Long Live the Matadors
The Fearless History of Texas Tech's Masked Rider
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Imprint: Texas Tech University Press
Sales Date: January 2024
- Published: January 2024
On New Year's Day in 1954, the underdog Texas Tech Red Raiders trounced Auburn, persistent pride of the SEC, in the Gator Bowl. The score was 35–13, and it would be almost twenty years before Tech would win another bowl game. But the important 1954 game also established a much deeper tradition of excellence, one that has never suffered the ups and downs of collegiate sports. On that January 1, the Red Raiders were led onto the field by Joe Kirk Fulton. Donning a mask and wearing custom chaps, Fulton charged onto the field on horseback, leading the team and thereby establishing the Masked Rider, a mascot and public figure whose role continues to this day.
The Masked Rider is a quintessential piece of Texas Tech history. There have been sixty Masked Riders, most of them agricultural studies students, most of them from rural Texas. During their one-year term, each Masked Rider makes around 350 public appearances and travels 15,000 miles. They are one of the most visible figures in the university. The story of the program branches into individual narratives of unlikely college students who were the first in their families to attend a university, bringing with them ranching experience that uniquely qualified them to serve Texas Tech.