When Does Apathy Set In?

Texas Tech dropped to 3-6 on the season and 1-5 in the Big 12 after a 34-13 home loss to in-state rival Texas.

The danger to Texas Tech’s football program doesn’t come from angry fans. It comes when the fans become apathetic. Because apathetic fans cease supporting the program.

Apathy obviously hasn't set in yet. That is clear from the presence of a boisterous throng of almost 61,000 who showed up to cheer on a—then—3-5 club that was coming off an 82-27 drubbing by TCU. The size and intensity of the crowd—especially under less than exciting circumstances—is a testament to the dogged loyalty of Texas Tech football fans. Many of those fans have seen some hard times, and they obviously are not about to be put off easily when the program hits a rough patch.

But loyalty and enthusiasm have their limits. Even among the die-hard Red Raider faithful. And as the losses mount, and as the one-sided whippings pile up, the specter of apathy may well emerge. Anger can be sustained only so long, for it is a fatiguing emotion and a wasting resource.

Apathy is most likely to manifest itself when the fans become accustomed to losing. When they can predict beforehand, not only that their team will lose, but how it will lose. Are the Red Raiders becoming predictable losers whose modes of losing are also a foregone conclusion? One could make the case that this is so.

Following the 34-13 loss to Texas, Texas Tech is 3-6 on the season, and failing a miraculous turnaround producing wins over Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor, will have its second losing season in three years. Going back to the 38-30 loss to Oklahoma last year, the Red Raiders are 1-10 in Big 12 competition, their only win coming over perpetual cellar-dweller Kansas earlier this season. And failing dramatic improvement, Tech could easily conclude this season in a 1-13 conference slide.

Were the majority of the conference losses nail-biting heartbreakers, it would be easy to keep apathy at bay. After all, in that scenario, one could easily argue that Tech “just needs to get over the hump,” or that a few more talented players would turn those losses into wins. Sadly however, Tech’s losses have not tended to be close. Quite the contrary.

Tech’s last 10 conference defeats have come by an average of 22 points. And only two of those losses have come by a single score.

Another worrisome trend is that the margin of loss has slowly widened over time. Here is a chronological listing of the loss margins: 8, 18, 23, 29, 25, 10, 32, 3, 55, 21. The pattern is not absolute, but there is a discernible trend toward more thoroughgoing defeats. And with powerhouses Oklahoma and Baylor still on the schedule, the trend could easily continue.

Kliff Kingsbury is a young coach who is perched atop a very large fund of goodwill from Tech fans. For various reasons they will have more patience with him than they would just about any other coach out there, and they will continue supporting the program for the foreseeable future.

But at some point Kingsbury will have to provide tangible proof of improvement on the field. He will have to give them solid reasons to believe. As of this moment, however, the dolorous outcomes of Texas Tech football games are becoming all too predictable. And you know what predictability engenders.

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