Texas Tech coach William (Spike) Dykes is always quick with an encouraging word, but he also knows tough love. Junior defensive end Tony Daniels found that out when he began to encounter academic troubles during the second semester of his freshman year. Dykes couldn't reach Daniels by phone, and when he showed up at his dorm room, the player wasn't there. Finally Dykes found him in a dining hall and delivered his message without a trace of Southern hospitality. "He told me he had promised my mother I'd get a degree from Texas Tech, and he was going to make sure of it," Daniels recalls. "He said, 'I may be an old guy, and you may get the best of me, but in the end, you'll know you've been in a fight.' "
The Red Raiders would do well to adopt that as a mantra for the next few years as they try to establish themselves in the Big 12. Before Dykes took over as head coach in 1986, Tech had enjoyed one winning season in the previous eight years. Since then Dykes has led the Raiders to four bowl games, and the Raiders have finished first or second in the Southwest Conference every year since '91. With six '95 bowl teams on its slate this season, however, Texas Tech's recently acquired respectability will be tested as never before. "We're going to have to grow up in a hurry," Dykes says.
Which is not to say they're not up to the challenge. The Raiders, who finished 9-3 last season, have two of the most potent offensive weapons in the country in running back Byron Hanspard, an ordained Pentecostal minister whom the school is touting as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and quarterback Zebbie Lethridge, both juniors. Sophomore Sheldon Bass, who led the team in receiving as a true freshman in '94, is back after missing last season with a broken collarbone, and four players who have started return to the offensive line. Tech's offense will have to produce the way it did a year ago—on 41 trips inside their opponent's 20-yard line, the Raiders scored 31 touchdowns—because the defense graduated its top three tacklers.
But the program can continue to grow even if Tech drops a few games to big-name opponents this season—as long as those teams leave the field knowing they've been in a fight.