Kliff Kingsbury’s seat is clearly the hottest in the Big 12 Conference and it’s not even all that close. But when I had the chance to ask him about it, he seemed unfazed. Here was my Q&A with the Texas Tech head coach.
Q. You got a ringing endorsement from Kirby Hocutt after last season, but when looking at the record the past couple of years in conference, how does the pressure this year feel any different or more than in previous seasons?
KLIFF KINGSBURY: I think it comes with the territory. Obviously, we know what’s at stake. We know we have to be much improved. But that’s part of the job. I think that everybody but the four that make the playoff every year are basically on the hot seat in college football. You’re coaching for your job every year, and we know that.
I don’t feel any more pressure than I ever have. I always expect to win and give Texas Tech what it deserves and their fans and their alumni and that university. So to me, we’re moving forward and have tried to improve all our processes, but as far as added pressure, it’s not something we try to dwell upon.
Is that coach speak? Maybe. Eh, probably.
But the idea that every coach who doesn’t make the College Football Playoff is on the hot seat is bogus. The reality is Kliff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders have never finished with a winning record in conference and never higher than 5th in the Big 12 standings in his 4 seasons in Lubbock.
Here are Kingsbury’s records:
2013: 8-5 (4-5)
2014: 4-8 (2-7)
2015: 7-6 (4-5)
2016: 5-7 (3-6)
If Kingsbury’s record at Tech looked something like this, at bare minimum, there would be zero hot seat talk in Lubbock: 8-5 (4-5), 7-6 (4-5), 8-5 (5-4), 8-5 (5-4).
The talk would instead be: can or will Kliff Kingsbury ever get over the hump into the upper echelon of the Big 12 Conference? But there’s no way the discussion would be about his job status.
Frankly, I’ve often thought that if Kingsbury wasn’t the prodigal son coming back to Lubbock, it’s entirely likely he’d be out of work already. Four years, or a full recruiting cycle, with limited (or no) improvement is typically the amount of time a coach gets to prove himself. But when combining his status in the Lubbock community with his contract, it’s understandable why Kirby Hocutt and company are willing to give Kingsbury more time.
But Kingsbury was hammered with questions about his horrendous defense in recent seasons, including this question which was about as forthright as one can be: “I figure there may be 5,000 seniors who start on defense in Texas a year. You recruit from other states. Why can’t you get 10, 15, or 20 who can hold your opponents to 30 points or less a game?”
Ouch. But that’s the kind of season Kingsbury is headed into. One with lots of tough questions and serious grilling. Kingsbury did his bet to try and cut the tension at times, such as his response to that question saying, “That’s a great question. I wish I had the answer (laughter).” He opened his press conference jokingly complaining that his walk-up song was Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, which is ironic since Kingsbury may be the only guy left in Lubbock that loves Kliff Kingsbury.
The honeymoon is long over is Lubbock, but the question remains, can Kingsbury step to the plate?
If he doesn’t find a way in 2017 to make his defense halfway respectable and win 6+ games, this could quite possibly be the last Big 12 Media Days of Kliff Kingsbury’s career.
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