Those of you who read here regularly know that I’m a Texas Tech graduate. I’ve had my quarrels with the University (FSM knows, going to school there will do that to you) in the three decades since I first set foot on the campus (as a summer-school prospective enrollee). A couple of weeks ago the admin took it into their heads to fire the winningest football coach the program had ever known: Mike Leach, of “find your inner pirate” fame.
Out of the blindingly unexpected jerkoffery the University pulled during the Christmas break — indeed, four days before the Alamo Bowl — one piece of good news has now emerged. Ruffin McNeill is the new head coach at his alma mater, East Carolina.
Pirate Captain and highly unconventional Tech head coach Mike Leach brought with him an assistant named Ruffin McNeill. He took over the defense completely a few seasons ago, after (was it OSU? somebody in the Big XII, anyhow) beat Tech despite the offense’s putting up numbers that looked like they belonged on a six-man field, if not a basketball court. Lyle Setentich, wherever he may be now, had failed to impress on the players on his side of the ball that they needed to participate fully in the team effort — so much so that the Red Raiders allowed three different runners to accumulate more than 100 yards apiece in that ball game and gave up 49 points — if Tech were to win; so his job went to McNeill.
Coach Mike Leach named assistant head coach Ruffin McNeill as the interim defensive coordinator. Setencich, who was in his fifth year as coordinator, will be assigned other duties by athletic director Gerald Myers.
Coach Ruff, as he was called (and the kids loved him, and the press came to very quickly) approached the defense with an attitude of blue-collar solidarity. He started with Tech as a linebackers coach; by 2005, in his 20th year as a collegiate coach, he had taken responsibility for the Red Raiders’ special teams as well.
Fittingly, the team’s mascot is a Pirate.
It appears he’s also hired Lincoln Riley, who served the Red Raiders as offensive coordinator during the 2009 Alamo Bowl. That week McNeill served as the interim head coach for Texas Tech, and had expressed interest in the position permanently, only to be rebuffed by the same athletic department and university administrators who summarily executed Leach’s head coaching career. Not surprisingly, those same TTU officials spoke glowingly of McNeill and his “informal interview” for the job before working out a deal with ex-Auburn honcho Tommy Tubberville; rumors around Red Raider Nation suggested Baylor’s Art Briles had the job in a “done deal” before Leach officially lost it, but Briles stayed with Baylor — at a nice salary bump.
The Pirate football Texas Tech fans had come to count on may not be dead — it’s just over on the coast, now. Well, maybe that’s fitting: you need seas for pirates, or at least serious rivers, like London’s Thames in the 1600s.