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When considering all of the important pieces

that make up the puzzle that is Tech athletics, it would be difficult to find anyone more valuable to the entire program than Polk Robison. Some might say it would be impossible. “He’s the single most important individual in our school’s athletic history,” said Gerald Myers, a guy who played for Robison and later became the school’s athletic director himself. Robison truly is the epitome of a Red Raider, first playing basketball for the school, later coaching the basketball program from 1942 to 1961, and then becoming the athletic director for ten years after that. His stature and personality made him almost larger than life, a face for the school who was respected everywhere he traveled.

“We simply wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for Coach Robison,” said Myers. “Yes, he was a great coach and administrator, but more importantly, he’s a great man.” The list of achievements for the Red Raiders under Robison is long. He had a litany of firsts as the coach of the basketball program. He led the program to three Border Conference championships. He saw the program move into the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum, and he viii

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The Masked Rider Ask the average Tech fan what their favorite athletic tradition is, and most will respond that it is when the Masked Rider leads the team onto the field at Jones Stadium. The Masked Rider is indeed one of Tech’s most cherished and storied traditions. In 1936, the Masked Rider—then known as “Ghost Rider” because no one knew his identity—first appeared at Tech games. The rider, wearing a cape and mounted on a palomino stallion, would circle the field and then disappear. Years later, it was discovered that George Tate, a member of the class of 1937, was the original Ghost Rider.

The Masked Rider made an impression nationally at the January 1, 1954, Gator Bowl. Tech student Joe Kirk Fulton—wearing Levi’s, a red shirt, a cape, and a black cowboy hat—led the team onto the field riding a horse named Blackie. Ed Danforth of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote, “No team in any bowl game ever made a more sensational entrance.” It’s also important to note that Tech won the game 35–13 over Auburn University. Many fans also wonder how the mascot name, the Red Raiders, came about. During the early years of Tech football, the mascot was the Matador. However, during the thirties, Pete Cawthon had the players dressed in scarlet jerseys, red pants, and red and black socks. Collier Parris of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal began his coverage of a Tech win against New Mexico by writing, “The Red Raiders from Texas Tech, terrors of the Southwest this year, swooped into New Mexico today.” The nickname caught on, and the Red Raiders eventually replaced the Matadors.

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Look around the United Spirit Arena during a Lady Raiders home game. The program is consistently in the national top ten for crowd size. It’s truly a corner piece program for not only the school but also for the Big 12. But it wasn’t always that way. In the mid eighties, when Tech women’s athletic department merged with the school’s department as a whole, there were many hoops to jump through and many treacherous waters to cross. Without a steady leader, the transition might not have been a smooth one. Jeannine McHaney was just such a leader. Poised and confident, McHaney led the program as women’s athletic director through the eighties and into the nineties before succumbing to cancer in 1994. Her leadership came at an opportune time not only for the Lady Raider basketball program but also for the department as a whole. “She helped fight the Title IX battles and other things in the offices,” said former Lady Raider basketball coach Marsha Sharp. “She let the coaches worry about coaching, and she handled those other issues.”

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Jeannine Mchaney

McHaney led the program as women’s athletic director through the eighties and into the nineties

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He’s standing outside of his perfectly landscaped home alongside one of the three golf courses at Horseshoe Bay near Austin. A pickup truck is parked haphazardly in the drive, covered with dirt and other remnants of a late night drive home from a speaking engagement in Lubbock the evening before. The pickup may show signs of needing a rest, but dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, he looks tanned, rested, and relaxed. Spike Dykes looks like he could pass for eighteen. Golf, fishing, late night drives back to Horseshoe Bay, and enough speaking engagements to make him never want to see another piece of chicken—such is retirement for Dykes, and he is enjoying every minute of it. Dykes interrupts the interview to take a phone call from one of his former players from his high school coaching days.

“That’s what it’s all about, the players,” he said after hanging up the phone. “There’s a guy I coached thirty years ago who’s calling to tell me about taking his family to Six Flags. When you coach somebody, you really develop a bond, and that’s what makes it so special.” And that bond is what kept him going for over forty years in coaching, including his last sixteen at Tech. He spent three years in Lubbock as the defensive coordinator before taking the reins at the Independence Bowl in 1986. Thirteen years later, when he finally retired, he could look back on a career that saw him retire as the winningest coach in Tech history. He coached the Red Raiders to six bowl games, was named the Southwest Conference Coach of the Year three times, and won the honor once in the Big 12. He’s also been inducted into the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Honor, and most recently, he was enshrined in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Through all the big wins and bitter losses, Dykes remained the face of Texas Tech. Some people think there was never a better ambassador. “As soon as David McWilliams resigned [in 1986], I had Spike in my office,” said T. Jones, Tech athletic director at the time and now his neighbor in Horseshoe Bay. “We needed that continuity he provided. I don’t think anyone realizes how great an ambassador he was . . . and still is, for the school.”

Jamie Gill, Tech quarterback under Dykes from 1989 to 1991, believes that his qualities go well beyond the playing field.

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Clint Bryant Clint Bryant could always hit. “From the time I met him, he was always great at swinging the bat,” said former Tech pitcher Matt Miller, who, like Bryant, played high school baseball at Lubbock’s Monterey High School before coming to Tech. By the time Bryant left campus, he was known as the greatest hitter to ever wear the Tech uniform. Bryant was a two-time national player of the year finalist, a four-time All-American, two-time Southwest Conference Player of the Year, and the SWC’s Most Outstanding Male Athlete for the 1995–96 school year. He still holds Tech career marks for games played (240), at-bats (918), hits (341), doubles (73, tied with Josh Bard), RBIs (271), home runs (44), runs scored (271), total bases (574), and walks (140). “He’s the kind of guy you could build a program around,” said Tech coach Larry Hays. “Just a great hitter and great kid.”

When you look at the wall at Dan Law Field, you can see Bryant’s retired number, twentythree. In 2006, he was named to the Texas Tech Athletic Hall of Honor. The only other retired jersey belongs to the late Brooks Wallace. “I had a great career there,” said Bryant. “I stayed healthy and played four years. You can’t ask for more than that. I’ll always appreciate what Coach Hays allowed me to do.” Bryant’s breakout junior year coincided with Tech’s first-ever NCAA appearance. He hit .422 with sixteen home runs and ninety-three RBIs while playing third base for the Red Raiders.

“He was a big part of our success. That’s an understatement,” Hays said. “He was just a great hitter who would make pitchers pay for their mistakes.”

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Leigh Daniel Growing up in Lubbock, Leigh Daniel wasn’t sure what she wanted to do in college. All she knew was that she wanted to go somewhere away from home and had no plans for athletics. While she ran track at Monterey High School during her senior season, it was mostly to bridge the time between basketball and graduation. But after winning her first two-mile race and finishing third in the state in the 3,200 meters, her plans changed.

“Tech offered me a scholarship to run track,” she said. “I had never thought about running in college because I didn’t think I was that good.” Turns out she was right—she was better than that good. Daniel ran cross-country and track for the Red Raiders from 1998–2001. While at Tech, she set school records in the outdoor five thousand meters and ten thousand meters and the indoor three thousand meters and five thousand meters. Daniel won seven Big 12 championships and two national championships (1999 indoor five thousand meters and 1999 outdoor ten thousand meters) while being named All-American eight times.

“It was just a special time for me because I really didn’t know all about what it took to compete at the college level,” she said. “Times, training—I didn’t have a clue.” With all of the accolades she received during college, Daniel still takes the most pride in her first national championship at Tech. “Everything just started to come together from all the training that I was putting in, and my times were starting to come down,” Daniel said. “When I qualified, I didn’t think I was going to win. I just had a great race and ended up surprising myself and maybe some other competitors that had never heard of me before. That was definitely a special moment.” Daniel now watches from afar as Sally Kipyego threatens to break all of her records. “It seems like every time I look up, I see another one of my records broken by her. But I am proud for her, and she just seems like a really sweet young lady, and I would love to meet her. I think it’s cool how she is continuing on that tradition and hopefully [for] many years to come it will continue.” Her records may fall, but Daniel will always be remembered for her dominating performance at Tech. In 2006, she was named to the Big 12 10th Anniversary Track and Field team.

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Everyone knows about the explosiveness of the Texas Tech offense. But even the most optimistic of fans would have been hard pressed to expect the Red Raiders to come from thirty-one points down to top the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Insight Bowl. Oh sure, there were signs of life late in the first half when Tech drove seventy-seven yards in seven plays to reduce a 28–0 Minnesota lead by seven. But what do the Gophers do? They immediately drive the length of the field to tack on seven more points before halftime. At that point, things appeared gloomy at best—especially considering Minnesota got the ball to start the second half. The Red Raiders would have to play near-flawless football to pull out the win.

Greatest Comeback in Bowl History

“I think at halftime, everybody sort of recommitted—understood that we had a great opportunity,” said Tech coach Mike Leach. Great opportunity or not, Minnesota wasn’t cooperating early in the third quarter. Tech needed the ball in their hands quickly, but instead, the Gophers drove seventy-eight yards to add a field goal to their lead which now stood at 38–7. Perhaps more importantly, they also burned off over seven minutes of clock in the process. “It would have been nice to just be a three-play drive,” Leach said. “Maybe it would have taken a little pressure off.” Now trailing 38–7, the Red Raiders would embark on a comeback of historic proportions. Who would have guessed that with just over seven minutes and thirty seconds left in the third quarter that by the time it was all said and done, Tech would have engineered the biggest comeback in bowl history? And they did it without the benefit of a turnover or even a recovered onside kick. Incredibly, it was simply the result of sheer will, determination, and execution. It took a near-perfect performance from players and coaches alike, along with a little luck. The Red Raiders drove seventy-six yards in six plays. The key play was a third and six on their own twenty-eight. Graham Harrell thew a perfect strike to Todd Walker for a twenty-yard gain. What was almost a three and out for the Red Raiders turned into a momentum-changing drive. On third and short, Harrell double-pumped and threw a perfect deep ball to senior Joel Filani to make it 38–14 Minnesota. The Gophers got the ball back, and after gaining one first down, they stalled. Inexplicably, despite some success running the ball, quarterback Bryan Cupito attempted to throw on three straight snaps. On third down, he was sacked by Tech’s Dek Bake. Tech got the ball back and went sixty-one yards in eleven plays. Again, a key play was Harrell to Walker, this time on a fourth and twelve from the Gopher twenty-second. The duo struck for fourteen yards to get inside the ten yard line. Later, Harrell found Robert Johnson for eight yards and a touchdown on the first play of the last quarter, and it was 38-21.

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Fearless Champions