Texas Tech once again finds itself battling the yearly perception that nothing much will mount up in the South Plains and yet Tech will, again, find itself in a bowl game for the tenth straight year. It seems every year the pundits talk about how Oklahoma and Texas will compete for the South title while the four other teams battle for third and this year marks no exception.
What gets lost in the national media is how strong the South has become, specifically how teams like Tech are able to compete against the on the field juggernauts that is OU and UT, and the off the field competition of recruiting of trying to compete and take away prospects from the two Tier One schools in Texas.
National media members would like you to believe last year was Tech’s ‘breakthrough’ year finishing in a tie for first in the South with Oklahoma and Texas, but the ESPNs’ and Fox Sports’ haven’t been paying much attention to Tech if they feel Tech will revert to a seven win team and maybe squeak into a bowl game.
What has been failed to be mentioned this offseason is the fact that Tech has longest bowl eligibility streak in the Big XII, 16 years, and the only team in the Big XII to be bowl eligible every year since its inception. All the while, Tech has been accomplishing this with less than almost all the other Big XII South schools.
Tech, yearly, finds itself playing third of fourth fiddle in the state for top recruits, Texas snags most it’s players for the recruiting year in April, 10 months before they can sign a Letter of Intent. Since Oklahoma has seen its rise to prominence, once again, they are regularly able to come in and nab top state recruits, last year they were able to nab the No. 1 rated recruit, JaMarkus McFarland from Lufkin, by many recruiting Web sites.
Even Texas A&M, with all its misery the last few years, is still able to ‘out recruit’ Tech. Since 2002 Rivals.com, a nationally respected recruiting Web site service says OU averaged the ninth best recruiting class in the nation, Texas has averaged the 10th best class, A&M the 20th, OSU the 28th and Tech averaged the 49th best overall recruiting class.
Please note 2009 recruiting class was not figured into these results as the 2009 season has yet to begin.
Also, Tech is on the short end of the athletic budgets in the Big XII, having the ninth lowest budget in 2008, $46.1 million, while Texas, $101 million, Oklahoma, $73.6 million, Texas A&M, $69.1 million, and Oklahoma State, $46.4 million, have significantly more funds to support newer facilities, bigger stadiums and recruiting trips.
Yet since Mike Leach has captained the ship Tech has averaged 8.5 wins per year under Leach and 4.6 wins in conference over the same time span. The kicker, Tech hasn’t won less than seven games in a year since 2001.
Since 2000, Leach’s first year in Lubbock, A&M is averaging 6.3 wins per season and Oklahoma State is averaging 6.5 wins per season. Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, both averaged over 10 wins per season in the same span.
Most understand why Oklahoma and Texas get the nod over other teams in the South; the last team to win the South Division besides those two was Texas A&M in 1998. Media has dubbed Oklahoma State (27-23 under Mike Gundy who took over in 2005) and Baylor (16-31 overall and 7-25 in Big XII play since 2005) as the teams this year that will overthrow Tech this year and force the Red Raiders to the fifth position in the South.
Most this year focus on the loss of Graham Harrell, the record setting starting QB for Tech since 2006, and Michael Crabtree, two time Biletnikoff Award winner given to the best WR in college, as the reason Tech will be lucky to win six or seven games this season. Mind you Tech has won no less than seven games a year under Leach and Harrell and Crabtree were not a part of the 2000–'05 squads that averaged 8 wins a season.
Tech this decade has shown it can compete with the bigger budgets and bigger stadiums in the Big XII, but still finds themselves in an unenviable slot in 2009. Though if history is an indicator, Tech will continue to surprise the pundits this season and in 2010 still won’t get the recognition they deserve.