December 30, 2009
For a while there, it looked like now-former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach didn't have any enemies in Lubbock outside of his old foils in the administration building, who jumped on the opportunity to remove a thorn in their side when Leach was accused of sequestering a concussed player in a shed. Leach's suspension on Monday brought a round of staunch support from former players, who characterized the player in question, wide receiver Adam James, as "soft and somewhat of a prima donna." James' former position coach at Tech, current Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, wrote an e-mail on Leach's behalf during the university's investigation that painted James as "lazy" and claimed Leach was the only coach on the staff who thought James was worth a scholarship as a recruit. Angry Tech fans reacted to Leach's firing today by vaguely threatening boycotts, bombarding the local newspaper in support of Leach and filling up message boards and comment threads with histrionic comments against the administration.
For two days after the story broke Monday afternoon, Leach's only major public critic -- by default -- was Adam James' father, ex-SMU star and ESPN analyst Craig James, who filed the initially complaint to the university. And even he didn't mention Leach by name in his comments on the incident Tuesday night.
Today, though, the Leach lovefest emphatically ended, in the most unlikely place: From his own team. When the media ban was lifted on current Raider players during their Alamo Bowl preparations in San Antonio, a few team spokesmen opened up with both barrels:
Defensive tackle Chris Perry, to ESPN: "I have no complaints about this decision. [Leach] put Adam [James] in a shed like an animal. Like an animal in a cage. That was bull. You call other players. I think it was a good decision. We have our pep back now. We practice hard this week. We had less stress this week. You know why? Because he's gone." (Emphasis added)
Wide receiver Tramain Swindall, to the Associated Press: "I'm supporting Adam and what he’s doing because it’s the right thing to do. And so do most of the players. It wasn’t just about Adam. It was always a negative vibe."
Cornerback Taylor Charbonnet, to ESPN: "The players make this team, not one coach. As Adam's friend, I didn't like it at all what [Leach] did. He was my brother and I didn't agree with it. I don't know why [Leach] did that. But I know we our fully behind [interim] coach Ruffin [McNeil]. We love him and support him."
Charbonnet's older brother, former Tech safety Daniel Charbonnet, updated his Facebook status to the same effect this afternoon: "For everyone who wants to know what happen [sic], you probably never will. The only thing you should know is Coach Leach and Coach Leach alone is responsible for this. I wish it wasn't like this." Combine that with the frustration on the team in September -- when veterans Marlon Williams and Brandon Carter used their Twitter accounts to vent over the team's 2-2 start and call out Leach for showing up late to a team meeting after back-to-back losses to Texas and Houston -- and it's not hard to piece together a much rougher year behind the scenes than we saw on the surface.
And if you add to that Leach's statement to the media, in which he accuses "individuals in the Texas Tech administration, Board of Regents and booster groups who have dealt in lies" of plotting his demise for months after last year's contentious contract negotiations, it's not hard to envision something like a powder keg waiting to blow. If so, the unraveling of the last year in Leach's inevitable lawsuit seems destined to become the most interesting recurring soap opera of the offseason.