New tune in Tech coun­try with Tu­berville

Leach’s near-op­po­site is catch­ing on quickly with fans

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - KIRK BOHLS

IRV­ING — In many ways — and maybe in ev­ery way — he’s the anti-Leach. And that’s just fine with Texas Tech, which got its dan­der up when Mike Leach was fired last De­cem­ber but now has its guns up again.

Tommy Tu­berville is ev­ery­thing that Mike Leach isn’t, and the Red Raiders are count­ing on that to be the case ev­ery­where but the score­board, where the last head coach was an un­mit­i­gated suc­cess in mak­ing Tech the third most suc­cess­ful pro­gram in the loaded Big 12 South Di­vi­sion.

The two coaches are dras­tic op­po­sites in foot­ball phi­los­o­phy, dress codes, ap­proach to team dis­ci­pline, man­ner­isms, speech pat­terns, you name it. Where Leach would fly by the seat of his rum­pled pants, Tu­berville brings such struc­ture and or­ga­ni­za­tion to the pro­gram that play­ers al­most im­me­di­ately straighten up when he en­ters the room. While Leach would show up at func­tions wear­ing a short-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and a sleepy, al­most di­sheveled look, Tu­berville made his first ap­pear­ance at the Big 12 me­dia days nat­tily at­tired in a dark blazer, a red and black striped tie and a Texas Tech lapel pin.

Whereas Leach would barely give men­tion to his de­fen­sive play­ers and con­sid­ered that side of the ball an af­ter­thought, Tu­berville can’t stop talk­ing about the need for teamwide ca­ma­raderie and no di­vi­sion be­tween play­ers.

While Leach would rarely bring his star play­ers — even Heis­man can­di­dates

Con­tin­ued from C1 Gra­ham Har­rell and Michael Crabtree — to me­dia in­ter­views, the more se­cure Tu­berville brought to the Big 12 me­dia days this week not one, but both top quar­ter­backs, who are com­pet­ing for the same job.

Leach was a god­send for columnists and mag­a­zine writ­ers, and made op­pos­ing coaches sweat more than run­ners for NFL agents. He was to­tally un­pre­dictable on and off the field.

With­out ques­tion, he put his stamp on the pro­gram, to the ex­tent that he beat Texas and Ok­la­homa five times in his 10 sea­sons. He’s Tech’s win­ningest coach, and won five of his nine bowl games be­fore be­ing fired for in­sub­or­di­na­tion and ac­cu­sa­tions of player ha­rass­ment last De­cem­ber.

The prob­lem was that Leach was as much about Leach as he was Texas Tech. He was not just the face of the foot­ball pro­gram, he was the foot­ball pro­gram, which rubbed many the wrong way at the Lub­bock school.

You think Tech hasn’t em­braced his suc­ces­sor? The school has al­ready sold a record 30,709 sea­son tick­ets.

This isn’t to con­demn Leach, who tremen­dously raised the pro­file of a school that still hasn’t won a Big 12 cham­pi­onship or played in a BCS bowl de­spite com­ing close in 2008. But he at times came off as more in­ter­ested in rais­ing his own pro­file, and he clearly over­stepped the bounds of right and wrong by stick­ing a player for hours in a dark elec­tri­cal closet, al­though a thou­sand coaches have done far worse.

Tu­berville knows some­thing about chaos. He coached for 14 sea­sons at Ole Miss and Auburn, in­her­it­ing and over­com­ing a harsh NCAA pro­ba­tion at the for­mer and en­dur­ing less than to­tal sup­port from his ad­min­is­tra­tion at the lat­ter.

He won big at Auburn, even go­ing un­de­feated one year, but was de­nied a chance at the na­tional ti­tle be­cause USC and Ok­la­homa were also un­beaten.

He’ll gen­tly tweak the Tech of­fense, but still lean heav­ily on the spread of­fense and rely on a slight 60-40 im­bal­ance in fa­vor of the pass. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever go heavy on the pass.

“We’re go­ing to have a team. We’re not go­ing to worry about throw­ing for 500 yards,” Tu­berville said. “Now if we’re play­ing a team that can’t cover any­body, we’re go­ing to throw it 100 Texas Tech has moved on from for­mer head coach Mike Leach, whose coach­ing got the team in­creased vic­to­ries but failed to reach a BCS bowl or win a Big 12 ti­tle. times, but we’re there to win cham­pi­onships. That’s the rea­son I was brought in.”

In seven short months since he came aboard, the glib Tu­berville has shown off his Arkansas charm at 15 Red Raider clubs and spo­ken at more than 40 func­tions. He was even wel­come at the Tech booster club in Hobbs, N.M., where Leach had been banned for years for, well, be­ing Mike Leach.

In this era when South­ern Cal signs up the to­tally un­proven Lane Kif­fin and Ten­nessee winds up with choice No. 7, Tu­berville’s all but be­come the poster boy for the per­fect hire.

“He’s done an out­stand­ing job win­ning peo­ple over,” Tech ath­letic di­rec­tor Ger­ald My­ers said. “He has the abil­ity to pull peo­ple to­gether. He’s bet­ter than we thought he was. I know he hasn’t played a foot­ball game yet, but he has far ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions.”

There is that lit­tle de­tail about win­ning, of course. Tech will likely not win the nation’s pass­ing ti­tle for the sev­enth time in nine sea­sons, but Tu­berville has no in­ter­est in such.

He’s into team build­ing these days. He has gone ex­tra lengths to cul­ti­vate a greater team-first at­mos­phere by in­ter­mix­ing of- fen­sive and de­fen­sive play­ers ev­ery­where from the locker room to the team din­ing hall.

Tu­berville is still in the process of unit­ing Tech’s once-frac­tured fam­ily. He brings an im­pres­sive ré­sumé that in­cludes a 110-60 record at two lower-pro­file SEC schools than an Alabama or a Florida, but he also has a keen in­tel­lect and gift for the lan­guage that earned him a spot as a can­did tele­vi­sion an­a­lyst on foot­ball games.

He’s try­ing to un-learn some of those habits af­ter re­ceiv­ing a pub­lic rep­ri­mand from Big 12 com­mis­sioner Dan Beebe in June for sug­gest­ing the league needed more eq­ui­table rev­enue­shar­ing and might again be sub­ject to re­align­ment ru­mors.

“In tele­vi­sion, they taught us to speak our mind,” he said. “I for­got to get that out of my mind a few weeks ago, so I got to get back on the coach­ing side.”

Tech is used to it. It was not un­like the hot wa­ter that ref-bait­ing, player-chastis­ing Leach of­ten found him­self dur­ing those en­ter­tain­ing days at Lub­bock. Even My­ers gave a lit­tle ner­vous chuckle about Tubs’ lat­est run-in with the league of­fice be­fore adding, “We’ve got that be­hind us.”

Tommy Tu­berville has been fo­cused on build­ing a sense of team.

Nati Harnik

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