Texas Tech has fired coach Kliff Kingsbury after the Red Raiders finished with a third consecutive losing season.
"I'd like to thank Kliff Kingsbury for his six years of dedication leading our football program," Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt said in a statement. "He's worked very hard and represented us in a first-class manner."
Kinsbury said in a statement Monday that Texas Tech will always be home for him and coaching the school was a "dream come true."
Kingsbury had a 35-40 record over six years at Texas Tech, closing this season with a 35-24 loss to Baylor on Saturday that kept the Red Raiders from reaching bowl eligibility. Kingsbury had two years left on his contract with a $4.2 million buyout.
North Texas head coach Seth Littrell and Troy head coach Neal Brown, who are both former Texas Tech assistants, should be strong candidates to replace Kingsbury. Hocutt could also pursue Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Hocutt and Venables roomed together as teammates at Kansas State. Other possibilities could include Utah State head coach Matt Wells and Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who was Hocutt's position coach during his playing days at Kansas State.
Kingsbury's tenure in Lubbock began with much promise in 2013. With future No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback, the Red Raiders won their first seven games to climb into the top 10 of the polls. But from there, Texas Tech lost five in a row, and never fully regained its footing under Kingsbury. Mayfield ended up transferring to Oklahoma.
Following the hiring of defensive coordinator David Gibbs, the Red Raiders finally made dramatic improvement defensively this season after finishing last in the country in total defense in 2016. But after a strong 5-2 start, which included road victories at Oklahoma State and TCU, the Red Raiders faded again down the stretch. Losing true freshman quarterback Alan Bowman to a collapsed lung significantly diminished Kingsbury's offense -- most notably last week, when the Red Raiders managed only 181 yards in a 21-6 loss at Kansas State. All told, the Red Raiders wound up juggling three quarterbacks including Jett Duffey and McLane Carter, who were both hampered by various injuries.
"We had a quarterback playing at an elite level. Really, if you look at Bowman, I don't know if I've ever seen a true freshman play better, and kind of the run he had," Kingsbury told reporters after the Baylor game. "Just weren't able to recapture kind of how we were rolling, and that was tough. That's on the coach to make sure whoever's the quarterback, you can maintain that, but that's hard if you lose a guy who's playing at that kind of elite level in this league. It's hard to keep up."
Kingsbury also recruited, signed and developed Patrick Mahomes, who leads the NFL with 37 touchdown passes in his second season with the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes was in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday to watch his alma mater.
Thank you @TTUKingsbury for everything you have done for me and Texas Tech University! You believed in me when very few people did and helped me become the quarterback and person i am today!— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes5) November 24, 2018
As a quarterback for the Red Raiders from 1999 to 2002 under Mike Leach, Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards, still the second-highest total in school history.
Before taking over at Texas Tech, Kingsbury was the offensive coordinator at Houston and Texas A&M, where he tutored Denver Broncos starter Case Keenum and Aggies 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
"For what he achieved and contributed to Texas Tech, as an athlete, a student and our football coach, Kliff Kingsbury has a special place in the hearts of Red Raiders," Texas Tech president Dr. Lawrence Schovanec said in a statement. "As a coach, he was a model of class and character, and he always put the best interests of his student-athletes first. I admire and appreciate all he has done for Texas Tech."