New tune in Tech country with Tuberville
Leach’s near-opposite is catching on quickly with fans
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.