LUBBOCK, Texas — Tommy Tuberville says he’s certain he can take Texas Tech to new heights.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we can take it to the next level,” Tuberville said Sunday after being introduced as the new coach at Texas Tech, replacing the fired Mike Leach.
The first step for the Red Raiders would be to win the Big 12 South outright, followed by a berth in a BCS bowl game and perhaps a shot at a national title.
The former Auburn and Ole Miss coach says the road to improvement includes improving on defense and adding a “few new wrinkles” to a pass-happy offense.
Tuberville walks into a situation a few weeks after Leach was fired amid allegations he mistreated a player who suffered a concussion.
Tuberville took the job Saturday and was expected to sign a contract later this week, officials said. A person close to the contract talks who was not authorized to speak because terms are not final said Tuberville will receive a five-year contract averaging about $1.5 million a year.
The 55-year-old Tuberville gave the Red Raiders’ ‘Guns Up’ hand sign as he walked in to be introduced. He wore a striped red-and-black tie with the school’s Double T logo embroidered at the bottom. After athletic director Gerald Myers introduced him, Tuberville donned a white Texas Tech hat.
He plans to meet with players on Wednesday.
He stepped down at Auburn in December 2008, ending a 10-year tenure that included a perfect season and a string of teams that contended for Southeastern Conference championships.
Without mentioning Leach’s name, Tuberville called the recent problems “a small bump in the road” in light of the program’s 85-year history.
“I like that people are disappointed. They should be,” Tuberville said. “But it’s not the end of the world because there is another day. And I’m telling Texas Tech fans right now that we’re going to be fun to watch.”
Added Myers: “He’s won championships. He’s played in BCS games. We wish him the best in developing a program that all of us hope that he can.”
Tuberville said he plans to interview four or five people each for defensive and offensive coordinator jobs — all of them outside the program.
He met with members of the coaching staff late Saturday but Ruffin McNeill, the lone other candidate for the job, was not among them. He will meet again with some of them at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Orlando, Fla., on Monday
“I’ll just have to wait and see if anybody strikes something in me that I feel, ‘Hey, I think they can get this job done,'” Tuberville said.
Tuberville will inherit a proven spread offense two years after abandoning his attempt at implementing one midway through his final season at Auburn. In 2000, Leach brought a pass-happy offense to Texas Tech that put up gaudy numbers. All but two of his quarterbacks led the nation in passing in his 10 seasons.
Tuberville said he’ll make “subtle” changes in the offense to “enhance” it. There will be more running, but the passing game will remain — and improve.
“We’re going to keep the Air Raid,” he said. “I like to control the ball, and you can do that in the air as well as you can on the ground.”
Tuberville said he has spoken to many of the program’s recruits and none told him he’d changed his mind about coming to Texas Tech.
“The reception was great,” he said, adding that his national exposure as an ESPN analyst during the year he was away from coaching helps. “Most players know who I am, and that helps.”
Tuberville was 85-40 at Auburn, including a 13-0 season in 2004 when the Tigers finished No. 2, won the SEC title for the first time in 15 years and Tuberville won the AP Coach of the Year award.
Before going to Auburn, Tuberville coached at Ole Miss and was 25-20 in four years after inheriting a program under NCAA sanctions. He also spent a year as defensive coordinator at Texas A&M when the Aggies finished 10-0-1 and were among the nation’s defensive leaders.
Calling himself a riverboat gambler, Tuberville said fans and players should not be surprised when he takes chances.
“I do it for momentum,” he said. “I like for the fans to understand, if you go on a punting down to get your a Coke or a bag of popcorn, you might miss something that’s going to be fun.”
Betsy Blaney/The Associated Press