There have been five head coaches at Texas Tech since September 1997.
While an overwhelming majority of each staff since has gone on to different careers and schools, Tommy McVay remains a constant as a Red Raider.
He is the current director of football operations, but was also the program’s recruiting coordinator when he first arrived in Lubbock.
McVay understands he’s an anomaly in a day and age where familiarity is critical in a achievement-driven career like coaching.
The former Derby High School coach said he’s grateful that Spike Dykes, Mike Leach, Tommy Tuberville, Kliff Kingsbury and now Matt Wells have trusted him to stay over the last 23 years and counting.
“It’s unusual today because coaches come in and fire everybody,” McVay said. “They bring their own people in, but I’ve been very fortunate to be here as football operations director at my age. At my age, it has kept me younger.”
His role as director of football operations has evolved over his tenure, but he currently serves as the coordinator for team travel and is also the liaison to the NFL.
McVay’s road to Texas Tech came somewhat unexpectedly.
After serving as Derby’s head coach from 1973-1983, he spent three years at Kansas State as quarterbacks coach. A coaching change led to him leaving the profession, opening the door to moving to Lubbock and working in retail with his brothers and friends out of a business that connected to Oklahoma City.
He became a close friend of Spike Dykes, who was a longtime high school coach before becoming defensive coordinator and head coach at Texas Tech. His son Sonny is currently the head coach at Southern Methodist (SMU).
“He hired me as his recruiting coordinator in 1997 and I’ve been here ever since,” McVay added.
It wasn’t a door that McVay necessarily thought would open again. After leaving Manhattan, he said he thought his coaching/football career might just be over.
“I thought that might be it [after Kansas State], but I still had it in my blood,” he said. “I stayed close to the Texas Tech program and we became good friends. I was lucky and fortunate to get back into it. If you’re out eight years, you’re probably not going to get that chance again.”
McVay’s pedigree as recruiting coordinator is impressive.
He helped recruit Kingsbury out of high school and the quarterback once held the title as the all-time passing leader (12,429) in Texas Tech history. He currently sits at No. 2 behind current USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
Two years after arriving in Lubbock, he got a call from former Derby defensive coordinator Rod Warner. He was the head coach at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City, wanting to express his approval in the recruitment of one of his star wide receivers.
That under-recruited prospect was now five-time NFL Pro Bowler Wes Welker.
“[Rod] called me and we had one scholarship left,” McVay said. “I told our coach, if he can’t do anything else, he can kick for us. He was very talented and came from a small school in Oklahoma. What he did and what he became … he’s arguably one of the best we’ve ever had at Texas Tech.”
McVay said he’s been able to stay in contact with a number of former assistants in the program, but it gets more difficult as they build on their résumés at other schools.
“They go to different schools and we’ve got a lot of [former] coaches around the country,” he said. “Lincoln [Riley] was a graduate assistant here when he first came in and to watch these kids grow and become great coaches and people is special.”
McVay said it was special and a bit surreal when Kingsbury returned to serve as the program’s head coach. He was a high school senior as he began his tenure as recruiting coordinator.
It made for a fun exchange when he arrived in Lubbock after coaching at Texas A&M.
“He was very special and he was one of the greatest quarterbacks we’ve ever had,” McVay said. “When he came in,
I told him, ‘you can’t get rid of me because if it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be here.’ He just laughed and said I’d be there and he’d take care of me.”
With the evolution of offenses and training that runs 12 months a year, the longtime coach said one of the biggest changes he’s seen in the game is the advanced ability of incoming players.
“The game is quicker and kids coming out of high school are better trained than what they were when I first started,” he said. “These 7-on-7 camps and events during the summer have escalated these kids to the point where they’re not young when they come to college. It’s a reason why you’re seeing so many kids play as freshmen.”
McVay finished his 13 years as a head coach with a 100-36-2 record. He was at Protection High School (Kan.) before arriving in Derby in 1973. He led the Panthers to a state runner-up finish in 1975.
Even though black and red of Texas Tech is deeply engrained in McVay, the longtime coach said he’s proud of his roots in Derby.
“When I took the job, people came to games and were very knowledgeable about football,” McVay said. “They were very supportive and it still is the best football program in Kansas … it was a community that loved football and they certainly still do.”