Campaign for Fearless Champions Aims to Capitalize on Texas Tech Success

Momentum is a powerful force in sports.

On the football field, it can manifest itself into an impactful opportunity for success. One big tackle or clutch catch can inspire teammates and build a swelling confidence that can translate to victories. On the basketball court, a breakaway dunk can lift the home crowd to new heights, and its collective voice can in turn embolden the players it supports.

Whether it’s the perfect serve, a tide-turning base hit or a pressure-packed par save, the right play at the right moment can make all the difference.

The quest to build momentum in college athletics, though, isn’t limited to the playing surfaces on campus. It also takes place behind the scenes. At Texas Tech University, The Campaign for Fearless Champions, a multifaceted fundraising effort with widespread goals, has largely contributed to the rising success of Red Raider student-athletes in recent years, and its work is far from finished. In fact, it has only just begun.

“We as a Red Raider nation believe we have a bold future in front of us,” said Kirby Hocutt, Texas Tech’s Director of Athletics. “We embrace the rising expectations we have for ourselves.

“With that we believe we have the ability to experience unprecedented success as an athletics program as we move forward. The Campaign for Fearless Champions, obviously, is one of the components of our plan as to how we are going to achieve national success.”

That growing success has been easy to see at Texas Tech in recent years. From the women’s tennis team capturing a Big 12 championship and the football team composing a dominating Holiday Bowl victory over ranked Arizona State under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, to the Red Raider men’s track and field team capturing the conference title on home soil and the baseball squad making its first ever trip to the College World Series, Texas Tech student-athletes are reaching an unprecedented level.

With that success comes the need to ride the momentum, Hocutt said, to continue building toward new goals and loftier frontiers. That’s where the Campaign for Fearless Champions comes in, with four targeted areas to strengthen the student-athlete experience: enhancing athletics facilities, growing the Fearless Champions Leadership Academy, investing in scholarship endowments and building for the future of Texas Tech athletics.

“It’s the right time for us,” Hocutt said, “to look at and prepare for our future. Our time is now to continue to elevate Texas Tech athletics to the top nationally.”

From the ground up

The Campaign for Fearless Champions has targeted the creation or enhancement of 25 athletics facilities on the Texas Tech campus, a $160-million plan that will impact all 17 scholarship sports.

“This campaign will transform Texas Tech athletics,” said Andrea Tirey, the athletic department’s senior director of development. “We are often the greatest visibility of Texas Tech University. We must show our commitment by investing in our student-athletes and our future.”

The construction — and in some cases completion — of facilities has already begun. Of the 25 facility projects planned in 2012, eight have already been completed. There have been easy-to-identify projects such as the HD video board in the north end zone of Jones AT&T Stadium, which debuted last season to widespread acclaim.
There have been other, more modest improvements, such as new bunkers at the Rawls Golf Course. Those two changes may be different in scope and scale, but every project has been uniquely identified as a way to improve the student-athlete experience at Texas Tech.

“We feel confident that we’ll be able to advance the investment into the great work that has already been done from a facilities standpoint within Texas Tech athletics,” Hocutt said.

Many more exciting projects are on the horizon. Among them are the construction of indoor facilities for the football and track and field teams, the latter of which would give Texas Tech the chance to host the Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championships.

And any Red Raider fans who attended the 2014 Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championships in May in Lubbock — which were won by the Texas Tech men, with the women finishing third — can attest to the excitement hosting such an event can provide.

“Having an indoor facility and the opportunity to be a host school is our next step forward,” Tirey said. “The Big 12 championship was well deserved and an exciting day for our student-athletes. This new facility will build on that success and help us achieve national prominence.”

Building leaders

Successful programs, of course, aren’t built by brick and mortar alone. As much as erecting new facilities is an integral part of The Campaign for Fearless Champions, providing every opportunity for growth for the student-athletes who compete in those facilities is a cornerstone of the effort.

Shortly after Hocutt became the Texas Tech Director of Athletics in 2011, he and former legendary Lady Raiders basketball coach Marsha Sharp began having conversations about how to best enhance the Texas Tech experience for its student-athletes.

Those talks laid the foundation for the Fearless Champions Leadership Academy, a comprehensive program designed to test student-athletes as leaders both on and off the field and prepare them for life after athletics, while also providing valuable resources that can be used on the field of play.

“I think it’s the most complete and extensive leadership academy of its type in collegiate sports right now,” Sharp said. “We found some places that do parts of it, but not that go across the spectrum to impact as many areas as we’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to do with this.”

Launched in 2012, the Fearless Champions Leadership Academy has grown in scope over the past two years. There have been leadership training seminars and classes, intensive team-building exercises and sessions with a growing list of highly qualified guest speakers and other components that Sharp and Hocutt believe will continue to enhance the experience of athletes at Texas Tech.

“I think it’s the most complete and extensive leadership academy of its type in collegiate sports right now.”

Marsha SharpAssistant Athletic Director and Head Coach Emerita
Texas Tech University

“It will allow us to continue to advance this culture of character and consequence that is so important for young people to learn today,” Hocutt said. “This leadership academy will include character, leadership curriculum, career education and preparation, professional development and wellness and life skills components, and we think this will separate us from our competitors and other programs throughout the country.”

At the centerpiece of the academy has been the training of Mark Tribus, a well-renowned leadership expert from North Carolina whose work with Texas Tech teams over the past two years has already produced tangible results.

The graduate of West Point and Harvard Business School has worked with the Red Raiders to develop qualities of teamwork, leadership and mental toughness.

“We’ve just found that we are developing a new type of mental toughness in our teams and are able to identify our leaders a little bit better and help them understand the most important aspects of leadership to get better,” Hocutt said.

“But that is actually a side benefit. The thing we’re trying to do is give them some values and skills that will chase them for a lifetime.”

Eye on the future

Hocutt believes the Red Raiders have every reason to be delighted about the present, with elite coaches in place to continue the growth Texas Tech athletics has enjoyed the past few seasons.

“Our time is now to continue to elevate Texas Tech athletics to the top nationally.”

Kirby HocuttDirector of Athletics
Texas Tech University

There is also an eye to the future, with the goal of increasing scholarship endowments to $20 million by 2020 and raising an additional $10 million in planned giving for project needs that will arise in the future, providing a head start, Hocutt said, “for whoever sits in these chairs and wears these uniforms after we’re gone.”

The big numbers of the campaign can be daunting and any campaign of this size will need the $1 million-plus-type gifts in order to reach its goals. But the beauty of The Campaign for Fearless Champions, Tirey said, is that every Red Raider fan has the opportunity to play a role in the growth of Texas Tech athletics.

“We want every Texas Tech alumni, student and fan to be a part of this important campaign,” Tirey said. “We want every Red Raider involved.”

Next story

Phillips 66 Honors Inaugural SHIELD Scholars at Texas Tech University