Athletic director Kirby Hocutt declared that there’s “never been a more exciting time” within the Texas Tech football program.
And that is precisely why the Red Raiders elected to make a huge investment in their 35-year-old head coach.
Kliff Kingsbury agreed to a contract extension Friday that will make him the fourth-highest paid coach in the Big 12. Tech will play Kingsbury $3.1 million in 2015, with a $200,0000 raise each year to $4.1 million through 2020.
Tech isn’t necessarily rewarding Kingsbury solely for the mere eight wins he’s brought the Red Raiders last season.
Instead, the school is rewarding Kingsbury for the excitement he’s brought to the program. And the news Tech revealed earlier in the day was proof of that excitement.
Just hours before they disclosed Kingsbury’s extension, the Red Raiders held a press conference announcing the launch of a capital campaign to raise $185 million to construct an indoor practice facility and build 30 suites as part of a renovation of the Jones AT&T Stadium south end zone.
The school would not have fashioned such a project had Kingsbury not filled up the stadium last season. Nor would Tech have raised the $75 million it already has committed for the project without the buzz Kingsbury has generated for the program.
“We are very fortunate that we have 85 suites in Jones AT&T Stadium and they're all at capacity right now,” Hocutt said. “There is a wait list for folks who have requested those seats.”
Kingsbury’s return to Lubbock spearheaded the formation for that demand.
Bucking a national trend of declining student attendance, Tech actually set a student season-attendance record in Kingsbury’s first season. This summer, Tech sold out its season-ticket allotment for the first time in school history, shattering the previous record by roughly 7,000.
Hocutt attributes all of the above to a “new pride” in Tech football. And Kingsbury, who was Mike Leach’s first great quarterback for the Red Raiders when he played from 1999-2002, is the one flying the banner.
And he's the one who has unified what previously was a fractured fan base.
Sure, the Red Raiders still have a ways to go on the field. Another November swoon last season underscored that. But before that, Tech started out 7-0 and reached its first top 10 ranking in five years despite rotating through a pair of true freshman quarterbacks. And even after the late-season losing streak, the Red Raiders bounced back to throttle Arizona State in the National University Holiday Bowl.
Going into this season, Tech appears to have one of the best young quarterbacks in the country in sophomore Davis Webb. And the Red Raiders have been going toe-to-toe with prominent programs for blue-chip talent. Tech already has landed commitments from a trio of ESPN 300 recruits including Jarrett Stidham, one of the top quarterback prospects in the country.
There’s plenty of excitement for where the Tech football program is.
But plenty more for where Kingsbury is taking it.