On June 25, 2015, Texas Tech Athletics lost a mother, a mentor, a role model and most importantly, a friend.
In this era of ultra-competitive college athletics, it's rare for one employee to fill all those roles. Jennie Bailey, or "Ms. Bailey" as football student-athletes over the past two decades have referred to her, did exactly that.
Bailey, the longtime football administrative assistant who spent over 28 years with the program, passed away early Thursday morning after a battle with cancer. She was 54.
"Jennie Bailey has meant so much to so many people during her years at Texas Tech," Tech head football coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "She was a mentor, a friend and a mother figure to everyone who was a part of our program. She will be dearly missed, always loved and never forgotten."
During her tenure at Texas Tech, Bailey handled many of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the football program, assisting with recruiting letters and setting up prospective student-athlete visits to campus while also helping the coaching staff prepare scouting reports and daily practice plans.
It may be the role of "Momma Bailey" that she is best remembered, however.
Few student-athletes passed through the offices of the Football Training Facility without stopping by to see Ms. Bailey. She had a white board of autographs ranging from Zach Thomas and Rodney Blackshear, to Wes Welker and most recently Davis Webb.
While there, the topic of football rarely came up.
Instead, Ms. Bailey was more worried about how life was -- how were his parents, what had he done for fun or even about his social life. She often told the parents of prospective student-athletes that she would care and watch over their son while he attended Texas Tech.
Hence, the nickname "Momma Bailey."
"Jennie was mainly a mother away from home for us," said former Red Raider great John Norman (1997-2000). "She was always there for us, someone we could talk to. Our talks were not always about football, but about life in general. Ms. Bailey was basically the mother away from home for us players. Even after we left Texas Tech, she was still our mother away from home. She's in a better place now. She left a great impact."
As great as a "mother" she was to Texas Tech football student-athletes, she was just as great at raising her own child, Geoff, with her husband Randy.
Randy and Geoff have been along her side throughout her career at Texas Tech, joining her on the practice field and at games -- both home and away. Ms. Bailey always described the football program and those involved in it as part of her family.
She treated every student-athlete, several of which are now coaches on the Texas Tech staff, as if he was her own son.
"It's sad to think that the next generation of Red Raiders won't have a second mom like Jennie Bailey to not only be there for them but to have her treat you as if she was your own mother," Webb said. "She has impacted so many coaches, players and myself. She will always have a place in the facility and especially in myself and my teammates' hearts. She will be forever missed."
Even when cancer struck in 2011, Ms. Bailey was a constant presence at Texas Tech practices and games. She would attend chemo and doctors' appointments in either Dallas or Lubbock and make it back in time to catch parts of an afternoon practice or see the team off before a road trip.
Cancer never ruined her spirit.
She shaved a Double T into her head as she underwent chemo treatments. She posed for her media guide headshot wearing a Texas Tech jersey with a big smile and two guns up.
She said she was going to beat cancer. Ultimately, with the way she lived her final few years, she did.
Ms. Bailey leaves behind thousands of football student-athletes, coaches and athletic department staff who will miss her spirit, her compassion and her kindness.
As former head coach Spike Dykes eloquently put it, "she will never be forgotten."
"Jennie Bailey is the epitome of what loyalty is all about," Dykes said. "She went to work at Texas Tech and loved everything about it every day. She was the surrogate mother to all the kids who played for us who didn't have parents close enough to be there. Believe me, the older those guys got, the more they appreciated it. She loved her job because of the young people she got to work with every day. Those types of people are very rare.
"She will be missed. That's for sure. The loss is ours and the gain is that Heaven now has a new caretaker up there."
Additional Thoughts on Jennie Bailey:
"Jennie touched so many different people from the coaches she worked with, Raider recruiters and of course the players. She had time for everybody and was loved by many. We will all miss her." -- Rick Dykes, former Texas Tech assistant coach and offensive coordinator
"We looked at Mrs. Bailey as a mom. When I think of Texas Tech, I think of Mrs. Bailey. Texas Tech will never be the same without her. She will always be loved and remembered." -- former Red Raider wide receiver and current Texas Tech assistant coach Trey Haverty
"Jennie Bailey was someone who you looked up to, someone you could count on who was reliable. I know to me personally she was my mother away from home. She was somebody that if you had lunch, you could just go hangout in her office and just talk to her for hours and hours. She was a book of knowledge. She was someone who you looked up to and wanted to be that person later in life. Nothing affected her. She was as strong as steel and sharp as a diamond. She was everything you would want in a person. It was my privilege to just be a part of it. I think my lucky stars that God allowed me to come across a person like her." -- Texas Tech senior offensive lineman Jared Kaster
"She was a great lady. She was really like a second mother to most of the players and a lot of the people who worked in the building. It's a loss for her family but it's also loss for the entire Red Raider Nation, especially for a lot of the players and people that spent a lot of time there. She was such a great lady to the program. It's a tough day for the whole program but we were fortunate that she was part of it for so long." Former Texas Tech quarterback and current Washington State assistant coach Graham Harrell
"Ms. Bailey's smile and positive energy brought such life to the office and program on a daily basis. Her love and encouragement that she gave all of us as players and then as coaches was a small piece of how big her heart was for others." -- former Texas Tech quarterback and assistant coach Sonny Cumbie
"Ms. Bailey was the ultimate Red Raider. She was caring, thoughtful, helpful and put others before herself.