I went to a Texas Tech game with the homeboy Robes earlier this season. They were playing Rice, a cupcake, and the crowd was hype. Ravenous for scoring, confident they'd be sated. Mike Leach, their coach, gave 'em what they wanted - in classic Tech fashion, the Red Raiders adjusted at half and blew the Owls out of the Stadium in the second half. QB Taylor Potts threw for seven touchdowns.
Except now there is no classic Tech fashion, because there is no Mike Leach. Leach was ostensibly fired for insubordination, because TTU wanted him to apologize for putting a recently concussed sophomore in a dark shed. [Except this is a school that courted and coddled Bobby Knight, so that's garbage. For more, peep this great SBNation assessment, this NV discussion, and the NYT article that strapped a rocket to the mythology of Leach.]
I'd rather talk about identity.
The things I'll remember from my visit to Jones AT&T stadium in September: the amount of jalapenos on my nachos [Texas-sized], the number of chilluns both in attendance [Texas-sized], and the message they displayed on the scoreboard after one of Tech's eight touchdowns:
We score a lot.
Identity is probably overused in professional sports. Prepare to hear analysts whinge about how the Steelers 'got away from their identity' if they lose while running for less than a hundred yards, even if Roethlisberger's slinging the ball all over the field. But it makes sense in college ball. Coaches develop identities for their teams, they recruit certain players, they have more unique systems. Lorenzo Romar's done that here for UW's basketball team - they will attack you in transition and feed that attack with strong perimeter defense. The season that they actually got away from their identity and centered their offense around one-and-doner center Spencer Hawes didn't go so well.
Leach crafted an identity for Texas Tech that was both locked-in and exciting: they gave no eff and no quarter on offense and were going to spread the field and throw waves of receivers at you in something called the Air Raid - until your secondary had their hands on their hips and your defensive coordinator was getting used to the taste of Robitussin.
From that NYT piece:
He regards receivers as raffle tickets: the more of them you have, the more likely one will hit big. Some go wide, some go deep, some come across the middle. All are fast. (When Leach recruits high-school players, he is forced to compromise on most talents, but he insists on speed.) All have been conditioned to run much more than a football player normally does. A typical N.F.L. receiver in training might run 1,500 yards of sprints a day; Texas Tech receivers run 2,500 yards.
When I was in Lubbock, the line on Leach was that he was an 'asshole' [heard numerous times] and 'genius' [heard even more often]. And he was their asshole genius, and that's why so many people tuned in to the Second Best College Football Ending of the Decade.
I just watched TTU beat Michigan State in a really good game. They looked like Mike Leach's offense under his successors. Steven Sheffield popped off the bench and looked like a Tech signal-caller, which is to say, awesome. Tech went for it on 4th down twice up 3 in the final few to slam the door.
Hold onto the feelings, Tech fans, because there's no guarantee anyone can run this offense like Leach did, and without this identity, you can count on your hands and toes folks in my neck of the woods who'll be paying any attention to Lubbock for the next few. Good luck.
The other notable bit in the Alamo Bowl was Michigan State running this ad:
Yeah that's Nick Drake. Sporting News noticed, apparently this premiered a year ago.
Michigan State University would like you to know that, because its athletes wear the color green when they play sports, it is a profoundly pro-environment institution. Oh, I can only imagine the bafflement that a certain psychotically depressed British folk singer would feel at being associated with such a message.
I like Nick Drake - a lot - but using him to promote your school during a football game with a leaf slowly floating down onto your logo? Who greenlighted that, no pun intended?
It was seriously one of the weirdest things I've ever seen on my television, and I'm casually watching Jersey Shore. Tech might have an identity problem with their football team, but MSU's got a serious marketing problem for the whole school.