Football

Texas Tech Football Notebook: Kirby Hocutt Discusses the Firing of Matt Wells

Whew.

Well, Matt Wells is no longer the head coach of Texas Tech football. I mentioned the other day that I wanted to see this thing out before I hang up the laptop with the thought that the fans would be in a better place. A new coach, a new season, some excitement, and a fresh start.

I did not expect Matt Wells to be fired yesterday.

I’m guessing that somebody wants me to stop the blogging much sooner than later, which is great. I’m kidding of course, we all know that I wield zero power, and the fact that I wrote 10 Things on Sunday without writing about the game that was played on Saturday was probably an indication that things weren’t going to get much better. I actually used a Latin phrase that seems even more appropriate now given Hocutt’s press conference:

Res Ipsa Loquitur: the thing speaks for itself.

to be honest, I am actually quite proud of myself as I don’t know of any other outlets that did what I did and I’m pleasantly pleased that I had that type of foresight to do that. Yes, I’m patting myself on the back, but I don’t really ever do that much. I also think that it didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that something wasn’t right.

Why now? I think the main reason was that they wanted to be first in line for potential candidates and I think that they didn’t want to be in a position that they were previously, which is to hire Wells in December and he has to recruit to keep the class that had previously been recruited, that class falls apart and then everyone is scrambling. At least this way, there’s a chance that a new coach can put something together relatively quickly.

I’d also think that now presents some opportunity for Wells to save a bit of face. He can say that he was fired with a 5-3 record and that he had turned things around and it might be more palatable to a new potential employer. The thing with Wells is that he’s really only a head coach and I don’t think he could be a coordinator again so I think it’s head coaching or bust for Wells.

And last but not least, it sounds as if Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt knew that the product wasn’t going to improve. Cut your losses and move on.

Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt: As you all know, this is a non-transcript and basically a summary.

  • Been a difficult day, relieved Matt Wells as the head coach. Thanks Matt Wells for his energy and effort, and always operated with integrity and character.
  • The support staff and assistant coaches are a great group of men and women and have asked that they continue to operate. Appreciates all of the assistant coaches.
  • Want each young man to be here and to stay at Texas Tech and graduate from Texas Tech. There’s a lot to play for and will fight these last four games. When they earn that bowl invitation, they will be celebrated.
  • Sonny Cumbie will be the interim head coach. Need the support of the students and to pack the Jones. Cumbie loves Texas Tech.
  • Will find the ideal candidate moving forward.
  • Group to help with search: Dusty Womble, single largest benefactor to Texas Tech athletics, is a great advisor and supporter; Cody Campbell, former letterman and NFL player, successful busines man, to help in the search, has great ties to Texas Tech, his father and gradfather played for Texas Tech; Sammy Morris, played 12 years in the NFL, will be a great addition; and Tony Hernandez, associate athletic director. Will make a recommendation to Schovanec for a head coach.
  • Proud of attendance, the pre-concert events, student tailgate experience has been successful.
  • Single largest gift by Womble and family. Largest in the nation.
  • Extremely confident the support will continue.
  • [questions]
  • There’s no ideal time to make a decision like this, as they looked at the 30 games and the 13-17 record and 6-17 record in conference and there’s not a good time to make a change, just given where the program was, it was inevitable and today was the day to move forward.
  • Won’t speculate about candidates, do believe that making this decision at this time allows for speculation to end and to move forward with the process. This has transpired this morning, have talked to each individual of the committee, but want to meet as a group soon.
  • Unknown timeline and all teams extend teams to November 27th so it will be unknown, but will begin on it immediately.
  • Informed Wells this morning, approximately 10:30 this morning.
  • Collective over the 30 games, last year was difficult for college football, and wanted the offseason of the program and it became evident that this decision needed to happen. In an ideal world you let the season play out, but it didin’t feel right at this time.
  • As a committee with the four individuals, that would be a great conversation to have about Sonny Cumbie and don’t want to speculate and this is a talented group of men. Believe we are better than what we’ve played this year. I appreciate their resolve and determination and still a lot to play for these last 4 games.
  • Always want to move quickly, but we have to get this right. If this takes up until mid-December, then that’s when it happens.
  • Looking for a winner. Someone that can get us over the hump. Feel that Wells many good things, got to take that next step and need somebody with that determination and knowledge to get to that next level. We get frustrated.
  • I get people ask me about using the word “elite” and dang right, I want to be elite. If we aren’t striving to be elite and at that level then shame on us. I’m not going to allow us to step back from those expectations. The fact that we are still top 20 in bowl game appearances, we can do it again, we have to take the next step and find someone to take that next piece.
  • I make decisions every day and I wish I knew all of the answers, I’ve thought a lot about why Wells didn’t work out. Houston Texas had games of grit and determination, but not every game. I believe in these kids, just need to take that next step and I take that responsibility and need to change course and find him.
  • I don’t know if I can point to one thing in particular, showed progress at times and there are games where we didn’t. need to get to that consistent level of performance week-in and week-out. It was a collective review and discussion of 30 games and the 8 that we’ve played this year.
  • No ideal time to make a decision like this. There’s not a one-game review or one situation. A collective body of work. When I arrived at that place and felt this decision today was inevitable.
  • Patterson was the interim last year, just felt that Cumbie was the best option to serve as interim for the team, he loves Texas Tech, not that the others don’t, Sonny brings a high level of energy and experience and felt that collectively he was the right man for the role and remainder of the season.
  • Yes, Wells was surprised and didn’t agree with the decision.
  • Right fit, seek someone that has strong Texas ties, knows the state and recruiting landscape and still the ability to go into Texas high schools and sell West Texas and what it has to offer. There’s a lot of ways to claim experience, but someone with strong ties would be an ideal candidate.
  • We have a talented group of young me, it’s not easy, go to practice, and they are in a fishbowl every day, it takes a special man to balance all of those things. I feel like I have a good relationship with those men, I hope they trust me and that we had a conversation today and another one next week, want an opportunity to have a conversation about where the program is going. Want the good, bad and ugly from them in that locker room. Today has been a hard day for those players. My heart goes out to them, we need to find that next piece to get to the next level.
  • Expectations is to provide a great experience for the men and prepare them and give them every chance to fight to the end and earn a post-season opportunity.
  • Always important to have the right individuals. Football is the drive in realignment and know we have a lot to offer and have over 40,000 students, passionate fans, our alumni is the strongest in Dallas and Houston markets. Nothing more important to make sure we have a strong and healthy program. Will show up every Saturday.
  • I put more pressure on myself than anyone can put o me. I make the best for what I believe is right and now one puts more pressure on me than me and believe we can win. Cuts me to the core when we don’t and cuts the coaches and players to the core when we don’t win. And need someone to unify the fanbase and core. It’s hard to win. Need a leader to pull everyone together.
  • More than the individual’s background, it is the day-to-day psyche and confidence in the program to take that next step. Football is different, there’s not another sport as physically violent and demanding and you have to believe in yourself that you are going to be successful. Believe will be successful in all 3 phases in the staff and the men around you. It is culture and environment in the building that have to continue to build and about recruiting. Wells has done a good job of assembling talent and brought in some great young men and evaluate all aspects.
  • Evaluated the program last year and the expectations are to show progress and progress over perfection. Progress is measured how you compete each Saturday and every day just felt that through 8 games and previous 2 seasons to make this decision long-term.
  • No doubt should this football team go to bowl games every year? Absolutely. Top 25 each year? Absolutely. That’s the expectations. Be relevant in November.
  • Don’t want to speculate on candidates, would be decisive and problematic and not something we would talk about at this time.
  • Matt and I talked a lot about the transfer portal, it is a balance. Matt believed in the decisions and I supported those decisions. Great young men in the program, each coach will have a different philosophy and how vital recruiting is to a program. Must be engaged and monitor that space. Have to continue to recruit too.
  • Will talk to high school coaches, reaching out to the THSCA, including candidates. Nobody impacts a person’s life like a high school head coach, will talk to some individually and would not hesitate to reach out to them.
  • I want to win, period. Expect to play by the rules and play with integrity and spirit, at the end of the day it is winning. Will not compromise on the other values we have and we expect to operate with integrity. Can do both and win and that’s what we’re going to do.
  • There’s been a lot said about that process, not going to make a decision for Texas Tech athletics that isn’t the right decision to make. Have a great group surrounding me this time. Critical that we get this right. Appreciate their willingness to help.

Whew.

A few big takeaways.

  • I think that someone from Texas is going to be key. Hocutt even mentioned the idea of recruiting Texas was different than being from Texas. So if you are all thinking of someone not from Texas, that might not be a real candidate.
  • I think that Hocutt really sort of owned the situation. He didn’t shy away from the word “elite” and I’m okay with that. This has never bothered me.
  • Hocutt said that this was the culmination of the past 30 games and I believe that, not the Kansas State necessarily.
  • On Sunday I knew that Dusty Womble would have a seat at the table and that ended up being accurate. I appreciate the fact that Cody Campbell is on the committee for balance because I think that’s important. I’d also tell you that with Womble making that gift, he asserted himself into the conversation of Texas Tech football. Not that he wasn’t a key cog already, but he wanted to be at the front of the line. I don’t know Womble other than listening like you all have to him and have no idea as to what kind of candidate he likes, but he absolutely adored Beard while he was here and I think he feels the same about Mark Adams. They’re two different men, but I don’t think that Adams gets to be the head coach if Womble doesn’t approve.
  • I know that the Art Briles is bandied about, but I just don’t see this as being realistic. Hocutt used the words “divisive” and “problematic” and he also said that he wanted someone that would unify the fanbase and also used the word integrity. That would not be Briles. Briles is currently unemployed meaning that no college will hire him. The NCAA didn’t say that he committed an NCAA violation because looking the other way while individuals of the football program sexually assault women on campus is not in the NCAA rule book because the NCAA isn’t in charge of that. That’s not their job. It reminds me of the scene in A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise asks Jack Nicholson where in the rule book the “code red” is and it’s not there. That doesn’t make it a “code red” which is to haze a soldier inappropriate. Looking the other way while women are sexually assaulted in the name of winning is not an ideal candidate. If you need to be reminded what the NCAA said about Briles: “In each instance, when the head coach received information from a staff member regarding potential criminal conduct by a football student-athlete, he did not report the information and did not personally look any further into the matter. His incurious attitude toward potential criminal conduct by his student-athletes was deeply troubling to the panel. As one panel member observed at the hearing when questioning the head coach’s lack of response to this information, ‘a lot of these things that we’re talking about, they’re not NCAA rules violations . . . (or) university policy violations. They’re felonies. We’re talking about rapes and physical assaults.’ The head coach failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react to the kind of conduct at issue in this case. Furthermore, as a campus leader, the head coach is held to an even higher standard. He completely failed to meet this standard.”

Because it is a whirlwind and this takes a lot of time to do, I’ll work on a list of candidates tomorrow evening. I don’t think that you need me to think of your own candidates.

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