Judge to hear Leach’s restraining order motion
By BETSY BLANEY, Associated Press Writer
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Who will coach Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl may be decided in a Lubbock court Wednesday morning.
Mike Leach, suspended this week by the university, is asking for a temporary restraining order that would allow him to coach the Red Raiders against Michigan State on Saturday.
In an affidavit included in the court filing Tuesday, Leach said he “would never intentionally harm or endanger a player” and that he has been “forced into this situation without being afforded any process.” He also said “absolutely” no evidence had been given to him that showed he had violated any university rules or standards.
University officials suspended Leach on Monday while the school investigates a complaint from receiver Adam James and his family regarding a concussion. James is the son of former NFL player Craig James, now an analyst for ESPN.
A person close to James with direct knowledge of the situation alleges the player was twice forced to stand in a small, dark place while the team practiced. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the complaint.
An in-chambers hearing in Lubbock on the restraining order motion will be in the 99th District Court. If the court rules against Leach, defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will lead the Red Raiders in their 10th-straight bowl appearance.
The attorney for Leach says the suspended Texas Tech coach did nothing wrong in how he treated a player with a “mild” concussion.
Leach was “begged to work something out to avoid a confrontation,” said a person familiar with the inquiry who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
That person also said Leach late last week postponed a meeting related to the inquiry and refused to sign a letter saying “no one injured would be returned to work out without doctors’ permission.”
The school’s attorney left a voice mail message with Leach’s attorney that the university needed a letter of apology by noon Monday, the person said.
It did not arrive.
“That’s when they made the decision to suspend (Leach), thinking that would bring him to his senses,” the person said.
Jerry Turner, vice chairman of the university system’s board of regents, declined to comment on whether, if true, the incidents might lead to Leach’s departure.
“We haven’t gotten to that point, of course,” Turner said. “This is an ongoing inquiry, and I certainly do not want to prejudice the results of the inquiry.”
Leach led Texas Tech to the best season in program history last year, going 11-2 and garnering him Big 12 Coach of the Year honors. But he and the university were at odds for months over negotiations for a contract extension. In February, Leach and the school agreed to a five-year, $12.7 million deal that could keep him there through 2013.
The clock is ticking on a portion of that contract. If Leach is the coach as of Thursday, the school owes him an $800,000 bonus.
Texas Tech is the second Big 12 school to launch an internal investigation into a coach’s treatment of his players.
On Nov. 16, Kansas investigated Mark Mangino, who was the national coach of the year and got a big raise when he went 12-1 in 2007. Players said Mangino was insensitive, though others defended him. Mangino resigned Dec. 3 after reaching a settlement with the school that was later disclosed as a $3 million buyout.
James was injured Dec. 16 and the next day was diagnosed with a concussion by team doctors, the person close to James said.
The person alleged James was sequestered at two consecutive practices:
— On Dec. 17, James said Leach told trainers to put him “the darkest place you can find.” James was sent to an equipment shed near the practice field, where a member of the athletic staff checked on James to make sure he did not lean against anything or sit on the floor. James said Leach told him that if he came out he would be kicked off the team.
— When the team returned to practice two days later, on Dec. 19, James said Leach told trainers to “find the tightest, darkest place” for the player. James, in street clothes, was put in an electrical closet inside the football stadium for hours, again monitored by a member of the athletic staff.
The person close to the inquiry said James spent two hours on Dec. 17 in a shed the size of a one-car garage that was filled with coolers and that the player was “caught” sitting down on one. All the coolers were removed, the person said, and James was shut inside.
On Dec. 19, James was taken to an electrical room but the buzz was too loud, so he was taken to a press room where the furniture was removed, the person said.
Craig James called to report the allegations on Dec. 19; a university attorney interviewed him and his son Dec. 20; Leach was questioned Dec. 20 or 21; and trainers, student trainers and the doctor who examined Adam James also were interviewed, the person close to the inquiry said.
Liggett said he has a letter from the doctor who examined James supporting Leach’s actions.
“He was not hurt by what happened in the equipment room,” the lawyer said. “And Mike did not do anything to worsen the situation, in fact he put him in a safer environment by being inside.”
Liggett said Leach did not postpone or blow off a meeting about the inquiry.
“Nope, didn’t happen,” the Lubbock attorney said. “I’ve been denying that all day.”
He said Leach learned about the specific allegations against him when he talked with the school attorney Dec. 20 or 21, but he was not told of “any rule he broke.”
Liggett also denied a voice mail message was left for him demanding an apology by Monday.
“Nobody did that,” Liggett said.
Turner said the investigation is being handled by the school president’s office, with the assistance of its general counsel and athletic director Gerald Myers.
The NCAA is letting Texas Tech conduct its investigation and has not gotten involved, NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh said. The Big 12 has no authority to investigate what the conference labeled an “institutional matter,” Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda said.
Texas Tech players, speaking to reporters Tuesday for the first time since Leach was suspended, declined to discuss the incident. Cornerback LaRon Moore called Leach “different” but said the coach only wants the best from his players.
“He goes about it an unconventional way,” Moore said. “But all he wants to do is push us, and we’ve talked about it with the coaches. That’s just his way of doing it. He tries to push us, tries to make us better and tries to make us men and get the best of our ability out of us.”
James was with the team in San Antonio as it prepares for the bowl game.
Asked if it was awkward for James to be around the team, McNeill said, “I hope not.”