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  • Kliff Kingsbury is out at Texas Tech. Does that mean the Air Raid is gone too?
By Laken Litman
November 25, 2018

Texas Tech has reached a verdict on Kliff Kingsbury. And this time, he’s out.

After Baylor beat Texas Tech 35–24, handing the Red Raiders their seventh loss of the season and preventing them from becoming bowl eligible, the school parted ways with its head coach and former record-setting quarterback. Kingsbury, 39, went 35–49 overall and 19–35 in the Big 12 over six seasons in Lubbock. He only posted one winning season after going 8–5 in his debut 2013 campaign.

Kingsbury’s head coaching career started out positively enough. Back then, he was the hottest name in college football after serving as Kevin Sumlin’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas A&M, where he developed 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Before that, Kingsbury held the same position at Houston and mentored record-breaking quarterback Case Keenum.

Kingsbury was set up for success when he was hired by Tech, returning to his alma mater where he threw for 95 touchdowns from 1998 to 2002, the final three seasons coming under the direction of Mike Leach. Fans welcomed him home with open arms, and he immediately leaned into the Mr. Cool labels, wearing Ray-Ban sunglasses on the sideline and evoking Ryan Gosling comparisons. The Red Raiders won eight games in his first season and beat Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.

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But he hasn’t been able to dig Texas Tech out from the bottom of the Big 12. Last season the Red Raiders entered their regular season finale against Texas with a 5–6 record, needing a win to become bowl eligible. They used a fourth-quarter comeback to get that victory, and Kingsbury’s job was safe for another year. This year things didn’t quite turn out that way. The Red Raiders needed to beat Baylor at home to get to a bowl, but failed to do so.

Perhaps Texas Tech, which started the season 5–2, would have become bowl eligible if it had been operating at full strength. Freshman starting quarterback Alan Bowman was hospitalized twice with a partially collapsed lung and hasn’t played since the first half of the Oklahoma game.

There was no doubt what kind of offense Kingsbury would run when he returned to Lubbock. But the parting of ways with a school legend indicates the program might be fed up with the rollercoaster ride its Air Raid scheme puts it on every year, with explosive offenses that have to cover for overmatched defenses in back-and-forth shootouts. So what will Texas Tech athletic director Hocutt do about it? If the program wants to keep its philosophies consistent, it could turn to Troy head coach Neal Brown, who was Tech’s offensive coordinator from 2010 to ’12, or North Texas coach Seth Littrell, who coached running backs under Leach from ’05 to ’08. Other reports have pointed toward a potential total rebrand in the form of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who has long been one of the top defensive minds in the game and has had his name come up for Power 5 jobs before.

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After last week’s mystifying 21–6 loss to Kansas State, Hocutt discussed the state of the program on his weekly radio show, foreshadowing what was to come for Kingsbury. He referenced discipline and penalties as “certain fundamental areas that continue to plague us” and said, “when you’re 5–6, it’s hard to hold your hat on a lot of that progress.”

“At the end of the day,” Hocutt said, “the only thing that matters is our record.”

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