Men -- The loss of four starters from the most successful team in school history caused most observers to bill the 1996-97 Red Raider men's basketball team as rebuilding. Overlooked was the fact that Cory Carr, one of the nation's most talented shooting guards, was the team's second-leading scorer off the bench and junior Tony Battie had developed into, perhaps, the second-best center in the country. Combined with sharpshooter Stanley Bonewitz, hard-working rebounder Gionet Cooper and a host of role-players, the Red Raiders developed into one of the top teams in the Big 12 and the nation.
After beginning the season with impressive wins over ranked opponents such as George Washington, Fresno State and New Mexico, Texas Tech achieved a season-high national Football
It sounds like a theme for the year -- rebuilding. Year-after-year, Red Raider head football coach Spike Dykes replaces top-flight talent on both sides of the line. Yet, Dykes and Co. continue to surpass the expectation of so-called "experts" and field winning teams. And, the fans have been coming to Jones Stadium in droves. Three-straight sellout crowds last season and a 41.4 percent increase in attendance over the past two seasons show that Red Raider fans are excited about Texas Tech football
Dykes replaced five defensive starters last season, including NFL Rookie of the Year runner-up Zach Thomas. Yet, his squad advanced to a school-record fourth-straight bowl game, finished in second-place in the Big 12's South Division and was one of the best defensive units in the conference. Defensive end Tony Daniels was an all-Big 12 selection and was a semifinalist for the national defensive player of the year award. Robert Johnson finished the season as the team's leading tackler and an all-conference selection, as well.
On offense, the Red Raider rushing game was the nation's seventh best and produced Doak Walker Award winner Byron Hanspard. A Parade All-America as a prep, Hanspard became only the fifth player in NCAA history to surpass 2,000-yards in a single season and was a consensus first-team All-America selection. He finished sixth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy. Offensive lineman Ben Kaufman, receiver Donnie Hart, quarterback Zebbie Lethridge and kicker Jaret Greaser received all-Big 12 honors.
The Red Raiders finished the season with a 7-5 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Big 12. The Red Raiders won all three Big 12 road games it played: Kansas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.