Texas Tech football coach Matt Wells has been fired after two-plus seasons in charge.
Athletic director Kirby Hocutt said in a Monday afternoon news conference that he met with Wells that morning, conceding that Wells was surprised and "didn't agree with the decision."
Despite the Red Raiders being 5-3 this season, Hocutt said Saturday's loss to Kansas State, in which Tech blew a 14-point second-half lead, made it clear there was no point in waiting. Tech is 0-2 at home in Big 12 games this season and will likely be an underdog in all four remaining games: at No. 4 Oklahoma, home against No. 22 Iowa State and No. 15 Oklahoma State and the finale at No. 16 Baylor.
"There's really no ideal time to make a decision like this," Hocutt said. "Just given where we were, when we looked at the full body of work in the program collectively, we felt it was inevitable."
Sonny Cumbie, who played quarterback at Texas Tech for Mike Leach between 2000 and 2004, will serve as the interim head coach. Cumbie served as an assistant at Tech between 2009 and 2013, then left for TCU. He returned again this season as offensive coordinator.
Wells, in his third season in Lubbock after replacing Kliff Kingsbury, was 13-17. He was just 7-16 in Big 12 games, and only two of those wins were against teams that finished with a winning record (in 2019 against an 8-5 Oklahoma State team and in 2020 against 6-4 West Virginia). Wells' .433 winning percentage was the second worst in school history to Jerry Moore (.309 from 1981 to '85) among coaches who spent more than one season in Lubbock.
"We need somebody with that determination, knowledge and ability to get this program to that next level,'' Hocutt said. "We haven't been there in quite some time. We all know it. We get frustrated because we know what we're capable of. We're not going to back away. I get people that will talk to me about, 'Hey, you use the word elite.' You know what? Yeah, dang right we want to be elite.''
Hocutt said a search committee will include Tech booster and regent Dusty Womble, who just made a $20 million donation to the athletic department earlier this month; former player and oil and gas executive Cody Campbell; former Red Raider running back Sammy Morris, who currently serves as the team's assistant director of player support development; and deputy athletic director Tony Hernandez.
He said he doesn't have a timetable for a hire and didn't want to speculate on any candidates. Hocutt said he expects the Red Raiders to get back to being in bowl games every season and to be contenders into November.
"We've been No. 2 in the country before," he said, referring to the 2008 season under Leach, when Tech was in the top 10 for 11 weeks. "We can do it again here at Texas Tech. We've just got to take that next step. We've got to find that individual that can bring that missing piece of what's not there to allow us to take that step."
Wells was under pressure in Lubbock after last year's 4-6 finish. He fired offensive coordinator David Yost, who had come with him from Utah State, and replaced him with Cumbie.
"Nobody's going to put more pressure on me than I put on myself,'' Hocutt said. "I want to win. I want to be competitive. I love to see young men celebrate after success. It cuts me at the core when we don't, and we're not, at the level that we want to be at. It cuts these young men at the core. It cuts this coaching staff at the core.''
Wells is 57-51 in eight-plus seasons, including a 44-34 mark at Utah State. He was hired at Texas Tech after a 10-2 season with the Aggies.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.