Are We the Fools for Believing in Chris Beard?
At the time of this opinion column's publication, Chris Beard is still the head coach for Texas Tech Red Raider Basketball. (Update: Beard is no longer head coach at Texas Tech, per multiple reports.)
Today is April Fools' Day, and it could become a day with significance in annals of Texas Tech Red Raider Basketball history.
Ever since Texas Tech was bounced from the 2021 NCAA Tournament by Arkansas, Chris Beard has been the subject of stories and rumors of being pursued by the Texas Longhorns to fill their head coaching vacancy.
As has been well documented over the past week, Thursday (April 1st) is the day that Chris Beard's contract buyout for another Big 12 Conference team drops from $5 million to $4 million.
When Beard returned to Texas Tech in April 2016, it was a role-reversal for the Red Raiders: Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt getting on the private jet, finding his target, doing the poaching, and returning with a head coach in tow.
After the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Beard had left Arkansas-Little Rock for UNLV. Then, a week later, Beard's contract with UNLV was bought out for $1 million as he signed a 5-year contract to take over the Red Raiders.
After the bitter aftertaste of Tubby Smith's tenure at Texas Tech, bringing Beard back into the fold appeared to solve all the problems with the men's basketball program.
"It's like when Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama," Beard said on April 16th, 2016, at the campus news conference announcing his return to Texas Tech. "He said, 'When momma calls, you've gotta go home.' Texas Tech is my momma, and I'm home. I'm so glad to be here."
Now, five years later, Beard is coaching Texas Tech under a lucrative 6-year, $27.45 million dollar contract, signed in the aftermath of the team's 2019 National Championship game loss to Virginia. According to USA Today's latest research, Beard is the fourth highest paid college basketball coach in the country at $4.873 million.
If you believe the whispers and online conjecture, Texas is prepared to break-the-bank in their pursuit of Beard. For Beard to surpass Villanova's Jay Wright and become the third highest paid college basketball coach, his salary next season would have to eclipse $6 million, and maybe even approach $7 million.
But more importantly, would Texas pay their men's basketball coach more than their football coach? New UT football head coach Steve Sarkisian’s contract is $34.2 million over six years, an average annual value salary of $5.7 million. Sark's 2021 salary is $5.2 million.
- Street dogs
- Social media videos
- Back tattoos
- Fireside Chats
All these have been staples of Beard's tenure at Texas Tech and his connection with the fanbase. Connections that many Texas Tech fans probably thought were unbreakable, especially with the school ponying up the most money they've ever paid a head coach.
But now, these connections have been weakened, becoming brittle after a week of twisting in the West Texas wind with nary a word from Beard or Hocutt. Just maybe Beard's connections to Lubbock ultimately break under the strength of the burnt orange lights of the Longhorns Network and the Texas sun.
Momma may call you home, but it's tough for her to compete with the bright lights of Sixth Street, Austin City Limits and the blank checkbook of the win-at-all-costs Longhorns athletics department.
Are we the fools for believing in Chris Beard? 4:1 may take on a whole new meaning in Lubbock after Thursday.