By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
It is, in no small way, déjà vu all over again.
In fact, what is happening in Lubbock, Texas, has that “haven’t I been here before” feel to it.
A young coach with a flashy offense and a sense of style all his own comes in and takes over a football program from something of an old-school coach, in this case the young coach being Kliff Kingsbury instead of Dana Holgorsen, the school being Texas Tech instead of West Virginia University, and the old-school coach being Tommy Tuberville instead of Bill Stewart.
What’s more, he finds immediate success, Holgorsen having come in and won five of his first six games, the only loss being to national championship contender LSU, and spinning together a 10-3 rookie season, and Kingsbury owning a 5-0 record, a No. 16 ranking with an offense that has America talking, ranking third in the nation in passing at 408.8 yards a game, sixth in total offense at 544 yards a game and 13th in scoring at 41.8 points a game.
Each offered his school a new look, Holgorsen with jeans and hair that was found cool enough to have its own Facebook page, and Kingsbury coming in with a movie star’s good looks, so cool at just 34 that he was being compared in looks to Ryan Gosling and showed up on E! News with host Giuliana Rancic saying “the sidelines have never been hotter.”
Indeed, it pointed out that Kingsbury wears skinny ties and goes for designer clothes such as Marc Jacobs and Tommy Hilfiger, looking even sharper when donning his Ray-Bans.
Kingsbury didn’t back away from the comparisons, telling E! News, “It’s a nice compliment (of the comparison), It’s not like there’s a bunch of super models in this profession, so you kind of take it with a grain of salt.”
That they had a coach cut from a different cloth was obvious around the Texas Tech campus right from the start when the students adopted him with “Our Coach Is Hotter Than Yours” T-shirts that soon were joined by a shirt with multicolored, mirrored lenses like Kingsbury will wear over the slogan “The future’s so bright …”
It certainly was the same kind of fun West Virginia football was in Holgorsen’s early days with the Air Raid offense that had Geno Smith throwing the football all over the stadium as the Mountaineers put 70 points on Clemson, 69 or Marshall and 70 on Baylor.
Kingsbury had something going for him that even Holgorsen could not match, for he was a Texas Tech football legend, a quarterback who set 39 school records while playing at the school, part of the time under an assistant coach named Dana Holgorsen.
Kingsbury’s path also crossed Holgorsen’s when both were assistants at Houston, Holgorsen figuring out quickly that this was a pretty good coach in the making, even before Kingsbury moved to Texas A&M and molded Johnny Manziel into a Heisman Trophy winner last year.
“It’s been fun watching him since leaving Houston and all the success he had at Houston and Texas A&M,” Holgorsen said at this year’s Big 12 Media Day. “He’ll have lots of success at Texas Tech. He’s a true Red Raider.”
What he has done has revitalized football in Lubbock, especially among the students, who are bucking a national trend of declining student attendance by filling the student section to 109 percent of listed capacity.
The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in student attendance with an average of 13,750 per game. The capacity is 12,577, meaning Texas Tech’s 109-percent capacity tops Texas’ 99-percent capacity.
According to a recent study by The Wall Street Journal, even national champion Alabama, who’s won three of the last four national titles, has seen a lack of student attendance at football games. At Alabama, reported only 68 percent of its student seats were used between 2009 and 2012, prompting head coach Nick Saban to publish a letter to students recently to try and bring them back to games.
Well, Kingsbury has gone the other way, this ad appearing this past week in the Texas Tech school paper with a picture of him:
“The student section has been INCREDIBLE! I’ve never seen one like it, so hopefully they’ll keep coming. I know our players feel to have their peers in the stands cheering for them goes a long way. It really shows what Texas Tech is all about to have that kind of SCHOOL SPIRIT.”
See you Saturday at 11AM
BE LOUD. BE ROWDY.
WRECK IOWA STATE!
Then came Kingsbury’s signature.
Of course, this week Kingsbury and his Red Raiders face a different situation. They will not be backed by their student section, but will be going against West Virginia’s, which is known as one of football’s loudest and most rowdy, although it is becoming a bit disenchanted with the decline of success Holgorsen has experienced since the middle of last season.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.