Time for the Matt Well's era to come to an end


It’s time. The Matt Wells experiment has to come to an end. The Texas Tech football program finds itself reeling after the second blowout loss to a hated in-state rival in three games on Saturday night and it is clear that a new direction is needed.

Currently, Wells has a .364 winning percentage with the Red Raiders.  That is the third-worst in program history for a head coach and significantly worse than the .466 winning percentage that got Kliff Kingsbury fired.

In other words, this is a failed experiment and that lands at the feet of AD Kirby Hocutt.  Remember, Hocutt was a one-man committee when searching for Kingsbury’s replacement in 2018.  He undertook the task of finding the new head coach all on his own with no help or input from anyone.  This was his hire and his hire alone.

But just like the other football coaches that Hocutt has hired as AD at a Power 5 university, this hire has gone horribly awry.  Now, it is up to Hocutt to fix the situation before it gets even worse.

Unfortunately, that’s the problem.  Hocutt still has the final say here.  He’s beloved by his boss, Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec, and thus, the pressure to make a move isn’t going to come from the top.

Rather, the pressure is coming from below Hocutt.  It’s coming from the fan base.  But the problem is that Hocutt likely doesn’t care what the fans think.  After all, he didn’t care that the fans were not on board with Wells as the hire back in 2018 and he hasn’t seemed to care that fans are turning away from the program in droves as this disaster of a move continues to burn itself to the ground.

Hocutt holds all the cards and he isn’t going to fold his hand yet.  That’s because his reputation as an AD is on the line with this hire and a mid-season firing would be the ultimate admission that he screwed up, something that few people in a position of such power and influence are willing to admit.

But any normal person can see that an in-season firing would actually make quite a bit of sense.  So let’s take a look at some reasons why it would behoove Hocutt to make a move now, rather than waiting for this situation to deteriorate any further.

It is obvious that Matt Wells’ voice is falling on deaf ears in the locker room.  That’s evidenced by the repeated slow starts that his team puts forth on almost a weekly basis.

In fact, only once this season (against West Virginia) has Wells’ team come out of the gates at full speed.  In the other five games, the Red Raiders have been woefully unprepared to begin the game and as a result, Tech has been outscored 56-35 in the first quarter this year.  And if you take away the West Virginia game, that score drops to 56-21.

Constantly playing from behind is no way to survive in the Big 12.  And it’s a recipe for a disastrous season.

But with half the schedule yet to be played, there is still time for the season to be salvaged.  However, a new voice is needed as Wells’ message to his team appears to be missing the mark.

Somehow, inexplicably, in the three biggest games of the season (against Houston, Texas, and TCU), Wells’ team has come out flatter than a tire that just ran through a construction site.  And in only the season opener was Tech able to rebound mid-game and come up with a win that mattered.

That’s a sign of poor coaching during the week.  And Wells seems perplexed by it.  If he weren’t, he’d have come up with a solution by now.

The No. 1 job of a head coach is to have his team ready to play and time and again Wells isn’t accomplishing that task.  But this team sits at 4-2 thanks to a non-conference schedule that was softer than the creme filling inside of a Twinkie and that gives Tech a reasonable shot at a decent season.

However, the back half of the Red Raiders’ schedule is far tougher and Tech will be favored to beat only Kansas over the next six games.  Thus, another voice might be needed in order to get the most out of this team and get it to six or seven wins.  That’s because it is clear that what Wells is saying is falling on deaf ears.

In sports, it is always wise for an organization to take the temperature of the fan base.  After all, it is the fans that pump the all-important dollar into the veins.

Right now, Texas Tech football is as unpopular in West Texas as boll weevils and that is going to lead to sparse crowds at the remaining home games as well as a complete lack of interest for the duration of the schedule.  And when there’s cancer inside of a body, sometimes the best thing to do is to surgically remove it.

That’s what Hocutt should do.  Remove Matt Wells from Texas Tech.  It would do wonders for this university and for the morale of the fan base.

In fairness, Wells seems like a decent human being.  And he’s put forth the best effort he’s been capable of.  We haven’t been able to say that about the last two head coaches.  Tuberville wanted out almost as soon as he got a taste of how hard this job is and Kingsbury admitted that he didn’t put forth full effort in areas, specifically on the recruiting trail.

But regardless of Wells’ character and earnestness, the results haven’t been there and because of that, this fan base has never embraced the current head coach.  In fact, since the moment his hiring was met with a “Who is that?” tilt of the head, Wells has been fighting an uphill battle when it comes to the Red Raider populace.  And the only way he was going to change the perception was to win and win big.

Well, here we are almost three calendar years later and he not only hasn’t won big, but he’s also hardly won at all and that’s not how to win back a fan base that was already against him, to begin with.

What’s more, the fan base is quickly turning against his boss, Hocutt.  But Hocutt’s path to popularity is much shorter and simpler than Wells’.  All he needs to do is oust Wells now and show that he’s just as displeased with the state of the “progrum” as the fans are.

Of course, it seems highly unlikely that he will do so but were he to, it would completely change the way the fans see Hocutt and it would lift spirits around Raiderland to know that a new hope was on the horizon.

Hocutt has fired a coach in mid-season not all that long ago.  On January 1, 2018 he axed Lady Raider basketball head coach Candi Whitaker just 13 games into (or essentially halfway through) the schedule.

This year, there’s reason to do the same with Matt Wells, and were he to pull the trigger, it would be the most popular move of his career.  However, if Hocutt were concerned with what the fan base thought, he’d have never hired Wells in the first place.

Sometimes, when things are approaching rock bottom, a clear and discernable message from the top is needed.  It is clear that such a time is now for the Texas Tech football program.  And Hocutt needs to be the man to deliver that message by firing Wells.

Unfortunately, this is a program that has become accustomed to losing.  It’s become a way of life on the South Plains just like cotton farming and church on Sundays.

Thus, it’s time to shake up the status quo and deliver an unmistakable message that what we’ve experienced over the past decade is no longer acceptable.  If you can’t get the job done, you are gone.

Those inside the football building appear to need to be reminded of that.  Sure, as far as we can tell, there hasn’t been a lack of effort from the coaching staff.  But there has been a lack of competence and that’s actually worse because effort can be increased while competence is set in stone.

Firing Wells now would hopefully snap the program back to reality like smelling salts do for a dazed boxer in his corner.  It would let everyone inside the program know that what’s been going on for the last three years is unacceptable and it might start the process of building a new culture within the walls of the facility.

But Hocutt has spent the last six or seven years sending the message to this program that mediocrity is acceptable.  He continued to retain Kingsbury after several mediocre seasons and then he hired a mediocre coach to replace him, a coach who had as many losing seasons on his ledger as winning seasons.

If you plant the seeds of mediocrity, the best you can hope for is…you guessed it…mediocrity.  And what’s more likely is that you are going to get worse than that as your yield.

So Hocutt should take a stand right now and start to change the narrative around this program.  No longer is mediocrity or incompetence going to be rewarded.  No longer is a losing culture going to be allowed to sink its roots into the foundation of what is trying to be built.  Rather, if you don’t get the job done, we will find someone who will and we won’t stop until we do.  Oh, if only Kirby had the fortitude to take such a stance.

This next point might seem a bit odd given that on Friday, Texas Tech announced a $20 million donation from high-profile booster Dustin Womble.  The gift, the largest in Texas Tech athletics history, is earmarked for a new football training facility to be completed by the 2023 season.

But while Womble’s generosity is a huge step in the right direction for this program, it isn’t going to be enough to put Tech in the upper-class neighborhood.  In fact, it might not be enough to get Tech out of the trailer park.

What does that have to do with Wells though?  Well, it is no secret that some highly influential donors to the program are completely out on him.  In fact, a group of them lobbied hard for his outsing last offseason and they were nearly rewarded for their efforts.

These are the same boosters that Hocutt alienated by not interviewing current Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen prior to hiring Wells.  In fact, these boosters had set up an interview with Holgorsen only to have Hocutt refuse to take the meeting.

That move has been one of Hocutt’s worst as AD.  On the one hand, he should never let the opinion of boosters dictate to him what he will do in the way of hiring a coach.  However, he should have at least taken the interview to, if nothing else, allow these boosters to save face with Holgorsen and in the court of public opinion.

But by not doing so, Hocutt alienated some of the most passionate and wealthy donors this program has.  So how could he fully get back on their good side?  By firing Wells and doing so now, not at the end of the year.

Sometimes leaders have to admit when they are wrong or have made a mistake.  And firing Wells would be a strong mea culpa from a man who has taken plenty of missteps over years when it comes to this football program.

If Kirby would get rid of Wells now, the excitement among the big-money boosters would be palpable.  And it might just open up a flow of cash for the next head coach while also going miles towards helping repair some fences that need mending.

This next point might seem a bit odd given that on Friday, Texas Tech announced a $20 million donation from high-profile booster Dustin Womble.  The gift, the largest in Texas Tech athletics history, is earmarked for a new football training facility to be completed by the 2023 season.

But while Womble’s generosity is a huge step in the right direction for this program, it isn’t going to be enough to put Tech in the upper-class neighborhood.  In fact, it might not be enough to get Tech out of the trailer park.

What does that have to do with Wells though?  Well, it is no secret that some highly influential donors to the program are completely out on him.  In fact, a group of them lobbied hard for his outsing last offseason and they were nearly rewarded for their efforts.

These are the same boosters that Hocutt alienated by not interviewing current Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen prior to hiring Wells.  In fact, these boosters had set up an interview with Holgorsen only to have Hocutt refuse to take the meeting.

That move has been one of Hocutt’s worst as AD.  On the one hand, he should never let the opinion of boosters dictate to him what he will do in the way of hiring a coach.  However, he should have at least taken the interview to, if nothing else, allow these boosters to save face with Holgorsen and in the court of public opinion.

But by not doing so, Hocutt alienated some of the most passionate and wealthy donors this program has.  So how could he fully get back on their good side?  By firing Wells and doing so now, not at the end of the year.

Sometimes leaders have to admit when they are wrong or have made a mistake.  And firing Wells would be a strong mea culpa from a man who has taken plenty of missteps over years when it comes to this football program.

If Kirby would get rid of Wells now, the excitement among the big-money boosters would be palpable.  And it might just open up a flow of cash for the next head coach while also going miles towards helping repair some fences that need mending.

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