Mike Leach is at it again.
The former Texas Tech football coach recently announced he will be in Lubbock Monday for a book signing. With that, the local media in Lubbock had to get a hold of the most successful coach in program history. Of course, with that comes a reminder that he is still waiting for a Texas Tech multi-million dollar check to show up in his mailbox.
“The biggest reason for stopping in Lubbock is to engage with all my fans there, and meet with old friends,” Leach told William Kerns, the entertainment editor of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “But if Texas Tech were to pay me the 2009 salary I am owed, they could avoid postage by just dropping off a check at Barnes and Nobel with interest.”
In case this story is new to you, Mike Leach was fired controversially December 30, 2009 as head football coach of Texas Tech. USA Today did a solid recap in 2017. He never finished with a losing season, and at one point had Texas Tech projected in the BCS National Championship Game during the month of November 2008. His firing was for insubordination after a disagreement with Chancellor Emeritus Kent Hance. Many reading this already know the story and don’t need me repeating.
While Texas Tech will likely never pay Leach his due, the school has already lost the war. First off, Leach has destroyed the public perception of Texas Tech. Originally, Leach’s perception was the one that had been cratered. Despite being one of the best coaches in college football, and it was clear he was, he was kept off the sidelines for two years. Finally, Bill Moos got sick of Washington State being a doormat and hired the “Mad Scientist”. That is now deemed as one of the greatest hires in college football history. Prior to Leach’s arrival, Washington State won nine games in four seasons. In Leach’s fourth season, Washington State finished 9-4 with a Sun Bowl victory.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech has suffered three losing seasons in the seven years since Leach’s departure. The fanbase was completely divided under Tommy Tuberville, a coach who bolted to group of five school Cincinnati after leaving recruits at the dinner table. After the wounds were stitched up with the hiring of Texas Tech graduate Kliff Kingsbury, they’ve been torn a part again. What was one of the greatest home-field advantages in the nation with a 53-11 record at Jones AT&T Stadium under Leach has become a place where opposing teams easily walk out with a victory. Tech finished 3-8 in Big 12 games under Tuberville at Jones AT&T Stadium. Under Kingsbury, the Red Raiders are 6-14 in Lubbock during Big 12 play. That’s a 9-22 record against Big 12 teams. Of course, three of those victories are against Kansas. The fanbase has virtually become apathetic as can be seen by this tweet.
In case the on-field performance and the picture of an apathetic fanbase aren’t enough, an employee of the Texas Tech Alumni Association confirmed with me in 2012 that a graduate mailed their diploma back to the university shortly after Leach’s firing. During the week of the 2010 Alamo Bowl, where Oklahoma associate head coach Ruffin McNeill coached Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State, Tech supporters held a “Fire (Gerald) Myers” rally in response to the Leach firing. Myers’ signature is on the pink slip papers, and Leach has maintained that his firing was due to bitterness from contract negotiations earlier in the year.
Texas Tech University has won two battles during this lengthy war. They won in the Texas courts thanks to sovereign immunity, which is a law that prohibits state institutions from being sued. The other is avoiding payment of an $800,000 bonus due to Leach for being the head football coach at Tech on Dec. 31, 2009. That is a major reason Leach was fired one day earlier. Since then, the fanbase has been shredded and become apathetic. The football team has a futile home record plus mediocre results. They can’t even support a coach who graduated from the school. Additionally, there is chapel on the campus with Kent Hance’s name on it. Let’s face it. Being associated with a man who has such an ego, he aligns his name up with Jesus Christ is pretty sad.
While Tech struggles to even realize the problem Hance has presented the university, Leach continues to rise. His coaching tree virtually owns the Big 12 Conference. Lincoln Riley, Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury were all members of the 2002 Texas Tech squad who easily dispatched Clemson in the Mazda Tangerine Bowl. TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie was Kingsbury’s back-up that year. Leach molded the Big 12 Conference into the offensive prowess it’s known for today.
While Leach continues to succeed, Tech’s lack of success may doom them in the coming years. We have mentioned that the Big 12 Conference has a solid footing right now with revenues rising. The Pac 12 Conference is the vulnerable conference right now. However, Tech is in a position where nothing can be left to chance. If the tables somehow turn, and the Big 12 does evaporate, Tech is probably left in the cold. In the most recent realignment, the Big Ten did not want Tech. Tech certainly wasn’t one of the SEC’s top choices. Only the Pac 12 wanted Tech. As the Red Raiders gridiron performance continues to falter, so does its Power 5 Conference survival chances.
The Big 12 will likely continue to strengthen. A new grant of rights will likely be implemented prior to 2025 when the current deal expires. Texas Tech will probably remain as a Power 5 Conference school and a member of the Big 12 Conference. It’s clear though, Tech has lost much more in this war than Leach has. The pirate is going to retire comfortably, and will likely have a Pac 12 Championship ring when he does. Texas Tech, however, could very well fire its own golden child and be looking for a new coach at season’s end. All of this while Wayne Dolcefino continues to investigate the university for foul play.
The best thing Tech can do is cut its losses and pay Leach what he is owed. The further this drags on, the harder it will be for Tech to build its image and football program back up. Even then, it might never see the results nor fan engagement it did from 2000-09.
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