A potential April Fools' Day joke, a $4 million invoice and references to Judas and Benedict Arnold. How Texas Tech reacted to Texas hiring Chris Beard
Texas Tech University System Chancellor: 'Chris Beard’s callous treatment of Lawrence, Kirby and Dusty, only confirms the serious misgivings many (including me) have had about his character'
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This year’s men’s basketball coaching carousel has included programs that have combined to win 19 of the sport’s 82 national championships, including openings at North Carolina, Indiana, Cincinnati, Arizona, Marquette and UNLV, but much of the drama from the current hiring cycle came from the Lone Star State.
What you need to know
Here are the highlights from today’s newsletter:
The University of Texas hired alumnus and former Texas Tech University men’s basketball coach Chris Beard on April 1 and at least one Red Raiders fan wasn’t sure if it was an April Fools’ Day joke.
From anonymous Texas Tech fans to the top of the Texas Tech University System, a variety of Red Raiders stakeholders questioned Beard’s character for leaving for Texas, according to emails obtained by Out of Bounds.
The calls from Texas Tech fans for Art Briles to become the university’s next football coach haven’t stopped. There was a push from a segment of the Texas Tech’s fan base last season to hire Briles, however, the school’s head coaching position never opened. “I still think Art Briles is the guy for Tech Football and your legacy will be set with several Championships and a model program of showcasing how to run it the right way,” one Texas Tech fan wrote to Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt, after the fan suggested the university hire then-Abilene Christian men’s basketball coach Joe Golding.
Given the day it was in the calendar, not every Texas Tech fan was sure whether to believe the news that men’s basketball head coach Chris Beard had been hired by the University of Texas.
“I am hoping that since it is April 1st, the story of Coach Beard leaving to go to UT is a joke,” one Texas Tech fan, whose name was redacted by the university, wrote to Texas Tech Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt and other athletic department administrators in an email obtained by Out of Bounds via a public records request. “If not…”
It wasn’t a joke.
On the evening of April 1, J. Michael Lewis, who was elected chairman of the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents in December 2020, sent an email that included a link to the official University of Texas press release that announced the hiring of Beard.
Texas Tech University System Chancellor Dr. Tedd Mitchell responded to the email the next morning, “Chairman - It’s been an emotional week for everyone. Chris Beard’s callous treatment of [Texas Tech University President Dr.] Lawrence [Schovanec], Kirby and [Board of Regents member] Dusty [Womble], only confirms the serious misgivings many (including me) have had about his character for quite some time. I believe our family will be better off in the long run for his departure.”
Out of Bounds reached out to a Texas Tech University System spokesman and a University of Texas associate athletics director for communications to offer each school the opportunity to comment on Mitchell’s email.
In a statement provided to Out of Bounds, Mitchell said, “I join President Lawrence Schovanec, Director of Athletics Kirby Hocutt and Red Raider Nation in expressing our shared excitement for Mark Adams to lead Texas Tech’s men’s basketball program. We are confident Coach Adams will continue the successes of this program and build an even stronger future for our student-athletes on and off the court.”
The University of Texas has not responded at the time of publishing.
The reaction to Beard’s departure and the attacks on his character extended from the top of the Texas Tech University System down to anonymous fans. In the hours after the hire was announced, Texas Tech fans who wrote to Hocutt referred to Beard – a 1995 graduate of the University of Texas and a former student assistant for the school’s men’s basketball program – as Judas from the Bible, Benedict Arnold, a turncoat, a phony and a fraud.
“This is the worst day in tech history,” a man named Chad Crouch wrote to Hocutt, “and right there with it is the firing of [former football coach Mike] Leach, tech destroyed football that day and today you are responsible for destroying basketball.”
A man named Chris Cobern sent Hocutt an email with the subject line “Renderings of beard,” with the body of the email featuring just nine words: “They need to be gone by end of week.”
At least one Texas Tech fan read the tea leaves and saw the potential for Beard to leave Texas Tech before he was officially hired at Texas.
“Your legacy will be defined by what happens with Coach Beard,” one Texas Tech alum and scholarship donor, whose name was redacted by the university, wrote to Hocutt on March 30. “You can lose him to the NBA, to blue bloods like Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. But you simply can’t lose him to a conference in state (sic) rival. That should NEVER happen.”
Just before midnight on the day that Beard left for Texas, the emailer followed up with another email to apologize to Hocutt, writing, “There is absolutely nothing you could have done to keep him.”
At a press conference on April 1, Hocutt said, “We moved our internal discussion forward and submitted a formal proposal for what we, Texas Tech University, positioned as a lifetime contract or a rolling contract here at Texas Tech. It became obvious in the months ahead that there was not an interest in that type of lifetime agreement or rolling contract … he shared with me today he was ready for another challenge, so I don’t fully understand it. It obviously wasn’t for better fan support or better facilities. He told me it was not for financial reasons.”
On the afternoon of April 2, Texas Tech Senior Associate AD for Finance & Administration Jonathan Botros sent University of Texas Assistant Athletics Director and Chief Financial Officer Rob Novak an invoice for Beard’s contractual obligation to Texas Tech for leaving the university.
On the day Texas hired Beard, Beard’s potential liquidated damages owed to Texas Tech if he left for another school that’s located in the state of Texas or within the Big 12 decreased from $5 million to $4 million. It’s due to Texas Tech by the end of July.
“Being a Texas Tech fan can be absolutely brutal sometimes,” a man named Brett Cleverdon wrote to Hocutt.
The proposed candidates from Texas Tech fans
Where does a fan base turn when the architect of the most successful era in program history leaves for an in-state, conference foe?
“I’m ashamed to be a red raider, we don’t want some acu [Abilene Christian University] or unt [University of North Texas] coach, we want Pitino so we can to Austin beat the shit out of beards team (sic),” wrote Chad Crouch. “The coach from Gonzaga’s (sic) he makes a million and change, Pitino is lowest paid coach, u have to get somebody big.”
Crouch also suggested Tennessee’s Rick Barnes, Arkansas’ Eric Musselman, Baylor’s Scott Drew, then-Loyola Chicago coach Porter Moser, Nevada’s Steve Alford, Purdue’s Matt Painter, then-Texas Tech assistant coach and now-head coach Mark Adams, Tarleton State’s Billy Gillispie and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
“Give billy Clyde Gillespie (sic) another chance,” Crouch wrote of Gillispie, the former Texas Tech head coach who went 8-23 in his only season with the Red Raiders. His .258 winning percentage is the worst of any coach’s tenure in program history. Crouch then offered, “jay Wright he isn’t high paid,” referring to Villanova’s head coach whose annual compensation is $6.1 million.
Adams, who was hired by Texas Tech to replace Beard on April 5, was clearly the most popular candidate among fans, based on the emails obtained. Thirteen emails advocated for the hiring of Adams and two other emails recommended keeping Adams as the top assistant coach, while pairing him with a new head coach.
At least four emailers copied and pasted similar versions of a list of reasons why Adams should be hired as Beard’s replacement. One emailer said the list came from a post on the “Guns Up Nation Friends & Fans” Facebook group.
One of the bullet points was that “Mark and all his family went to and graduated from Texas Tech,” as many Texas Tech fans simultaneously questioned Beard’s character for returning to his alma mater.
“I don’t think there’s a better way to put Beard on notice than to hire his defensive weapon,” a man named Jeff Baranzyk wrote of Adams in an email to Hocutt that had the subject line “You Up?” Several fans, including at least one prominent stakeholder, believed that it was actually Adams, not Beard, who is responsible for the program’s recent success.
Alan Hassenflu, the chairman and CEO of Fidelis, a company whose stated purpose on its website is to “provide essential services to commercial real estate properties,” wrote to Mitchell, Schovanec and Hocutt with the request that the university interview Adams. “My cousin, Ron Holmes, was the Head Coach and Athletic Director at McMurry College and hired Beard as his replacement,” Hassenflu wrote. “He has also known Adams for years (they are peers). It is his opinion, and mine, that Adams is the brain-child behind Tech’s success. Mark definitively built and orchestrated the defense, which is our team’s secret-sauce.”
Hassenflu continued, “My cousin knows Mark wants the job, but Beard is trying to get him to UT. Again, per Ron, who knows both Chris and Mark well, Adams has been the key to Tech’s basketball success over the last few years. I don’t think there is any scenario where we want Mark to get away. We are building something great and need continuity. We think Mark provides the total package for Tech.”
Within an hour or so of Hassenflu’s email, he called Schovanec. “Good conversation,” the university president told Hocutt and Mitchell in an email.
Another emailer, whose name was redacted by the university, but who said he or she was an “ex-student 1989-90” wrote that Adams “continues to show that loyalty despite heavy recruitment to join the group of Benedict Arnolds that followed the former guy to that town on I-35,” referring to Beard and former Texas Tech assistant coaches Ulric Maligi and Bob Donewald Jr., who joined Beard in Austin for roles with the Longhorns. The emailer said Adams “was intimately involved with all aspects of the program, to the point that many feel the product, especially in 2018 and 19, was more about him and the players we had at the time than what Coach J Iscariot was doing,” as the emailer referred to Beard as the disciple Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, according to the Bible.
Scott Williams, the managing director and founder of BridgeStreet Partners – an executive search firm, ironically – emailed Hocutt on the morning Beard left Texas Tech for Texas, with a subject line that read, “Turn coat (sic) Beard.”
“I can’t believe Beard is so unloyal after everything we did for him,” Williams wrote.
Multiple emailers refused to write the names of Beard or the University of Texas.
One fan, who described herself as “the ‘old lady’ who dances with her ‘old crazy husband’ at the basketball games,” wrote, “That other person was the 4th highest paid [coach] in the nation! Don’t say nobody will come to Lubbock. Really? Over 300,000 and growing? Best facilities in the NATION and Best fans and Tier 1 University? Pro athletes out the Nose? SuperBowl (sic) MVP? Have you seen Waco? Would you WANT to live there? Have you seen Kansas? Identical to Lubbock climate!”
“It’s time to GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL!” she wrote later, “We are BETTER THAN THAT university!”
One emailer offered himself as a candidate to replace Beard.
“In my opinion the basketball team, although they have had some limited success, is playing an outdated form of the game,” wrote the emailer, who graduated from Texas Tech in 2015 and whose name was redacted by the university. “I believe that putting an NCAA Championship banner in United Supermarkets Arena is very possible in a very short amount of time. I believe that given an opportunity I could deliver this banner within three years.”
Beard was responsible for nine NCAA tournament wins in three NCAA tournament appearances in his five seasons as the head coach at Texas Tech, including a national runner-up finish in 2019. Since the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament was held in 1939, the university’s 11 other men’s basketball coaches during that span combined to win eight NCAA tournament games, one less than Beard. One of those eight wins was in the Midwest Regional third-place game in 1961, after Texas Tech lost its first game in the tournament.
“I understand that my lack of experience as a collegiate coach would mean a sharp learning curve, however I am extremely capable of picking everything up in my first year,” the would-be first-time head coach wrote to Hocutt in an email, which was written in earnest. “I would greatly appreciate an opportunity to sit down, buy you lunch, and discuss my vision.”
A man named Bill Benton wrote, “While Coach Beard did amazing things at Tech for three seasons the last two Big 12 regular seasons and this years (sic) tournament records were not anything to brag about.”
Texas Tech earned a No. 6 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, where it lost to No. 3 seed Arkansas in the second round. Of the 18 NCAA men’s basketball tournament appearances in Texas Tech’s history, 10 have resulted in the Red Raiders losing their first game in the tournament, which puts their 2021 NCAA Tournament finish in the top 45 percent of their all-time NCAA tournament finishes. Beard’s .671 winning percentage at Texas Tech ranks first in program history and if the Red Raiders had qualified for the canceled 2020 NCAA Tournament, Beard would be tied for first in school history with four NCAA tournament appearances, all of which would’ve come within a five-year tenure.
“I think he will ultimately regret the decision he made today,” a man named Dustin Tisdale wrote to Hocutt, as part of an email thread whose original subject line was “Black Live Matters (sic) shirts.” The contents of the original email were redacted by the university.
“I’m pissed about way (sic) Beard treated Tech after he was given the keys to the kingdom,” wrote a man named Wes Wester.
One emailer named Steve Hutto offered his recommendation for Golding, who was then Abilene Christian’s head coach, but Hutto also campaigned for Art Briles for be the university’s next football coach, continuing a push from some corners of Texas Tech’s fan base that dates back to at least December. “I still think Art Briles is the guy for Tech Football and your legacy will be set with several Championships and a model program of showcasing how to run it the right way,” Hutto wrote. “Seems like your (sic) positing Sonny [Cumbie] to be next, but Briles has the 1% Winning Mentality it takes to be a Champion.”
In multiple emails obtained by Out of Bounds last December, some fans measured the success of Texas Tech’s football program against their own mortality. “I want to win a Football Conference Championship before I die,” wrote one fan who campaigned for Briles.
In multiple emails regarding the university’s recent men’s basketball coaching search, some fans either apologized to Hocutt for their past emails regarding the state of the football program or they acknowledged that emails they previously sent to Hocutt may have been unfair.
“Again please accept my apology for any harsh words I may have sent to you regarding our football coach :),” wrote Brett Cleverdon.
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“I mean, that is her free year because if she has the opportunity to play with, well, her best friend [Azzi Fudd], frankly, coming in, and they can play together four years and win four national championships together, and especially if she’s making money, I could see it being very, very hard for her to walk away that fifth year, knowing she could stay,” Fuller said.
Thank you for reading this edition of Out of Bounds with Andy Wittry. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it on social media or sending it to a friend or colleague. Questions, comments and feedback are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.