LUBBOCK, Texas — After 30 games as Texas Tech’s head football coach, Matt Wells was let go Monday, thus beginning the search for his replacement.
Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt said in a news conference Monday that he broke the news to Wells around 10:30 a.m. and was met with surprise and dissent.
Wells posted a 13-17 record while at Texas Tech, 7-16 in Big 12 play. According to Hocutt, that was just not good enough.
He made the move two days after a loss to Kansas State in which the Red Raiders led 24-10 at halftime and were shut out in the second half.
“That was a game we shouldn’t have lost,” Hocutt said.
To replace Wells, Hocutt will look to bring in a coach who can win games like that one. He said he will be assisted by Board of Regents members Dusty Womble and Cody Campbell, Assistant Director for Player Support Development Sammy Morris, and Deputy Director of Athletics Tony Hernandez in making the hire.
Hocutt could go in several different directions with the hire. There are successful coaches at nearby smaller schools — UTSA’s Jeff Traylor and SMU’s Sonny Dykes, who are a combined 15-0 through Week 8 of the season. There are up-and-coming coordinators, like Arkansas’ Kendal Briles. And there are retreads with problematic pasts, like Kendal’s father Art.
Hocutt hired an outsider last time around. Wells is an Oklahoma native who came from Utah State. None of the five universities he coached at before Texas Tech are in Texas.
With his next hire, Hocutt is looking for the opposite. When he was asked specifically what the right fit at Texas Tech looks like, he immediately mentioned “strong Texas ties.”
“Somebody who knows this state, knows the recruiting landscape… Somebody with very strong state of Texas ties would be an ideal candidate for us,” he said.
Hocutt said he “absolutely” sees Texas Tech as a program that should go to a bowl game every year and belongs in the top 25.
Under Wells, Texas Tech never met that level. Under his predecessor Kliff Kingsbury, it rarely did — making three bowl games in six years.
Now, Texas Tech needs someone who can get it there. In Hocutt’s words, it needs someone who can make the program “elite.”
“We’re not going to back away,” he said. “I get people who talk to me about ‘You use the word elite.’ Yeah, dang right we want to be elite. And that’s not going to change.”
Texas Tech’s football program was not where Hocutt wanted it to be under Wells and it hasn’t been for a long time. The Red Raiders have not posted a winning record in Big 12 play since 2009, the last year of Mike Leach.
Hocutt’s last hire did not work out as planned. He knows how imperative it is to nail this one.
“We’ve got to get this right,” Hocutt said. “Bottom line, we have got to get this right for Texas Tech athletics and Texas Tech University.”