Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt made waves when he tapped then 33-year-old Kliff Kingsbury to helm the Red Raider football program. Kingsbury in turn, raised eyebrows when he proceeded to hire possibly the youngest coaching staff in D1 college football. Among the eyebrows raised was the set belonging to Hocutt.
When one looks at the raw numbers, it's easy to see why Hocutt had to reach for the Metamucil. Kingsbury retained Sonny Cumbie who is now 32 years of age. He then hired new kids on the block Eric Morris (27), Mike Smith (31), Kevin Curtis (33) and Trey Haverty (31).
Heck, even the "old scudders" on the staff aren't exactly cousins of Methuselah. John Scott, Jr. is 37, Mike Jinks is 41, with the champion graybeards being Lee Hays and Matt Wallerstedt, neither of whom is exactly on the AARP mailing list at age 46. Kingsbury included, the average age of the Texas Tech coaching staff is 39.
It was enough to give Kirby Hocutt gray hair.
"When I started hiring all young coaches he [Hocutt] got a little nervous about it," Kingsbury confirms. "I told him I had a plan and I had a vision of where I want to take this. "
And the crux of that vision was rekindling the zeal for Texas Tech that Kingsbury knew and loved in his Red Raider playing days.
"It was more just about being passionate for Texas Tech and the players and bringing the fire back. That was my base thought at that time when I was talking about the staff and he was worrying about the youthfulness of it," Kingsbury relates.
But being a young spark himself, Kingsbury's hiring options were not what one would call vast. He didn't want to hire people he didn't know, but as a relative newcomer to the coaching profession, Kingsbury didn't have a plethora of connections either. Consequently, many of his prime candidates were youthful former Texas Tech teammates.
"As you know, after only your first few years you don't have a huge number of guys you're comfortable with and familiar with, so I tried to pick guys that I knew about their work ethic, their loyalty and would be proud to be a Red Raider. Those were my top three things," Kingsbury says.
Increasing the likelihood of the youth movement was the fact that many of Kingsbury's old playing buddies actually reached out to Texas Tech's new head coach.
"And the young guys that I'd played with, called me up wanting jobs," says Kingsbury.
"They had good jobs at high profile programs, but they wanted to come back and be a part of what we're going to do at Texas Tech."
And that desire to be at Texas Tech, combined with the coaches' youthfulness, were selling points for Kingsbury. As noted above, Red Raider spirit was part of Kingsbury's vision, after all.
"I think our coaches have done a great job of relating to our players--the six of us who've played there--relating our past experiences at Texas Tech, the love we have for that place, and I think that's been able to expedite the process of the relationships with our players," says Kingsbury.
And he adds, "Having a younger staff, we try to relate to our players more in terms of the way they think and anything that can grab their attention."
Kingsbury and his band of young guns have certainly grabbed their fair share of attention. From young and older alike.