"Is Kliff Kingsbury's phone on?" asked the Texas Monthly Twitter Saturday when news of Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville's departure for the University of Cincinnati broke.
It hardly took a Nostradamus to know that the 33 year-old former Red Raiders quarterback and current Texas A&M offensive coordinator, whom Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports had called "the breakout coaching star of the 2012 season" even before the Aggies knocked off Alabama, was going to be the sentimental favorite, and a serious candidate despite his youth.
Now he's got the job.
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt first announced the move on Twitter, posting what appeared to be phone-shot video of himself breaking the news, followed by a rapid pan to Kingsbury saying "Wreck 'Em Tech."
— Kirby Hocutt (@kirbyhocutt) December 12, 2012
The choice was so exciting, few fans seemed to care about the fact that the video, which as of Thursday morning was approaching 30,000 views, had not been uploaded properly.
— Scott MacWatters (@ScottMacWatters) December 12, 2012
As Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported, Kingsbury and Hocutt flew a charter jet to Austin to meet with Tech chancellor Kent Hance and interim President Lawrence Schovanec before heading to Lubbock, where they were greeted at the airport by the local media. (An official press conference will happen Friday.)
Hocutt also interviewed two other candidates, including Clemson offensive coordinator and former Lake Travis High School head coach Chad Morris. Wrote Williams:
Tuberville jolted Tech on Saturday morning with a resignation that seemingly no one saw coming, bolting for Cincinnati. Hocutt promised to find a replacement who loves Tech and appreciates West Texas culture. Kingsbury is that, and it took Hocutt only 100 hours, practically on the dot, to produce him.
The last time Kingsbury played in Jones AT&T Stadium, he threw six touchdown passes in a 42-38 upset of Texas in 2002. He said he’s wanted to be back ever since.
“I loved it out here,” said Kingsbury, who threw for more than 12,000 yards as Tech’s first Mike Leach-era quarterback.
The New Braunfels native becomes the second-youngest FBS college football head coach in the country, after Toledo's Matt Campbell. But as Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman noted earlier this week, he's older than Darrell Royal was when he got the University of Texas job. And Williams tweeted (quoting the Associated Press's Betsy Blaney) that Kingsbury is the same age Hocutt was when he got his first athletic director position, at Ohio University.
While Kingsbury is in just his third year as a coordinator and fifth as a coach, his work under Kevin Sumlin with the Texas A&M offense and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel this year, and the University of Houston offense and quarterback Case Keenum last year, put a big shine on his resume. The two schools combined to go 23-3 in those two seasons.
But most importantly, Kingsbury is a Red Raider--and a Red Raider who's connected to Mike Leach. His hiring should close the door on the emotions of the past few years for fans who never liked the fact that Leach got fired.
"[A]s a Big 12 official put it Wednesday, Kliff Kingsbury is “charismatic,” ranks among the game’s top young guns, and, perhaps most importantly, comes complete with a grace period," wrote Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News . "Hocutt would probably feel a lot more comfortable if he’d had a few more seasons under his belt, but, really, it was an easy hire. He won’t have to sell it to Tech fans, that’s for sure."
That was also David Ubben of ESPN's take:
If Hocutt swings and misses on Kingsbury, not a soul in Lubbock will blame him. If he'd swung and missed on Morris, while Kingsbury flourished elsewhere? That would've been an unforgivable mistake that very well could have cost him his job.
And if Hocutt swings and connects with the next star in Kingsbury? Well, all he'll have done is reignite what was one of the most promising programs in the Big 12 before Leach's exit. Perhaps he has discovered Mike Gundy 2.0, one of the game's best coaches who sees this job as his final destination when others might not feel the same way.
The fans will surely approve, and if they haven't already started celebrating in the streets, they're not far off. Even the college-aged Tech fans would remember Kingsbury's efforts on the field. Now, can he prove himself on the sidelines?
CBS Sports' Feldman penned the definitive story about Kingsbury's rise last month, detailing many of the little reasons why he's been successful, from his NFL apprenticeships (Kingsbury won a Super Bowl as a reserve for Bill Belichick's New England Patriots in 2004) to his relationship with Leach protege and current West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorson, whom Kingsbury succeeded as offensive coordinator for Houston in 2010, rising all the way from quality control assistant (which is practically an internship-level job).
Feldman also explored why SB Nation's Spencer Hall calls Kingsbury "our first really 'bro' football coach" (hint: skinny jeans and beard grooming devices are involved).
Kingsbury's presence this year in College Station had some Tech fans cheering on the Aggies in the SEC, while many A&M fans hoped he'd stick around to see how far the team and "Johnny Heisman" might take things next season. Kingsbury acknowledged "if it was any other school," he might have gone that way. According to Williams, he planned to be in College Station today to say goodbye his now-former players.
On Twitter, Manziel himself reassured the Aggie faithful, while also hilariously acknowledging the volume of message board chatter about Kingsbury's departure.
Have faith in Coach Sumlin...It's got us this far, why stop now? #gigem
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) December 13, 2012
Texags must be in full MELTDOWN mode right now haha
— Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) December 13, 2012