December 29, 2009
With his team taking the field for the Alamo Bowl in just five days, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach had no time for idle threats when he was suddenly suspended from the team Monday for allegedly confining a player with a concussion in a closed space on two different occasions earlier this month. Leach and his lawyers dispute those charges, but the abbreviated timeline means their first priority -- even before pushing their version of the story -- has to be getting Leach back on the field.
To that end, as promised Monday, Leach and Associates filed an injunction against Tech this afternoon to force the school to lift the suspension in time for Saturday's game. A hearing has already been set for 10 a.m. local time Wednesday in Lubbock. Click here to read the entire appeal, complete with the brief suspension letter signed by athletic director Gerald Myers and university president Guy Bailey, as well as Leach's full contract and sworn affidavit:
On December 28, 2009, I was notified that I was suspended from all duties as Head Football Coach effective immediately. I was not provided with any reason except that Texas Tech 'recently received a complaint from a player and his parents regarding [my] treatment of him after an injury.' The letter did not indicate what I had allegedly done wrong nor did it reference any rules or standards that I allegedly violated. It did not even identify the player or parents who accused me of mistreatment. There has been absolutely no evidence presented to me that I committed any act which violated any rules or standards. ... I have been forced into this situation without being afforded any process.
The injunction explicitly blames ex-SMU star and ESPN analyst Craig James -- father of Adam James, the player who Leach is accused of mistreating, who initiated a preliminary investigation and suspension with a complaint to the school -- of "fuel[ing] this controversy to retaliate against Mike Leach for his displeasure with the extent of his son's role on Texas Tech University's football team." Adam James was tenth on the team with 17 catches and a touchdown in the Raiders' opening blowout over North Dakota, and has been dismissed by some former teammates as "soft and somewhat of a prima donna." Leach reportedly told university investigators Adam James was "a slacker" and said Craig James is "like a Little League dad."
Of course, there's a significant financial aspect behind the move, even if the appeal itself doesn't actually mention it: Leach is due $800,000 as a "completion bonus" if he's still Texas Tech's head coach at the start of the New Year. Subsequently, he seems to believe the university is taking steps to fire him with cause by the end of the week to avoid that payout -- not a bad assumption, given his well-documented history of butting heads with the administration at almost every turn over his contract, facilities, outside compensation and pretty much any other possible financial issue that might come up between an athletic department and coach. If Leach loses Wednesday's hearings, there's a better than even chance he'll be a dead coach walking before he's out of the courtroom.
But even if he wins and shows up in San Antonio to coach against Michigan State on Saturday night, Leach has probably signed his own pink slip -- employees who openly challenged their bosses' authority and attempt to publicly show them up amid a circus-like atmosphere tend to have short shelf lives. But at least Leach would get his last game and a healthy bonus for his trouble before shuffling off to paint the flowering acacias of Sri Lanka or something. We'll know more in 24 hours.