No, I never expected Art Briles to make a switch, but the fact he had to scratch his head and think about it should tell you something. Briles stayed at Baylor not because he thinks it's a better job, but because of the commitments he has made to the serious players of that program and his personal loyalty.
However, there is a reason he didn't have to think twice about shunning huge tradition-rich programs like Arkansas and Tennessee. While Tech isn't perceived as a top 15 job in the country by national college football fans, it is perceived as a top 3 job in the country to coaches with roots and loyalties based in the Lone Star State. By the way, Tech ranks #29 in average attendance.
The state of Texas is generally the birthplace of offensive innovation and it largely occurs where coaches have the least to lose in the high school ranks. Just think in your head the program/coaching tree spawned by Emory Ballards' Wishbone and Hal Mumme's Air Raid. And, when you start to realize that the combination of the two spawned the spread option, then plague is a more appropriate term to describe the offensive concepts spawned at the Texas high school level.
When you start to peel off the layers of this onion a little further, it reveals a few more attractions of an outpost in West Texas and why Tech continually surprises people with the quality of coaches interested in the gig. One could argue that based on territorial recruiting grounds, enrollment, living alumni and the continuation of demographic trends, it ranks much higher to potential coaching candidates than the #29 attendance figure.
Bizarrely, a program like Texas isn't going to take the risks they should and follow the historical pattern which made them a powerhouse. Many of the degenerates on this blog have spent a ton of time at the tables in Vegas or on the phone with their local bookie. What do you do when you're playing with the house's money? You take risk, knowing you're ahead of the game. For some reason, an established college football program doesn't view its biggest revenue generator in the same fashion. Safety becomes the nature. Innovation risk becomes viewed as insanity. You're hiring a name brand without any thought to comparative realities. Texas A&M was in the same boat, but after a decade of underachievement, bucked the trend with Kevin Sumlin.
The options for a BCS college coaching job in Texas past UT and A&M, then fall to Texas Tech, Baylor and TCU. While UT and A&M can easily scale out the other three with enrollment and living alumni (the two primary ingredients for attendance generation, the mother's milk of a program), Tech possesses the same advantage over the smaller private schools.
The Big 12 needs Kliff Kingsbury to be the right hire just as bad as Tech does. With the loss of Nebraska, A&M and Missouri in recent years, no program past UT and OU has as much growth potential in the conference than the little outfit that could in Lubbock. This state will continue to grow and, as it does, so will the scale of the Tech program. Baylor and TCU won't get there. They don't want to and it's not who they are. Kingsbury could very well be a miss, but you can bet the next time the job comes up for grabs, there will still be a more than qualified group of up and comers from the Texas state coaching tree clawing at the job.
Tech isn't immune to the ebbs and flows of any program, but it has reached a scale with the ability to rebound. Certainly, for my sake, I hope that's Kliff Kingsbury.