Wednesday afternoon, Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach was terminated from his position, by letter, from the Tech administration. On Monday afternoon, he was suspended due to filed complaint that he allegedly confined a player in a two different storage closets, after the player was diagnosed with “mild concussions.” The player in question is Adam Jones, whose father, Craig, is a former All-American quarterback for SMU, and is currently an ESPN college football analyst/commentator.
There should be no question or apprehension when I say the following: if the allegations are true that Leach mistreated Adam James and locked him in a “closet” and if there were any other patterns of mistreatment directed towards players, Leach should be disciplined, or subject to be relieved of his duties as head coach.
This should have been a simple matter. However, as the last 48 hours developed, it could be easy to say that Leach didn’t get fired for the James situation. It was his long-running feud with Athletic Director Gerald Myers and the Texas Tech administration.
The backstory is this: after guiding Texas Tech to an 11-2 record last season, Leach and Tech was embroiled in a dispute over a contract extension. Leach wanted more incentives and provisions. Tech refused. Inevitably, they settled on a new contract, 5 years for $17.2 million.
The Red Raiders struggled this year but played well enough to earn an Alamo Bowl invitation to play Michigan State on Saturday night (which will be Craig’s birthday. Happy 48th birthday!). The news of Leach being suspended on Monday came out of nowhere.
Leach, who has a law degree, filed an injunction to force Tech to let him coach in the Alamo Bowl. The hearing was set for Wednesday afternoon. But before that was to take place, Texas Tech made the decision to fire Leach with cause. Chancellor Kent Hence said this evening in a telephone interview with ESPN’s Rece Davis, that Tech “worked” with Leach in resolving the James incident and asked him to sign an apology letter. Leach refused to sign it, and was adamant that he did nothing wrong.
Tech took it as insubordination and grounds to pink-slip him. But, this saga has opened up some year-long wounds that may have propelled a sense of payback from Myers and Tech. They knew when they hired Mike Leach that he was a “different cat.” Quirky, eccentric, goofy, and have a pirate fetish. He’s also a genius in constructing offensive passing schemes which helped Oklahoma build a successful passing game when he was an assistant.
Again, as I reiterate from the beginning, if Texas Tech’s investigation proves, without a reasonable doubt, that Leach mistreated and put Adam James in a closet, then Leach has to serve a suspension, or in the extreme be fired. The problem is that the acrimonious relationship between Myers and Leach has become the hot potato of this major story, and not in as much as the allegations.
They never got along. In fact, Myers is a Knight guy, as in Bob Knight. Myers brought both guys in, looking for a splash and national attention for Tech. To Myers, Knight would bring that “big name” attention more than Leach would.
Which brings up a question: given Knight’s reputation for verbal abuse, intimidation, and boorish behavior on and off the court, I wonder how Myers could tolerate Knight and have a hard time tolerating a celebrated “kook” in Leach?
Good friend and fellow college alum, Paul Yeager, in his blog “Public Paul and Media” delved into how TMZ could change how news is being reported in this new world of internet and social media. SPORTSbyBROOKS, a sports rumor website run by former Fox Sports radio personality Brooks Melchior, can be considered along with TMZ as another source that is “scooping” the regular media with information and sources.
The information that Melchior has posted on his site is pretty extensive, if you include all of the Tiger Woods stories that continue to permeate every week. The Sporting News’ Matt Hayes have also weighed in, questioning the strained relationship between Tech and Leach, and alluded that the Adam James incident was all that Texas Tech needed to jettison Leach, even with an $800,000 bonus that he would have received on New Year’s Eve.
A question to ponder for yourselves as bowl season kicks into high gear on this New Year’s weekend: was Mike Leach fired for not complying to the school’s demand to apologize for alleged mistreatment? Or was he fired as retaliation by Texas Tech administration for last year’s contract squabble and using the allegations as a “cause” to justify pink-slipping him? Texas Tech has yet to complete their investigation on whether the allegation is true.
Let that last sentence sink in first, and then ask yourself what sounds more accurate. It’s just an opinion.