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Mike Leach makes his case for the Arizona job

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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For the past few months, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been on the road promoting his new book, "Swing Your Sword," but in a way, he's also been promoting himself to get back in the game.

"I think pretty much everybody knows I'm interested in being back in," Leach said. "I haven't really been that invisible of a guy."

And Arizona is the vacancy he's eyeing. So it was apropos that while speaking at a news conference to promote something called the Casino del Sol College All-Star Game in Tucson, he also talked up the merits of being the head coach of the Wildcats.

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"Anybody would be interested in that job," Leach said. "They have an idea of what they're looking for, an idea of the direction of where they're going.

"If somehow I fit in there, maybe there will be some dialogue. If I don't, I'm sure they'll select a good individual for the position."

Arizona fired Mike Stoops last month after seven and a half years with the program. During that time, the Wildcats never won more than eight games in any season and never seriously challenged for a conference title. But Leach said it's not the school's resources that have held the Wildcats back: In his opinion, the location is ideal for recruiting in California and Texas, and he spoke highly of Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne. Byrne has not made any public comments about the position and said he wouldn't until a new coach was introduced. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Byrne has also asked candidates not speak about the position publicly either.

Leach did not say whether he was being considered for the job or whether he had interviewed.
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Leach is also considered a candidate for the vacancy at nearby New Mexico, which is trying to put the pieces back together after a disastrous two and a half years under Mike Locksley. During Locksley's tenure, the team had more embarrassing off-field incidents (3) than it did wins (2).

Paul Krebs, New Mexico's vice president for athletics, said on his weekly radio show that he was only looking at coaches with previous head coaching experience. Locksley had been an assistant at Illinois when he was hired.

Regardless of who hires Leach, it's not like he won't come with his own baggage. Leach has been seemingly blackballed after claims that he verbally and physically abused players at Texas Tech led to his firing. The damning case was that of receiver Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, who claimed Leach locked him in an electrical closet after he complained of migraine headaches and couldn't practice.

Leach has gone through great lengths to clear his name, including lawsuits and his aforementioned book, which devotes an entire section to the drama at Texas Tech that led to his release.

Still, after being out of the game for two seasons, Leach hopes his sordid past will not define his potential football future.

"I was a victim of a national smear campaign, which is pretty well-documented," Leach told the Arizona Daily Star. "It's also pretty well-documented that it was false: You had a father (Craig James) who was dissatisfied with his son's playing time who used his national media position to smear me. Worse yet, he hired a PR firm 10 days before he complained about anything. There's a whole lot of layers where that's corrupt.

"The more important thing is, we had all kinds of administrators there who I got along fabulously with. Look at the body of work: I have a 10-year body of work. … We won 29 games in the last three years [including the 2010 Alamo Bowl, in which he didn't coach — ed.], we had the highest graduation rate of any public institution, we went to more bowl games than the rest of the history [of Texas Tech football] combined, my players never got in trouble, and I've never had a major NCAA violation or any of that. I think all that speaks for itself."

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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