The Texas Tech students rioting on Broadway Street in Lubbock late Saturday night did not show much loyalty to Josh Abbott, the hometown country music star. The background sound blasting for some of the rioters was a ditty called “Old Town Road,” released last December by a Georgia guy calling himself Lil Nas X, and from the country/hip-hop genre.
There were cars flipped and scooters burned and other incineration, before the police stormed in using a variety of options — including tear gas — to disperse the thousands who were celebrating Tech’s 61-51 dispatch of Michigan State, sending the Raiders into Monday night’s NCAA title game vs. Virginia at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Texas Tech previously had never been to a men’s Final Four, not close with Bobby Knight or Tubby Smith, and now Chris Beard getting his team all the way to the final was a turn of events deemed worthy of fiery mischief.
But what happens if the Raiders actually win the whole thing Monday night?
“That’s what I’m worried about,” said Jonathan Ferrant, a senior in sports management at Tech. “We’ll be here rooting with everything we have for Tech to win, but if that happens, I hope it doesn’t get as bad as it looked [Saturday] night.”
Jonathan and Andrew Sorrells, a reserve guard for the Raiders, grew up together in a Fort Worth suburb. Jonathan and his father, Philip, were having an early lunch at Kieran’s before going to the Timberwolves game vs. Oklahoma City at Target Center.
Ask a Texan from Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston — most anywhere — to describe Lubbock and the answer is succinct: “It’s a windy place in the middle of nowhere.”
The middle-of-nowhere evidence is there:
Lubbock is 315 miles slightly northwest of Fort Worth, 315 miles slightly southeast of Albuquerque, with Amarillo to the north and Midland to the south and both over 100 miles away.
“It’s windy and it’s hot,” Ryan Woodham said. “Once you get a couple of miles out of Lubbock, it’s cotton or dirt.”
Paul Childers added: “Cattle, too. We have a lot of cattle. Angus.”
Flat? “Yeah, flat, but when a good storm is rolling toward us in the summer, those clouds look like mountains,” John Juarez said.
Sound depressing? Not at all for Woodham, Childers, Juarez and their companion on the trip to Minneapolis, Mia Castaneda, a junior at Texas Tech and a cousin to Childers and Juarez.
“It’s OK that Lubbock is in the middle of nowhere, because it’s got everything you need,” Woodham said.
Lubbock is the 11th-largest city in Texas with 250,000 people, plus 38,000 students at Tech, and both the city and college are growing.
“They are building buildings by the day out at Tech,” Woodham said. “Everyone’s a Tech fan. When Tech is doing well in sports, the whole city celebrates.”
Castaneda was a backup guard on Marlene Stollings’ first team as Tech’s women’s basketball coach. How did it go with Stollings, our former Gophers coach?
“I’ll be transferring,” she said. “I’m one of seven transfers.”
Clearly, winter didn’t go as well for the women’s hoops team as the men’s.
Beard’s team tied Kansas State for the Big 12 regular-season title, received the No. 3 seed in the West Region, put away Northern Kentucky, Buffalo and Michigan, then beat top seed Gonzaga in the region final March 30.
Castaneda and friends immediately made plans to get tickets and head for Minneapolis — driving the 1,100 miles to Minneapolis in 15 hours in Woodham’s Dodge Ram pickup. There are reports that thousands more Tech fans have climbed in their trucks and are heading north for Monday’s final, a caravan heading out of Texas.
“Tech fans are fantastic,” Mike Leach said by phone Sunday. “They show up everywhere. I still get the ‘Guns Up’ sign in every airport. I’ve gotten a Guns Up all over. The craziest place was in the Hotel Nacional in Havana.”
Leach had the best run of a football coach in Texas Tech history for a decade but was terminated right before the 2009 Alamo Bowl — which would be Tech’s ninth victory of the season — after an accusation of mistreating a player.
The wizard of the passing game is now entering his eighth season at Washington State, and winning again at a location off the Power Five’s beaten path. Leach remains an admired figure among the sampling of Texas Tech fans asked here this weekend.
“Lubbock is not the most scenic place, but that’s made up for by the people,” Leach said. “Lubbock has some of the most awesome people on Earth, except for three.”
This was a reference to the Texas Tech chancellor and his main cohorts in firing Leach and still refusing to pay him for what he was owned for the 2009 season.
“I knew Chris Beard at Tech when he was an assistant with both Coach Knights, Bobby and his son Pat,” Leach said. “It’s great that he came back to Lubbock and was able to give the Tech fans something like this.”