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Mike Leach Fired Himself.

Byline: Jordan Kobritz

Shed no tears for Mike Leach. The former Texas Tech football coach was hoisted by his own petard.

After investigating allegations regarding the coach's treatment of wide receiver Adam James, who was confined to an electrical room as a disciplinary measure for refusing to practice days after being diagnosed with a concussion, Texas Tech suspended Leach from coaching in the Alamo Bowl. When Leach sought an injunction which would allow him to coach in the game, he was fired.

In his termination letter, Tech President Guy Bailey stated that Leach violated Article IV of his employment contract, which requires Leach to "...assure the fair and responsible treatment of student-athletes in relation to their health, welfare and discipline." That clause didn't appear in Leach's old contract, but was inserted in the five-year, $12.7 million contract Leach signed in February after months of contentious negotiations and acrimony on both sides. Which begs the question: Was the University aware of prior incidents of mistreatment of student-athletes?

Leach was often referred to as a "Renaissance Man," in reference to his penchant for reading non-sports books, lecturing his team on subjects other than football, and the fact he took a less-than-standard route to coaching college football. He never played the game beyond high school, had a law degree from Pepperdine University and marched to the beat of his own drum.

In truth, Leach was more Neanderthal Man than Renaissance Man. His actions were reminiscent of '60's era coaches such as Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes, who wielded unlimited - and unquestioned -- power over their players. But mistreating student-athletes doesn't fly in the 21st century. Leach obviously cared less about his student-athletes than he did about himself. He revealed himself to be just another sports fraud, the biggest since ... well, since Tiger Woods.

A Tech assistant coach, the team's trainer, and physician all supported Leach during the investigation that led to the coach's suspension. The assistant coach maintained that James acted the part of a spoiled, entitled brat, who gave less than 100% effort in practice. The medical experts said Leach's actions didn't endanger James. But after Leach's firing, each of those individuals reversed themselves, suggesting they know who signs their paychecks, even if they don't comprehend the concepts of honesty and integrity.

Leach accused Adam's father, former NFL player and current ESPN announcer Craig James, of making repeated calls to the coaching staff in an effort to gain more playing time for his son. Even if those allegations are true, meddling parents exist at every level, starting with Pop Warner League. Surely Leach could have addressed that issue in some manner without taking disciplinary actions against Adam that can't be justified under any circumstances.

In truth, this isn't about lazy athletes or meddling parents. It's about an arrogant coach, one who thought he was bigger than the program and the University. That arrogance prevented him from looking beyond his own selfish interests. Leach could have diffused the uproar by issuing a half-hearted apology to James and the University community. But his pride got in the way of common sense, ultimately costing Leach his job. Which suggests Leach spent more time refining the spread offense while at Pepperdine Law School than he did mastering the art of being an attorney and a negotiator.

The firing came one day before Leach would have earned an $800,000 bonus for longevity at Tech. The University claims the firing was for cause. Leach, of course, feels differently and claims Tech owes him $1.6 million, $400,000 per year for the remaining four years of his contract for being fired without cause. The courts will ultimately decide that issue and until they do, this issue won't go away.

The entire episode leaves a stench that permeates the West Texas landscape. Nobody walks away looking good, not Adam James, Craig James, Leach, the University, or the Tech alumni -- the majority of whom supported Leach - who care nary a wit of how Leach was successful, only that he was the winningest coach in Tech football history and put the program on the college football map.

Once the uproar subsides, Leach will get an opportunity to repeat his success elsewhere. His 84-43 record in Lubbock virtually guarantees that another school will make the same mistake Tech made.



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Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network ( He can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network ( He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming.

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Author:Kobritz, Jordan
Publication:The Biz of Football
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 9, 2010
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