Like just about everybody else, I was floored upon learning that Texas Tech head football coach Tommy Tuberville had accepted the same position with the University of Cincinnati. Tuberville not coaching the Red Raiders in 2013 seemed like a ship that had already sailed.
Live and learn.
Having said that, Tuberville's departure does make a certain amount of sense. And it bears an eerie resemblance to a Texas Tech coaching episode that occurred some 32 years ago.
The bottom line is that Tuberville left Texas Tech because he felt his career was in serious jeopardy. His Red Raider record was a mediocre 20-17; his Big 12 record was frankly dire; his record in Big 12 home games was even more miserable, and his last two teams absolutely tanked down the stretch. Factor in a series of Big 12 games in which the Red Raiders were not even remotely competitive, and it is easy to see why Tuberville felt he was on shaky ground.
Tuberville doubtless eyed his probable lot in Lubbock when considering the position at the University of Cincinnati. To begin with, his contract had not been extended. Tuberville assuredly viewed the lack of an extension as a vote of no confidence if not an actual threat of termination.
And then there was the team he was coaching and the lay of the Big 12 landscape. Did Tuberville have strong reason to believe he would turn the corner in 2013 and thus salvage his job and career? Probably not.
In looking at his roster Tuberville saw gaping holes in the offensive line and a secondary decimated by graduation. LaAdrian Waddle, Deveric Gallington, Terry McDaniel, Cornelius Douglas, Eugene Neboh, Cody Davis and D. J. Johnson were going to be very difficult to replace.
Particularly when confronted by yet another rugged Big 12 slate.
In looking at the Big 12, it is patently obvious that Baylor and TCU are on the upswing. Oklahoma is Oklahoma, Kansas State is not about to fall off the face of the earth, and Oklahoma State and Texas have bedeviled Texas Tech as long as anybody cares to remember. At first blush, only Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia look like probable conference wins next year, and two of those games will be on the road.
I believe Tommy Tuberville made a simple calculation. He plugged in all the factors and decided it was unlikely the Red Raiders would do well enough in 2013 to save his job. He thus avoided the sword of Damocles by accepting a job where he would get a fresh start, a clean slate, and another three years to resurrect his career. He would also be coaching in a conference far less formidable than the Big 12.
Another Texas Tech football coach faced circumstances such as this, arrived at the same conclusion, and chose an identical course. I speak of one Rex Dockery.
Like Tuberville, Rex Dockery coached at Tech for three seasons (1978-80). Like Tuberville, Dockery compiled a 54-percent winning mark. Like Tuberville (from Camden, Arkansas), Dockery was from a small southern city (Cleveland, Tennessee). Like Tuberville, Dockery took over when the Red Raider program was on a hot streak. Thus, Texas Tech had a winning percentage of 64 in the eight years prior to Dockery's arrival; it had a 69% winning level in the eight years before Tuberville came to the High Plains.
Dockery shocked Raiderland by bolting for Memphis State, which played in something called the Southern Independent Conference, while Tuberville now casts his lot with the rapidly decaying Big East. The parallels are striking to say the least.
Hopefully, Tuberville will fare well in his new position. Texas Tech certainly has a golden opportunity to recapture the momentum lost during the last three seasons. But to do so, the Texas Tech brass must avoid repeating history. After Rex Dockery left Texas Tech, the university replaced him with Jerry Moore. Enough said.