Texas Tech Fires Mike Leach
By Betsy Blaney
Associated Press Writer
LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Texas
Tech fired coach Mike Leach on Wednesday, two days after he was
suspended by the school as it investigated his treatment of a player
with a concussion.
The school handed a
termination letter to Leach’s attorney, Ted Liggett, minutes before the
two sides were to appear in court for a hearing on the coach’s
Liggett said Texas Tech general
counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him
that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out.
Liggett told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s
request that he be reinstated to coach the Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech plays
Michigan State on Saturday in San Antonio.
As for Leach’s reaction, Liggett said, “Well, he’s not thrilled.”
Liggett said he planned to file a lawsuit on Leach’s behalf against the school “soon.”
“We can guarantee that the fight has just begun,” he said.
Liggett said Leach’s side has evidence that shows the decision to suspend the coach was without merit.
“So they pulled the trigger,” Liggett said. “They don’t want that coming out.”
In February, Leach and the school agreed to a five-year, $12.7 million
contract. According to terms of the deal, Leach was due a $800,000
bonus on Dec. 31 if he were still the head coach at Texas Tech.
Leach was suspended by the university on Monday as the school
investigated his treatment of receiver Adam James. The sophomore
alleged the coach twice confined him to small, dark spaces while the
team practiced .
James is the son of former NFL player and ESPN analyst Craig James.
“We appreciate that the university conducted a fair and thorough
investigation,” said a statement from the James family. “From the
family’s point of view this has always been about the safety and well
being of our son and of all the players on the team.”
Texas Tech officials seemingly laid out their case against Leach in a
letter to the coach that was included in court papers filed in response
to his motion for a restraining order against the school.
The letter set out guidelines for dealing with student-athletes that
the school wanted Leach to agree to. He refused to sign the letter.
Among the guidelines were:
— “Decisions regarding whether an injury warrants suspension from
practice and/or play will be determined by a physician without pressure
from you or your staff.”
–“There will be no retaliation against any student who as suffered an injury.”
Liggett said Leach wanted to keep his job.
“Coach Leach has never, ever hidden his desire to coach the Texas Tech
Red Raiders,” Liggett said. “His accomplishments, his actions, his
graduation rate all prove that.”
likely will speak publicly soon, though Liggett said he did not know
when and declined to say where Leach was Wednesday.
“It’s pretty hard to keep him quiet,” he said.
Liggett read the termination letter aloud in the packed courtroom. When
he reached the part that made it clear Leach was fired, many in the
gallery gasped audibly.
Several fans called out that they wouldn’t be renewing their season tickets.
Outside the court, after the firing had been announced, a motorist
yelled out his vehicle window, “Fire Myers,” referring to athletic
director Gerald Myers.
Leach and Myers did
not always see eye-to-eye, as was the case in last year’s contentious
contract negotiations. Myers was not happy that Leach met with
University of Washington officials about their job opening without
informing the university.
Myers did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Bill Dean, executive vice president of the 28,000-member Texas Tech
Alumni Association, said he has been bombarded by e-mail and phone
calls from alumni who are angry about Leach’s firing.
“I think people are wanting an explanation for this,” Dean said. “I’m
sure the university will give them one. That’s my hope. That that will
happen very soon.”
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 got a big raise after
he was national coach of the year and went 12-1 in 2007. Some players
said he 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.
In an affidavit included in Tuesday’s court filing, 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.
Several former and current Texas Tech players and coaches defended
Leach and harshly criticized Adam James’ work ethic in e-mails obtained
Among those were former
Texas Tech wide receiver Eric Morris, who wrote that James was “never
known as a hard worker” and “seemed to have a negative attitude toward
the football program the majority of the time.”
Morris told The Associated Press on Wednesday the letters were written
as school administrators began looking into the incident, before Leach
was suspended. Morris said they wanted to show their support for Leach
and show James’ possible motives.
dismissal comes a year after he was Big 12 coach of the year and led
Tech to the best season in the history of the program. The Red Raiders
went 11-2 last season.
nonconformist with a pass-happy offense, Leach arrived in West Texas in
2000. Since then, he has become the winningest coach in school history
and Texas Tech has had eight quarterbacks lead the nation in passing.
He parlayed his penchant for pirate lore into his coaching, telling his
players they need to “swing their swords” to perform at their best. He
stopped acknowledging players’ injuries to the media in 2003.
Not unlike Bob Knight when he came to coach the Red Raiders basketball
team for 6 years, Leach has raised the profile of the city and the
school. He appeared on “60 Minutes” and was profiled in the New York
Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio, Texas, and AP
College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed to this
Received 12/30/09 03:25 pm ET