But Kingsbury quickly figured out his next step. He set out to build a homegrown coaching staff and restore pride to his alma mater. And at 34, the second-youngest coach in college football has been making all the right moves ever since.
Despite rotating a pair of true freshman quarterbacks, Kingsbury has led a team picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 to its first top-10 ranking in five years.
"He's breathed life back into this team," said senior nose guard Kerry Hyder. "Just revitalized everything."
Since Kingsbury took over, the waiting list to purchase suites at Jones AT&T Stadium has ballooned. Donations to the athletic department have skyrocketed. Student attendance has reached record levels.
Texas Tech regent chairman Mickey Long said he couldn't even get through to the ticket office this week to buy basketball passes because of the all the busy signals from fans clamoring for football tickets.
"This is such an exciting time at Texas Tech, I promise you," Long said.
This weekend, the 7-0 Red Raiders will play in their biggest game in almost five years as they travel to Oklahoma for a Big 12 showdown that could hold major conference title implications.
"As important as all of that is, there's a new pride in the Texas Tech family about where we are," said athletic director Kirby Hocutt.
"And where we're going."
Kingsbury has been on the job less than a year. But already he's energized the program. Reunited the fan base.
And brought his brand of swagger back to Texas Tech football.• • •
The rumors were everywhere. And finally, they reached all the way back to Hocutt.
His football coach, apparently, wanted out.
Hocutt didn't know it at the time, but Tommy Tuberville had even cleaned out his locker at Lubbock Country Club.
"I kept hearing these rumors of people speculating, 'Was Tommy Tuberville happy at Texas Tech?'" said Hocutt, who arrived at Texas Tech in 2011. "'Was this the place he wanted to be?'"
For the second consecutive year, Texas Tech had cratered in November after an undefeated September. Days after the Red Raiders had fallen to Baylor to end the regular season, Hocutt went to Tuberville.
"I wanted to get confirmation that he had both boots on the ground," Hocutt said.
Tuberville gave Hocutt his commitment to Texas Tech. Meanwhile, he was finalizing his exit strategy. That Saturday during his son's soccer tournament, Hocutt got an unexpected phone call.
Tuberville told him he was heading to Cincinnati.
Hocutt wasn't the only one blindsided. Tuberville's own coaching staff was, too.
Shortly after phoning Hocutt, Tuberville called a staff meeting.
"We didn't think anything of it," said Sonny Cumbie, a former Texas Tech quarterback and graduate assistant under Mike Leach who had been retained as Tuberville's inside receivers coach.
"We had recruits in that weekend, so I figured we'd be talking about recruits and the practice plan for the afternoon."
Instead, Tuberville dropped the bombshell.