Texas Tech will open the Kliff Kingsbury era next August at SMU. The Kingsbury coaching era. The Kingsbury quarterbacking era began on Nov. 20, 1999, against the Sooners.
On that historic day in Lubbock, the Red Raiders said good-bye to coaching icon Spike Dykes and hello to a quarterback who would become an icon. Kingsbury, a freshman in his first college start, lifted the Red Raiders to a 38-28 victory over OU.
And now Kingsbury is Tech’s new coach, perhaps repaying the Sooners for the misery of that 1999 game by leaving Texas A&M before the Cotton Bowl. Kingsbury is A&M’s offensive coordinator and Johnny Football’s quarterback coach and not expected to coach the Aggies against the Sooners in Arlington on Jan. 4.
Kingsbury is the people’s choice at a school where suddenly the people matter very much. After the debacle of Mike Leach’s firing, which fractured the fan base, and Tommy Tuberville’s sudden departure after three seasons for a Cincinnati job that is not the equal of Tech on college football’s food chain, Kingsbury is a soothing balm. Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt — who in November 1999 was fresh on the job as Joe Castiglione’s assistant AD at OU — hired Kingsbury because his offensive coaching has produced stunning results in a short amount of time and because he can build a bridge between a school and its fans.
Kingsbury is a bridge-type player. He was recruited by Dykes and flourished under Leach.
On Nov. 20, 1999, Kingsbury was a freshman, just out of New Braunfels High School down near San Antonio, but was called on to make his first start, due to the injury to veteran Rob Peters. Kingsbury had completed just 16 of 40 passes all season. Speculation whirled about Dykes’ coaching status, and indeed, after the game he announced his retirement. Dykes just hadn’t won enough, though his record was 82-67-1.
The emotional Red Raiders, 5-5, beat the favored Sooners (in Bob Stoops’ first season) and Kingsbury was a big reason why. He completed just nine of 17 passes — Mike Leach was on the OU sideline that day, not the Tech sideline — but they went for 249 yards and three touchdowns. A star was born.
Kingsbury threw for three TDs and ran for another. One of his TD passes was a 75-yarder to tight end Tim Winn, off a flea flicker. Another was a 67-yarder, off a short pass to tailback Sammy Morris, after Kingsbury avoided the rush of OU tackle Bary Holleyman.
Kingsbury was superb the next three years under Leach, who established Tech’s passing legacy that remains to this day.
But after the game, Kingsbury could only talk about Dykes.
“Coach Dykes saw talent in us when other schools didn’t, and we love him for that,” Kingsbury said. “He’s made this program what it is. We wanted to send him out with a win.”
If Tuberville had jumped to Cincinnati three days earlier, Spike Dykes’ son, Sonny, would have been available. Sonny Dykes coached Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 season in 2012 and last week accepted the Cal-Berkeley coaching job.
Instead, Tech found the next-closest candidate to Dykes, and it comes with the deep ties to Leach, too. Truth is, all of Tech Nation today says, thanks, Cincinnati.