Big 12: Billy Gillispie

On Tuberville, Tech and the future

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
9:00
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LUBBOCK, Texas -- We've had plenty of Tech-centric spring football coverage over the past few days, and there's still a bit to come.

If you've missed what we've had already, here's a quick look back:
First things first, there's been plenty of talk elsewhere in the past few days about Tommy Tuberville's supposed miscontent about being at Texas Tech. His comments to reporters after Wednesday's practice in response to a report that he was "miserable" at Texas Tech:

"I don't know where that came from. How about this weather here? Whoever wrote that blog needs to come down here. He probably doesn't have weather this nice.

"But no, this is a great place. We're gonna build something here that people can be proud of, but I think that comes from a lot of people who probably would hope we would pack up and leave.

"We're looking forward to it. It's gonna be a tough challenge the next couple of years getting it to where we want to get it to, but I would imagine that's coming from across the river somewhere that they would hope I would go somewhere else."

Maybe there's some merit to the original report. Maybe it's just people talking to people with less than pure motives. I can't get inside Tuberville's head. All I can do is ask questions. And we addressed the exact subject of Tuberville's future during my visit. Here's his full comments:

Question: As a coach with such a history in the SEC, what's your response to people who question whether you're at Tech for the long haul?
"It’s like anything else. I think most people look at you and they kind of looked at my background, I’ve not been one of those guys that went somewhere and just left immediately. I stayed four and a half years at Ole Miss. Ten years at Auburn and I left both times on my terms. I think that people look at me, too. I’m not one of those young guys that’s looking to work his way up.

Hey, I know what it’s like to go to a place, to build it up and enjoy it. Rather than go to a place, and every day you’re looking at other places like, 'What’s going to be easier and better?' I mean, I’m past that now.

I think, probably, they hired a guy that was the perfect situation for them. A guy that wanted to get back and had been out for a year, had obviously won games and had some good experience with some good head coaches and understood the game and understood recruiting.

I can say it was a perfect match for me and I hope people here would say that it was a perfect match for Tech. I know a lot of people might think differently thinking we should have won 14 games last year, but that’s no different than anywhere I’ve been. My wife and kids are the same way.

'Dad, what happened?'

We didn’t win."

Now, I'm not an idiot. I know Tuberville is smart enough to know the difference between comments to coaching friends and comments to members of the media.

But -- and excuse the cliche, however accurate -- actions speak louder than words. And Tuberville's actions don't sound like a guy eyeing a way out of Lubbock.

"I’ve done this three times. Ole Miss, Auburn and here, where you go in and start from scratch. You bring in all your guys and get going and change everything to your philosophy. It’s hard. It’s time-consuming," Tuberville said. "I had to stay on the road the first five or six months and try to coach a team. The great thing about the season starting last year was I knew at least I was going to be home most of the time. But it’s a big sales job. You’ve got to go out and sell your product, what you’re doing."

Pick apart the words of Tuberville's response on Wednesday all you want, but when he said it was going to be a "tough challenge," he wasn't talking about the team's number of returning starters or immediate prospects for success. He's talking about depth. He harped on it several times in our conversation. Defensively, Texas Tech just didn't have enough. The injuries last year sunk his team, and they were forced to move guys from offense to defense just to have enough numbers.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "If you're having to move guys from one side of the ball to the other, you don't have enough depth."

Additionally, Texas Tech has 10 offensive linemen on scholarship. Tuberville wants 14-15.

"It takes time to make that happen," he said. "You can’t just tap a wand and say we’re going fill that up."

So, bottom line. Would anyone be shocked if Tuberville left for an opportunity that he felt better fit him? Certainly not. But I don't believe Tuberville is a coach actively looking for a way out of Lubbock.

A few other leftover notes from my visit to Lubbock:

Still working at inertia in recruiting

Tuberville says when he and his staff came to Lubbock, seven of the 10 had no real idea what to expect and no real connections in West Texas.

"It’s kind of like Verizon and AT&T," he said. "You get those two guys, and all of a sudden you want to start a new telephone company, I mean, guess what, the big boys have been out there swingin’ for years and they’ve already got things in place. What we decided to do early is we’re going to take our time, we’re not going to panic, we’re going to do it right and we’re going to build relationships, sell our philosophy, we hope we win some games as we go along, but that’s not the No. 1 priority. The No. 1 priority is to get into recruiting, because players win games, coaches don’t."

Scott Smith still not ready to play

Scott Smith was one of the Red Raiders' best pass rushers last season, but in early October, he was suspended indefinitely, and Tuberville said he definitely wouldn't be back again during the season. He didn't return. That didn't help Texas Tech's struggling pass defense, and though Smith is still practicing with the team as he did all last fall, he's still not cleared to play in games.

"I don’t know when I’m going to play him again," Tuberville said. "He isn’t quite out of the doghouse yet."

Gillispie, Hocutt on board

Texas Tech hosted a press conference/pep rally on Wednesday to celebrate the arrival of new basketball coach Billy Gillispie, but didn't take my suggestion to take the over-the-top route like the Miami Heat's smoke-infused celebration of signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

For a school that doesn't have as high of a profile as other's around the league, however, Texas Tech has had some huge name coaches on campus. Tuberville, of course, but Mike Leach, Bob Knight and now Gillispie. That's an impressive bunch.

Now, with a new AD in Kirby Hocutt and a new basketball coach, Tuberville is suddenly the grizzly old vet in the athletic offices with just 15 months on the job. He's been out promoting himself and the program as we detailed earlier in the week, but now he's got some help.

"It’s time for them to get out and sell themselves," he said with a laugh. "Hopefully I can stay low-key."

The Big 12 South's flagship programs

March, 27, 2009
3/27/09
2:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

As Oklahoma prepares for its Sweet 16 matchup tonight, I thought it would be a good time to consider the flagship sport of each Big 12 South Division school.

Last week, we looked at the North Division programs.

Unlike the North, football appears to be more predominant at more places in the South.

I'll also consider what football will have to do -- both in the immediate and in the long-term future -- to reclaim or maintain that position.

Here's a look at the South Division:

BAYLOR BEARS

Flagship program: Women's basketball

Why: Kim Mulkey has carved out the school's most consistent recent national program, claiming the 2005 national championship and making six straight trips to the NCAA women's tournament. It could also be argued that Clyde Hart's track program be considered as its equal after earning the nickname "Quarter Miler U" and producing Olympic gold medalists like Michael Johnson, Darold Williamson and Jeremy Wariner. But Mulkey's team has been a consistent player nationally in a sport with a wider mainstream reach.

Football's future: It's bright with Art Briles and Robert Griffin around for a few more years. A gleaming new football facility puts the Bears on an equal plane with any other Big 12 South team. But the first step will be making a bowl trip, which would snap a 14-season drought that is the Big 12's longest. It will be hard to make inroads in the Big 12 South, but Briles and Griffin give the Bears hope.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Flagship program: Football

Why: Bob Stoops has been the most consistent winner in Big 12 history, claiming six Big 12 titles and an unprecedented three-peat of consecutive conference titles heading into the upcoming season. That success, along with his national championship in 2000, has carried the Sooners' tradition of success, which includes six other national championships with Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer, and maybe even built upon it.

Football's future: In a word, glistening. The Sooners have nationally competitive men's and women's basketball programs. And Stoops has had that pesky problem in BCS bowl games recently. But it still hasn't diminished the Sooners' booming football support.

OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS

Flagship program: Football

Why: The program of Henry Iba and Eddie Sutton made six Final Four appearances and claimed national basketball championships in 1945 and 1946. But football has jumped past basketball in recent years with six bowl appearances in seven seasons. The program has been marked by the success of Mike Gundy, explosive offenses and the megabuck contributions of T. Boone Pickens.

Football's future: The Cowboys have football on an uptick and will enter the 2009 season with more excitement than any other time in recent memory. If the OSU defense can develop, the Cowboys could challenge for the first Big 12 South championship in history and their first undisputed conference football championship since 1948. But that's a big, big if -- considering the explosive offenses in the Big 12.

TEXAS LONGHORNS

Flagship program: Football

Why: The program that Darrell Royal pushed into national prominence has gotten even bigger in the new millennium under Mack Brown. The Longhorns have perhaps the nation's strongest overall athletic program considering all of men's and women's athletics. But football shines above them all as a money-making machine that has helped fuel the school's recent renaissance.

Football's future: It looks good for the Longhorns both in the next several years and further down the road. Brown appears to be ready for a run at one more national championship. He could have that chance this season. And designated successor Will Muschamp will be given the keys to one of college football's ultimate Ferraris when he takes over. It was a smart decision to hire Muschamp in that role and keeps the Longhorns' football program continuity intact. Now, it will be determined if Muschamp can coach an entire football team instead of merely a defense.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES

Flagship program: Football

Why: Tradition reigns supreme in Aggieland, and even the recent men's basketball success developed by Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon and the women's success by Gary Blair can't really eat into that. Football is the top dog here and likely always will be.

Football's future: Coach Mike Sherman is facing a huge challenge with established mega-programs at Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at arguably their highest football levels ever. And Baylor is making some big jumps as well. The Aggies will be challenged to keep up with all of their South Division rivals. And an extended slippage could prove devastating for the program.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS

Flagship program: Football.

Why: Mike Leach has boosted excitement in the Red Raiders to the highest levels in school history. He still hasn't gotten his team to a BCS bowl game yet, but he's developed and nurtured the program with an entertaining philosophy that captured the attention of the nation. It says something when Leach's program can be featured on "60 Minutes" and becomes the favorite of Donald Trump.

Football's future: Leach has the program pointed in the right direction and is getting better recruits than he's ever attracted. And his new five-year contract should be tangible proof to future recruits that he'll be here for a few more years. It should keep Tech football moving forward -- even in the uber-competitive Big 12 South.

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