Texas Tech Coaching Search: Four early targets for the Red Raiders

By Samuel De Leon

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Texas Tech announced the firing of head football coach Matt Wells on Tuesday afternoon, nearly 72 hours after the Red Raiders lost at home to Kansas State to fall to 5-3 (2-3 in Big 12 play). Wells, in this third season in Lubbock, was 13-17 overall and 7-16 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders were 4-6 in 2020. 

Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, who played at Texas Tech (2009-2013) during Mike Leach’s tenure, will take over as the interim head coach. Wells arrived from Utah State, and he brought offensive coordinator David Yost with him, but Wells replaced Yost with Cumbie prior to the 2021 season. 

The search for a new head coach is officially under way in Lubbock. Firing Wells during the season allows the administration to take its time identifying candidates, and it prevented Wells from saving his job with an upset win or two down the stretch. Texas and Oklahoma are on the way out of the Big 12, leaving programs such as Texas Tech hopeful of becoming yearly contenders in a league without two tycoons with more money controlling the top.

Texas Tech has a few obvious options to look at in-state. 


Sonny Dykes – SMU head coach 

The clear-cut obvious candidate to slide into the head coaching vacancy at Texas Tech currently coaches the undefeated Mustangs. His father, Spike Dikes, went 82-67-1 in 13 seasons beginning in 1986. Sonny grew up in Lubbock, graduating from Coronado High School and Texas Tech. He first became a head coach in 2010 at Louisiana Tech before a stint at Cal that lasted until 2016. Sonny took over SMU in 2018 and currently has the Mustangs at 7-0 in 2021.  

Jeff Traylor – UTSA head coach 

The rise of Traylor in the coaching ranks would make for a great movie. The former Gilmer High School head coaching legend bounced around the college ranks as an assistant prior to taking over at UTSA in his first college coaching job prior to the 2020 season. Taking over a young program during a pandemic was not ideal, but Traylor and his staff orchestrated a turnaround in San Antonio that garnered national attention. UTSA is 8-0 and ranked for the first time in school history. It is a matter of when, not if, a big fish comes calling to buy Traylor away from UTSA. Is Texas Tech a big enough fish, and will the call even come if Dykes accepts? 

Out of the box: 

Sonny Cumbie – Texas Tech interim head coach 

The reasons are obvious: Cumbie is a legacy who was around during the glory years of regular bowl invitations and occasional Big 12 contention. He’s known in West Texas and has the coaching chops after stints at Texas Tech and TCU. No one in college football would understand the job better, but the Kliff Kingsbury experiment wasn’t exactly rosy, and many alumni would see Cumbie’s hiring as a diet version of that. 

Colby Carthel – SFA head coach 

Not many coaches know how to win in rural Texas as well as Carthel, who is currently turning Stephen F. Austin into a resurgent FCS program. Carthel went 59-18 in six seasons in charge of Texas A&M-Commerce. He moved to SFA prior to the 2019 season and is 9-7 over the last two seasons. He’s not a name that will move the needle nationally or maybe even with the alumni base, but Carthel is a good, energetic football coach who knows how to inject character and momentum into a program. 

DCTF pick: 

Sonny Dykes

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