Kirby Hocutt has quite a legacy at age 41.
The former Kansas State linebacker has steadily moved up the administrative ladder from K-State to the NCAA to Oklahoma to Ohio to Miami to, now, Texas Tech. That includes being Miami's AD when – according to reports – Nevin Shapiro might have been in full effect within the program.
Hocutt left Coral Gables at a time (February 2011) when the NCAA was just moving in to investigate. No matter the reason for his departure, Hocutt couldn't have moved to a more opposite end of the college athletic universe. Folks in Texas think Lubbock is isolated.
That doesn't make it bad. Historically, Hocutt's teams have graduated. He has sold tickets and upgraded facilities. He enters the 2013 season at a key point in his professional career -- and perhaps a turning point in Texas Tech history.
Without a ball being snapped, Kliff Kingsbury is college football's newest rock star. The Texas Tech coach was hot enough as Johnny Football's offensive coordinator during a Heisman season. But when Tommy Tuberville abruptly left for Cincinnati, it opened up an opportunity to get Tech national headlines -- in football -- just like the Mike Leach days.
A memo unearthed by Deadspin.com suggests that Kingsbury be profiled as the boy king of coaching. Nicknames such as “GQ”, “Hollywood” and “Swagger”? Get Kingsbury a professional stylist? Get Kingsbury on the “B-List” that gets him invited to the Oscars and Grammys?
Why not? It takes a unique approach to get kids to come to a unique place. West Texas. Playing in the shadow of Texas A&M. Let Red Raiders bask a bit in the hype surrounding the youngest coach (33) in a BCS conference. Kingsbury is a native son having played three of his four years under Leach. He is still No. 2 on the school's list of career yardage, completions and touchdowns. In a short five-year coaching career Kingsbury has had the career leader in passing yards (Case Keenum at Houston) and the Heisman winner (Manziel).
“Kliff,” Hocutt reminded, “was never an Aggie.”
As of Tuesday, Texas Tech season tickets were at 87 percent of last year's 33,000 total. There is a waiting list for club seats and suites. Construction continues on what has been termed the eighth-largest HD video board in college sports (100-by-40 feet). A record crowd is expected for Saturday's spring game.
Another indication of two rock stars -- one coaching, one administrating.
“The energy, the excitement around our football program is probably at an all-time high,” Hocutt said during a recent Q&A session that continues here …
Question: What's your favorite nickname for your new coach?
Hocutt: Coach Kingsbury. I've heard a lot of nicknames.
Question: Do you have any T-shirts? (They read: Our coach is hotter than your coach.)
Hocutt: “My sister wanted one for Christmas. Diane, my wife went out and bought her one. I wasn't going to buy one of those T-shirts. She's [sister] even an Oklahoma Sooner graduate. Tells you how excited people are.”
Question: You had no qualms about hiring an Aggie?
Hocutt: “Kliff was never an Aggie. Ask him.”
Question: Was Kliff's age ever a consideration or was that part of the attraction?
Hocutt: “I had somebody believe in me when I was 33 and got my first athletic director opportunity, although not at a Big 12 Conference level. That being said, Kliff was prepared. Age was not as much as a consideration as pedigree and experience and preparation for the opportunity.”
Question: The fact that he had been so successful in Lubbock, how did that resonate after the hire was made?
Hocutt: “Everybody was excited. The night it was announced we had 3,000 students gather in the middle of campus to celebrate. Fit is so important, I believe. We had to find somebody who wanted to be at Texas Tech, somebody who understood the West Texas culture and embraced the West Texas culture. Nobody understands that culture more than Kliff Kingsbury.”
Question: How big a surprise was Tommy Tuberville leaving for Cincinnati?
Hocutt: “I was surprised because we had talked 48 hours earlier about his commitment and his desire to remain at Texas Tech and continue to build a program. When I got that phone call that Saturday morning, 48 hours after Tommy and I had visited face to face, I was surprised.”
Question: Did you ask him what changed in 48 hours?
Hocutt: “I did.”
Question: What did he say?
Hocutt: “I'm going to keep the conversations between Tommy and I [private]. I wish him nothing but the best success at Cincinnati. I think it worked out the best for Tommy Tuberville and I know it worked out the best for Texas Tech.”
Question: Did you schedule Cincinnati yet?
Hocutt: “We asked.”
Hocutt: “They declined. It was a home and home. It was a series discussed prior to Tommy getting the Cincinnati job. After Tommy got the job they had no interest in continuing the discussion.”
Question: Kliff has something in his contract about uniforms?
Hocutt: “We're going to work together. It's important to him that we're creative. It's something that we can sell and differentiate us in the recruiting process. It's going to be fun. Under Armour is excited about it. We have one of the best partners in Under Armour who is cutting edge in so many ways. Together we've got an opportunity to be unique.”
Question: Do you like his thoughts on that?
Hocutt: “Yeah, it's getting out of my box a little bit. I'm a traditionalist in a lot of ways. I do like some of the ideas he has. I think we can use our uniform and design to tell a story.”
Question: Are you going to schedule A&M?
Hocutt: “We'd love to play A&M in every sport … Nothing is in conversation right now.”
Question: Why don't think they want to [play]? Do they scare you?
Hocutt: “You're not going to bait me there. Hopefully some day those conversations can begin.”
Question: Is part of this Mike Leach's legacy, getting Kliff, considering Mike was his coach?
Hocutt: “Kliff was unique in that he played for both Spike [Dykes] and Mike. You talk to Kliff, every coach he has played for has had an impact on who he is today. Spike Dykes did, Mike Leach did, all the coaches in the NFL did. Kliff is his own man who has his own philosophy and own style.”
Question: How important is it that Kliff clearly wants to be there.
Hocutt: “It's important no matter where you're at. You've got to want to be someplace and want to achieve at the highest level.”
Question: What about season tickets?
Hocutt: “The night of the announcement, we were taking deposits.”
Question: You're playing at Texas on Thanksgiving night this season. Is it important to the league to have that Texas game in Austin or should they occasionally go on the road on Thanksgiving?
Hocutt: “I defer to [Texas AD DeLoss Dodds].”