Kansas State fans first met Kirby Hocutt more than 20 years ago as a linebacker on some of Bill Snyders early teams. He helped the Wildcats reach their first bowl game under Snyder the Copper Bowl in 1993 and he left the program as a memorable player.
By KELLIS ROBINETT
The Kansas City Star
Today, he is better known as an athletic director. In the past year, he has made sweeping changes at Texas Tech, hiring Kliff Kingsbury as the Red Raiders new football coach and hiring Tubby Smith as the Red Raiders new basketball coach.
After a 7-0 start to the football season, fan excitement boomed in Lubbock. Back-to-back losses have brought Texas Tech down to earth a bit. Now it will try to bounce back against Hocutts alma mater.
Hocutt was kind enough to talk about that matchup, his current job and his former school in a wide-ranging interview earlier this week. Some of the conversation was covered here. Here are the other highlights.
What kind of relationship do you have with Bill Snyder?
He is why I pursued a career in college athletics. The five years I spent playing under Coach Snyder, I enjoyed that time at Kansas State. I learned from Coach Snyder and Coach (Bob) Stoops and all of the coaches. Those experiences are still valuable to me today.
Does it feel strange to compete against Kansas State several times a year?
No, I dont think so. Obviously I have a lot of great friendships and memories from my time at Kansas State. But the one thing that was instilled in me by Coach Snyder was the drive to be successful and to expect to win in everything that we do. We are competitive in this profession and in this business. I believe Coach Snyder understands how badly I want to beat him on Saturday. I know he feels the same way. Is it unusual? No, its a competitive field. We all want to win.
What are your best memories from your time at Kansas State?
The 1993 Copper Bowl will always be a special memory. That was K-States first bowl game in a long time and only the second one in history. To go to Tucson, I remember running out onto the field and there was just so much purple in that stadium. At that time, that was the ultimate goal for us, getting back to a bowl game. To come out that evening and to beat Wyoming pretty handily was a pretty special memory I recall to this day.
Also, the special experiences being a student athlete provided. Going to Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl was a special treat and so was playing in the Coca Cola Bowl in Japan in 199. Those were experiences that, had I not been a student athlete at Kansas State, I would never have experienced. Those are great special memories, but most importantly it was the friendships and memories. Those are much dearer to me today than any wins or losses.
Im glad you mentioned the Coca Cola Bowl. Everyone I have talked to about that has a crazy story about it.
It was unique. (Laughter) It was definitely unique.
Could you ever see college football teams playing in Japan again?
You never say never. I think the game is more popular now than ever before. Who knows? The NFL travels internationally. Maybe college football will again at some point.
What do you enjoy most about being the athletic director at Texas Tech?
I enjoy, more than anything, being a small part of the experience that our 450 student-athletes are having, because I know the positive influence being a student-athlete had on my life. I wouldnt be where I am today had I not had that experience at Kansas State. I enjoy watching our young people succeed knowing how much effort they have to put in within their given sport. Its not easy being a student-athlete. I remember that. It is also nice to be around college athletics. I am around some of the most talented young athletes and coaches in the country every single day. That is something that is inspiring.
It seems like bigger and bigger crowds are turning out for football games at Texas Tech. How encouraging is that?
Its been tremendous the excitement and energy that Kliff Kingsbury has brought not only to our football team but to our campus and to our community, as well as the entire region and our alumni base. Its been amazing. I have never experienced anything quite like it. Our student attendance has been tremendous this year. For me, being a native Texan born and raised in the state the opportunity to be back in my home state and be a part of a great athletic program and a great university has been a lot of fun.
You were born in Texas, you played football at K-State, you worked at Miami and now youre back in Texas. Thats quite a journey.
I have been everywhere. I was born in San Antonio and grew up in Sherman. K-State was the only Division I-A football scholarship offer I had, so it was an easy decision for me. I always thought I would come straight home, back to Texas, after I was done. It took me 22 years to get back. I couldnt be any happier to be at Texas Tech.