fit, or Tech’s next major dismissal may very well be his own.