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In more than three decades of coaching college football, Tommy Tuberville has never held a position north of Central Arkansas. The last time he was that close to the Mason-Dixon Line was in 1984, when he was the defensive end and linebackers coach at Arkansas State.
On Saturday, after three seasons at Texas Tech, he wanted a fresh start badly enough to abandon his Southern strongholds and take the head coaching position at Cincinnati.
Chris Level covers Texas Tech football for the website RedRaiderSports.com and said that the situation was never a comfortable fit for Tuberville.
"He just was never entrenched and embraced here," Level said. "He signed a four-year deal when he was hired, then a one-year extension after the first year but nothing since. I think he saw the writing on the wall that he wasn't in the long-term plans and dictated the situation to them by leaving now."
Tuberville was 20-17 in his three seasons, replacing fan-favorite Mike Leach. His tenure included an annual defensive shift going from the 3-4, to the 4-2-5, and finally the 4-3 trying to adjust to the spread offense in the conference. The lowlight came this season as he was caught on camera appearing to strike graduate assistant Kevin Oliver during an altercation in a game against Kansas.
Level said that the fanbase could never get used to having Tuberville at the helm.
"He had a good amount of support but never full support," Level said. "Most days I would say it was 60-40, but any day that could be for or against.
"He was never viewed as 'one of them' and was always 'too defensive minded.' This was probably the best move for both parties."
The move, albeit an odd fit, was perceived to be a major coup for Cincinnati, which Friday lost Butch Jones to Tennessee.
Tuberville has a relationship with current Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock from when both were at Auburn.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that despite the seemingly odd fit, it should play in the favor of Cincinnati.
"He can recruit anywhere. He is that good," Farrell said. "This is a coach that almost won a BCS national title and is one of a very select group of coaches to have a 13-0 season in the SEC."
The timing of the move took most at Texas Tech by surprise, including Level.
"I don't think anyone saw it coming," he said. "It is just odd that he wanted out so bad that he would take the Cincinnati job.
"I suspect he was trying to get the Tennessee job, and some other jobs, but when that didn't happen he went in this direction."
Cincinnati has won or tied for first in the Big East Conference in four of the last five seasons -- twice under Brian Kelly and twice under Butch Jones.
The last three coaches at the program have moved on to major college football jobs. Mark Dantonio took over at Michigan State, Kelly at Notre Dame, and Jones at Tennesee.
Farrell said that the job is attractive but has its limitations.
"Cincinnati is in conference realignment purgatory, and it plays second fiddle to a lot of schools in the region," he said. "I don't think Tuberville is going to get kids to come to Cincinnati over Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Louisville and some others unless the school finds a real home because the Big East isn't going to cut it."
The move from Lubbock to Cincinnati marks the second major regional shift by a known head coaching commodity following Bret Bielema choosing to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas.
Farrell said this move strikes him as a little more intriguing.
"These guys are going geographically nuts," he said. "I guess it is just as well with all the schools moving conferences that guys will have to recruit everywhere anyway, but this is good for Cincinnati no matter the geographical oddity."
The hire also underscores the difference in the perception of the Bearcats program.
"If this move is being judged as a good trade for Cincinnati, what does that say about the jobs at Tennessee and Texas Tech?" he said. "I think that kind of shift in mentality is another victory for Cincinnati."
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