Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Falling on his pirate sword

I realize I'm late to the Mike Leach party, but I was off last week while taking in the circus via televsion and various websites. As a Tech alum, this fiasco, while definitely entertaining, was embarrassing for all concerned,. Both the Tech administration and Leach share some blame.

But let's be clear: Mike Leach fired Mike Leach. He's not a martyr. He's not a victim. He's out of a job because he felt he became bigger than the program.

The Adam James incident did not get Leach fired. I tend to agree that James was a prima donna and his dad, ESPN's Craig James, was a helicopter parent. But it was Leach's defiance afteward, which was just another act of insubordination over the years, that ultimately got him.

This would have never even been made public had Leach met with the administration and worked out a suitable solution. Tech was willing to work with him on this. Leach was not. If Tech was looking for a trigger point to discipline him, this was it. His refusal to work within the framework of the athletic department -- for the umpteenth time -- had the administration saying that enough was enough.

So they suspended him for the Alamo Bowl. He might have survived had he accepted the suspension, but he filed a restraining order against the school. It might have been more to get his $800,000 bonus, but that was the equivalent of suicide by cop. At that point, he knew he was going to get canned.

Tech gave Leach a lot of rope. They gave him a top 12-15 salary, and with the cost of living like it is in Lubbock, his $12.7 million, 5-year deal made him one of the top 10 paid coaches in the country. Not bad for never even winning a division. And unlike his counterparts, he didn't have to fundraise, didn't have to glad-hand the alumni and make speaking engagements, which is a big part of being in Division I coach.

Tech was willing to let him act like the crazy eccentric uncle, tell pirate stories and tales of Geronimo and tinker with his offense to win eight to 11 games a year. But when they tell you to do something, when they ask that you not do this or that, you better do it. Instead, he way too often thumbed his nose at the administration.

Leach is all about Leach. His campaigning for jobs every off-season became a running joke, even funnier or sadder when no school showed much interest. According to e-mails obtained by the Dallas Morning News, his agents even tried to get Auburn last year to interview him if he would pay his own way.

He changed since a year ago. Maybe it was the contentious contract negotiation last February, but he lost the team. It was telling that no current players came forth in his support, even after the win over Michigan State. If you were a senior, and you felt some real admiration for him, wouldn't you use the platform of a win and a hungry media to show your support for him? But the silence was deafening.

Mike Leach did a lot for Tech in 10 years. He elevated the football program's profile tremendously, turned the offense into a national showcase, and sent the Red Raiders to 10 bowl games in 10 years. He's the school's all-time winningest coach. Tech alumni and fans should be grateful and never minimize his impact.

But his time was done at Tech. He's the dumbest smart man in coaching. He made Tech football a good thing, sometimes a great thing, and really had it made. But in the end, he fell on his own pirate sword.


RaiderRealm said...

Jon Mark, we just got back from the Alamo Bowl. The pro-Leach emotions were very evident, everywhere. I really didn't think the team would show up to play with all of this undercurrent of passion. Credit is due to Ruffin to have em fired up and ready to win.
I think you hit the nail on the head here. Leach had the opportunity to minimize the damages and opted not to. I guess I'm a little surprised at the numbers in support after Leach's ambivalence toward alums and so-called "glad handing".
I will continue my support and my long-standing annual football season ticket purchases. Coaches come and go, I'll always be a Tech alum and proud Red Raider.

kf said...


soapysudbury said...

Jon Mark,
First, Adam James would not have even been at Tech were it not for Mike Leach. The position coach did not think he was talented enough, but Mike Leach overrode his recommendation and gave him a scholarship. After he arrived, Adam James had been a continuing disciplinary problem. When he said he had a concussion, the trainers rightfully took the side of caution and gave him permission to stay out of the workout. Rather than show up at practice in school issued sweats and watch the practice as other injured players do or stay in the training room and rest, he decided to go to the workout in street clothes, backward ballcap and sunglasses to show he was more privileged that other injured players. So, how do you discipline an injured player? Mike could have suspended him, but he instead told the trainers to get his butt off the field and put him in a dark place during practice. Adam even lied to his father and everyone else when he said he was locked in an electrical closet the second day. He even made a youtube video of the electrical closet that was off the media room trainers told him to stay in. The trainer has made a statement that he looked in this closet and specifically told Adam not to go in there. Adam was being disciplined as was Coach Leach's right to do. He did not "abuse" Adam nor was he ever "locked up" anywhere. He was free to go anytime he wanted(subject to being dismissed from scholarship) and he did not want that. Nothing that was done to Adam hurt him in any way. What else can you do to an injured kid that is mocking your authority?

You stated Tech gave Mike Leach a chance to settle this. They were requiring him to sign a"confession", apologize to the James family and say he wouldn't do it again. Mike could not in good conscience sign a document that could be used against him in the future. This is understandable since the Tech administration had made it clear that it was possible they would fire him sometime in the future.

It is true he won't be back, but Gerald Myers probably needs to go with him. I know Gerald is a local (Borger) hero, but he treated Mike much different than he treated Bobby Knight, who acted worse than Mike ever did. Myers liked Bobby but did not like Mike.

Donnie said...

Asking someone to sign to confession when one has done nothing wrong is very unprofessional by the Tech Administration. It is a shame Mike Leach got fired for cause with the cause being a 21 year student who has the maturity of a 2 year old. Tech made a serious misjudgment of the support for Mike Leach and it will cost them donations for academics and attendance for athletic events. Tonight a spokesman for Zach Thomas asked Tech to remove his name and likeness's from any advertising for Texas Tech. Apparently Zach is upset about the way Coach Leach was fired, as are thousands of us.