Buried in Texas sports news in the wake of the NFL draft, the NBA playoffs that include the Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Stars’ surprising run in the NHL Stanley Cup chase has been word that Texas Tech University, out in lonely Lubbock in West Texas’ cotton producing South Plains, has signed men’s basketball coach Chris Beard to a contract that will pay him $4.575 million a season through 2025.
Taking a Big 12 team to an overtime loss in the NCAA Final can put a 46-year old coach in high cotton.
The short roll call of college coaches who now average more per season than Beard are Kentucky’s John Calipari at $9.3 million, Duke’s Mike Kryzyzewski at $7 million, and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes at $5.2 million. That’s according to USA Today’s 2019 salary data base for men’s basketball coaches. Barnes recently vaulted into the top 3 thanks to a public flirtation with UCLA. Bill Self, the Kansas coach whose teams have won 14 regular season Big 12 championships and a national championship, for now is on Beard’s heels at $4.07 million.
Texas Tech, the school that once offered coaching refuge to Indiana-ex Bob Knight, appears determined to sustain a big-time basketball reputation under Beard, who once served as Knight’s assistant in Lubbock. Over the years, competing in football against the likes of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas in Big 12 play has proven difficult. Still, if Texas Tech sounds familiar it may be because Kliff Kingsbury was the head football coach there from 2013 through 2018. He was fired in November after leading the Red Raiders to a 35-40 record in six seasons. Kingsbury, who has developed a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, parlayed what was deemed a sub-par performance at Texas Tech into a NFL head coaching position with the Arizona Cardinals.
“It sends a very big message what our expectations are as an athletics program,” Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told reporters after details of Beard’s latest contract were released.
Hocutt is serious about Beard, who had been a journeyman coach of sorts before landing in Lubbock as the head man. The athletic director last signed the coach to a new contract after the 2018 NCAA Tournament in which the Red Raiders reached the Elite Eight. Beard has been at Texas Tech since arriving from Arkansas-Little Rock in 2016. In his three seasons since replacing Tubby Smith, who left for what he thought were the greener pastures of Memphis, Beard’s teams has averaged 25 victories a season. The most recent coaching stop for Smith, who won a national championship at Kentucky, is at High Point University In North Carolina.
Beard’s latest contract with Tech has a $3 million buyout clause for schools in 49 states. If he leaves for any school in Texas or another Big 12 school, however, it will cost $6 million to get Beard out of his Texas Tech contract. You can be sure that the price doubles for a Texas school because of Beard’s connection to the University of Texas, his alma mater and first place he served as an assistant basketball coach.
Not that Beard has shown the slightest interest in seeing Lubbock in his rearview mirror.
“He’s had opportunities the last two years to look at just about every job that has become available,” Hocutt told The Dallas Morning News. “And he hasn’t looked at any of them…This is the best job for Chris Beard. I’m confident of that.”