Tuesday, February 27, 2024

How Texas Tech football, basketball Thanksgiving weekend treat fell into place

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When the Texas Tech football team hosted then-No. 13 Oregon in September, the Ducks were the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to visit Jones AT&T Stadium since 1994 and the highest-ranked for a home opener since 1979.

Red Raiders fans looked forward to it throughout last off-season.

This off-season, Tech fans might look forward to the regular-season finale as much as any, not so much because of the caliber of opponent, but because of a 24-hour sports whirlwind on Thanksgiving weekend. The Red Raiders will host old rival Texas A&M in men’s basketball on Nov. 29, followed by a home football game the next day against West Virginia.

“Having A&M in basketball Friday night and West Virginia in football on Saturday could lead to an exciting weekend,” Tech athletics director Kirby Hocutt said, “especially when we’re in contention to go to Arlington and play for a conference (football) championship.”

The date of the West Virginia game was revealed when the Big 12 released the conference schedule on Jan. 31. The Thanksgiving weekend arrangement was something Texas Tech brass had hoped would fall into place.

“That was one request we had: If at all possible, we would like to have a home (football) game to set up that weekend,” Hocutt said, “so I was excited to see that was the case.”

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Wanting a Thanksgiving weekend home football game represents a change in philosophy for Tech compared to some points in years past. Before Tech hosted Oklahoma the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2022, the Red Raiders had not played at home on Thanksgiving weekend since 2010. The Red Raiders also never played at home on Thanksgiving weekend from 1985 through 2000.

In some of those years, the regular season ended before Thanksgiving. At other times, however, Tech officials were fine with no Thanksgiving weekend home game because of attendance concerns related to students leaving town for the holiday.

They avoided the situation most years from 2009 through 2021 by playing late November games against Baylor in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and by playing Texas in Austin.

Concerns over home attendance on Thanksgiving weekend are lessened now with the Red Raiders coming off three consecutive winning seasons capped by bowl victories and with Tech about to open a new four-level south end zone building.

“As we’ve seen time and time again,” Hocutt said, “if you’re winning and in contention for a conference championship, our attendance will be great.”

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Another attractive part of the Tech schedule is the Red Raiders play four of their first five games and five of their first seven at home.

Tech’s new south end zone building is scheduled for substantial completion in June. It will add 17 luxury suites to the 85 already in the stadium, as well as a level of new loge boxes. Hocutt and Tech senior associate athletics director Robert Giovannetti said Tech has sold more than 2,300 new season tickets.

“The volume that we’re seeing with interest,” Hocutt said, “we anticipate selling a couple more thousand new season tickets. We are trending where we could very well have season-ticket capacities at a higher level than we’ve ever experienced here.

“When our south end zone stadium project is finished, we’ll have 102 stadium suites all occupied with a waiting list. We’ll have a total of 80 loge boxes all occupied with waiting lists for them. There’s excitement.” 

Tech hasn’t gone through the fulfillment process with the loge boxes, Hocutt said, “but with the interest and the demand that we already see, there will be no issue in selling all of the 80 loge boxes and not being able to accommodate all the requests we currently have.”

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