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Texas Tech Goes Back to High School With Joey McGuire Hire

Maybe it was just Texas Tech’s turn. The Red Raiders introduced their passionate new coach, Joey McGuire, on Tuesday with appropriate fanfare in Lubbock and he certainly won the press conference in a blowout.

Whether he will do so in games remains to be seen, of course, but McGuire is the most recent of a wave of Texas high school football coaches moving to the college level. Texas Tech is now the eighth FBS school in the state (out of 12) since 2000 to hire a former Texas high school coach to lead their program. Some had short stints, while others were lifers like McGuire before transitioning to college. The only schools who have not hired such a coach are Texas, Texas A&M, UTEP and TCU (for now, as their job is vacant after parting ways with Gary Patterson.)

For McGuire, this is bringing things full circle.

“[Athletic director Kirby Hocutt] said that he wanted to connect the Texas high school coaches, and that is my DNA,” he said in his introductory press conference. “I want to thank the THSCA and all the Texas high school coaches for their support. I’m one of them. … I’m a high school coach that coaches college football; it’s not the other way around. That’s where my roots are, and I think you saw last night and you’ll see hopefully in the next few days that that is definitely gonna pay off for this football team and this program.”

GARCIA: McGuire Hits Recruiting Trail Running at Texas Tech

Hiring a high school coach is obviously not a new phenomenon, or even a Texan one. In 1981, Notre Dame hired Gerry Faust directly from Moeller High School in Ohio. His tenure in South Bend was largely forgettable, although he did go on to moderate success at Akron. It certainly isn’t new to Texas Tech, either. Spike Dykes had 15 years of experience as a high school coach before Texas Tech hired him in '86 for a 13-year run at the helm in Lubbock. But in this hyper-recruiting focused day and age it is noteworthy to hand the reins off to a high school coach who was so recently at that level. McGuire took only five years to move from Dallas-area Cedar Hill High School to the head chair at Texas Tech. Crucial to that move is Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, who was integral in ushering this most recent wave of THSCA influence in the college ranks. 

When Rhule arrived at Baylor in 2017, he hired McGuire along with Shawn Bell and David Wetzel to his initial staff to help a building full of Yankees recruit their new neck of the woods. Rhule still shows a deep respect for Texas high school coaches, so much so that when the Panthers played the Texans in Houston earlier this season, he wore this hat in pregame warmups:

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Matt Rhule wears a THSCA cap

Rhule dons a cap to show respect to Texas high school coaches ahead of a game.

It was emblazoned with the acronym for the Texas High School Coaches Association, in which Wetzel served as president when Rhule hired him to come to Waco. McGuire’s son, Garret, played for his dad and Rhule at Baylor and is now on Rhule’s staff in Carolina.

A high school coach certainly can’t make a player sign with a college, but having them on your good side is better than the alternative. The THSCA isn’t a monolith, but it has influence on how a coach is viewed within the state because of the way high school football is viewed within the state. Charlie Strong found this out the hard way when he arrived at Texas in 2011 and committed the sin of immediately recruiting similarly talent-rich Florida—a state he knew well after coaching in it for parts of three different decades—instead of locking down the Lone Star State. This had to do with trying to lock down a class without much time to spare when he took over the job, but it rubbed some the wrong way.

Jimbo Fisher had his own faux pas shortly after arriving in College Station when he had the temerity to meet with a 7-on-7 coach the same day he met with Wetzel’s successor as president of the THSCA. The tension between 7-on-7 coaches and high school coaches is its own proxy recruiting war all across the country, but when Texas high school egos get involved you have a relationship-based fire to put out.

But those two brands can afford to go wherever they want to sign talent. A&M, for instance, doesn’t pull its entire roster from inside the state. Fisher has signed highly rated players from Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. Texas Tech has signed eight high school recruits in its last five recruiting classes from outside of Texas, and of its four out-of-state verbal commits in the 2022 class, three of them are from right across the Red River in Oklahoma. The Red Raiders have to play ball closer to home, and having a staff full of connections certainly helps on the trail.

McGuire’s hire will go one of two ways. It could end up like THSCA lifers Todd Dodge and Chad Morris, who came with schematic bona fides but were soon found out and ended up with one winning record between the two of them in nine combined seasons at the college level (both are back coaching high schools in the state). Or it could go like UTSA’s Jeff Traylor, who is more of a CEO type, which partially explains how the Roadrunners are 9–0 in his second season (it's due in large part to players his predecessor Frank Wilson recruited). Traylor, who Rhule tried to hire while at Baylor, was also a career high school coach at the time he entered the college ranks in 2015 as an assistant with Strong and later Morris at SMU and Arkansas. McGuire is more of a Traylor type—someone who has coached both sides of the ball and has never been a coordinator, but has been an assistant head coach. Now the high school coach will take a swing at the Big 12. 

“I’m a unicorn in coaching," McGuire said at his presser. "I have now been [in] four places. I was at Crowley [HS] for four years, I was at Cedar Hills for 20, I was at Baylor for five and I will die here at Texas Tech.” 

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