Texas Tech Basketball fans, it’s been a few weeks since the team lost the National Championship. And while losses at this level are an experience that’s new to the University, as a lifelong USC fan, I have some words to share.

Back in 2008, I became a Texas Tech fan while watching a football game against my alma mater, the University of Nevada. By halftime, I was wishing I had applied to Tech. I had been raised on USC and grew up in Los Angeles, so those in my inner circle thought this was a fad, and that it would pass. After all, despite being a “Power 5” university, Tech wasn’t on the same level as USC football, which had just experienced a golden era under Pete Carroll. Eleven years and an entire sports career later (even as editor-in-chief for a Texas Tech news site), I’m more invested in Texas Tech basketball and football than ever before.

When USC football lost the National Championship to Texas in 2006, it was a heartbreaking loss, but we still had trophies to look at. Perhaps, this is why USC fans have such a bad reputation of being spoiled and entitled just because of the “brand.” I certainly don’t argue with others over this because everyone is entitled to an opinion, but what fans can’t deny is that our standards of excellence have made for some very rough years. It’s hard to perform as a gritty and scrappy team when you’re used to preseason recognition despite not having to earn it.

I’ve definitely given Texas a fair share of criticism for this same issue, but have been checked more times than I’m willing to admit because of USC’s turbulence. It’s a reality I’ve grown to deal with, but accepting it has been cruel and unusual punishment, especially considering the national recognition and funding available to the USC brand.

For Texas Tech, however, competing against in-conference teams with national brand recognition such as UT has put Tech in a position where they’ve had to grapple for recruits, funding, and respect.

Chris Beard Has Changed Things For Texas Tech

I remember in the not-so-distant past, I was researching an article comparing how underfunded the Texas Tech athletics department was. The most shocking discovery was how low on the totem pole Tech’s assistant football coaches were making compared to the rest of the conference. Despite the differentials, Texas Tech was still able to compete with (and beat) teams with bigger budgets and greater “brand recognition.” I had a realization that it wasn’t a reduced budget or the inability to attract good coaches to Lubbock; Texas Tech had plenty of gritty players willing to put in the work to excel in every sport. This was truly an anomaly, as Tech just didn’t fit into any of the typical boxes.

What the past decade has taught me is that Texas Tech has some of the most incredible and loyal fans. They’re not cocky; they’re humble, gritty, and will go to war for their team. In recent years, Tech’s athletic teams have all taken that same position–and it’s recognizable at the national level. The heightened standard was put on full display last November when Kirby Hocutt decided the football program needed new direction, and while that decision wasn’t easy on anyone involved, Kliff Kingsbury’s name catapulted to the top of every college program with an offensive coordinator vacancy position, and eventually, an NFL head coaching job just weeks later.

Of the 32 NFL coaching positions available, Texas Tech claims two of them in Kingsbury and Anthony Lynn. That’s incredible, and a testament to how much the brand has grown.

NCAA Tournament Brought Respect

Throughout this year’s NCAA Tournament, fans and players were being praised by casual fans and media alike. Texas Tech had the most Tournament wins in the past two seasons at eight, followed by Michigan (7), Villanova (7), Duke (6), and Virginia (6). Hocutt recognized this cultural shift and before the championship, rumors started that Tech was already working on a new deal for head coach Chris Beard.

From the Pom and Co-Ed Cheer squads bringing National Titles to Lubbock before hopping on another flight to go cheer the basketball team on in the National Championship, to the success of the Men’s Track & Field team, Women’s Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Tennis… all the way down to the meat judging teams, Texas Tech is building a dynasty on grit that will be able to compete–and beat–the Blue Bloods in the future. They’re already doing it.

In the last week, Chris Beard’s name has been thrown around discussions as far reaching as the Los Angeles Lakers. Assistant coach Mark Adams’ name was thrown into the coaching loop–and rightfully so. But with how the staff has been able to develop transfer players, to the unprecedented NBA Draft expectations set by Texas Tech in recent seasons, the sunsets over West Texas aren’t the only things illuminating the landscape.

Chris Beard’s Extension

It’s still unsure just what Hocutt is planning in terms of Beard’s extension. He has an annual salary of just north of $3 million, and considering the success he’s had in every zig-zagging turn in his coaching career, it’s not entirely crazy to speculate that his base plus bonus restructuring could even rival that of Kansas’ head coach Bill Self, who makes a little over $4 million a year.

Regardless of his contract, Beard and his staff have a “dog mentality” that’s difficult to ignore. They find players such as Jarrett Culver, Zhaire Smith, Matt Mooney, Davide Moretti, and others, and turn them into nationally recognized players who have clawed their way up the NBA Draft discussion ranks. And what’s more, the entire coaching staff has a blast doing it; they go to war with their players and the respect they show each other is contagious.

In an era where coaches and programs are getting themselves entangled in scandal, Chris Beard is reminding people that determination, humility, class, and pride are how you earn respect. And while the National Championship loss might sting for some time time to come, know that for Texas Tech itself, that respect is being built by a blue-collar work ethic that’s impossible to overlook now.

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